So in my last post about LinkedIn for business we talked about why LinkedIn is important and how it could be the single most beneficial tool for your business. Today I want to talk about 3 essential rules that if you follow will exponentially increase your chances of success using LinkedIn for business.
So let’s get to it:
1. Embrace your inner LION!!
LinkedIn works on a tiered networking system where you have different levels of connections. People can be 1st level, 2nd level or 3rd level connections. It works like this:
1st level connections are people you have directly been in contact with and have pro-actively added to your network either by requesting connection with them or accepting their request to connect to you.
2nd level connections are people who are connected to your connections but not directly to you. These connections are passively added to your network as your first level connections grow their networks.
3rd level connections are people who are connected to you through an additional degree of separation, so they are also added passively to your network when your 2nd level connections increase their networks.
Let’s take pause for a moment to examine a simple fact about using LinkedIn for business: have you heard the expression: “Bigger is Better”? Well with LinkedIn, bigger is definitely better!
I’m unsure if it’s because of the “I don’t know” option on the page where you send connection requests, or something psychological about the way the platform is designed, but I regularly meet people who say things to me like: “oh, well I have a LinkedIn account but I only connect to people on it that I’ve met in person”
If you are one of those people you absolutely must read to the end of this section because you’re mind-set is critically damaging your effectiveness on LinkedIn for business. Please read on…
When you perform searches only people who are “inside your network” will be searched. As a result it is very much in your interest to connect to as many people as possible because you will be growing your 2nd and 3rd level networks at a massive rate which will give you a much better chance of being able to find the right person when the time comes. For example, you might need to try and connect with journalists for a product launch to get some free PR.
If that journalist was already in your network it would be much easier to contact him/her, as is the case with anybody who can help your business become more successful, or help you have a better shot at finding a job or even getting head hunted.
Permit me a moment to tell you a story about how I have gotten business, and have been contacted about jobs (in this economy!) without actively looking for it on LinkedIn.
When I originally joined LinkedIn for business use I immediately saw its potential so I spent ages perfecting my profile, I joined some groups engaged in a few of the conversations and in the first year I grew my contacts by about 50 people.
About 6 months before founding WSM I had a chat with a friend of mine, who is a power user of LinkedIn and is probably connected to most of the people on LinkedIn at some level. He couldn’t say enough about the platform and because I was planning a B2B business and also because Social Media was a part of that, I decided to put my mind to the task of learning everything there was to know about LinkedIn.
First I made sure my profile was optimised properly and I became a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker, or some people say Leading International Open Networker – whatever label you wish to use, LION’s are people who use LinkedIn for Business every single day).
I will be covering how to Optimize your LinkedIn profile in upcoming editions of the Optimisation Project. If you’d like to receive these quickie steps into your inbox each week please enter your email address in the box over to the right at the top of this post
Then I began to accept requests from people I didn’t know. I also went out and sought out people that were in groups where we shared a common interest and worked hard to connect to as many people as I could, the RIGHT WAY*.
* see point 2 on connecting to people the right way. I am not advocating adopting a quantity at the expense of quality strategy.
Something magical happened. I broke through the 500 connections mark and all of a sudden instead of me having to go out to my network to find people and business, my network started to come to me!
In the last two months I’ve gotten two referrals for business from people who I’ve never met and just the other day I received an invitation to join a panel for a business awards event, where my company will get national coverage, for free!
At the time of writing this post I have more than 13 million people in my total network, and without me doing a thing the network is growing by about 20,000 people per day! I’m saying this, not to brag, but merely to illustrate the power of being connected to a lot of people.
It’s important to note that I accept connection requests from everyone and anyone who connects to me, but I am very careful to also go out to offline networking events. After the events I always connect to everyone I met. This has allowed me to build a very high quality network locally as well as globally.
If you haven’t already I’d encourage you join one or all of the LION’s groups. There is no cost to doing so and it will give your network growth a huge boost, if you get active in any of those groups.
2) It’s a “Social” network. Not a spam or ad network.
Actually this point really applies to pretty much any of the social networks but it’s particularly important on LinkedIn.
Connecting to people the right way is extremely important. First of all you need to remember that you are connecting to another human being who has their own set of needs, wants and desires. They are a professional, who most probably joined LinkedIn for business or employment opportunities and in all likelihood they are very busy.
For the love of all that is good and right in this world, do NOT just use the standard LinkedIn connection greeting when trying to connect on LinkedIn for business!
Address the person by their first name. Point out something you have in common and ask how business is going for them. This isn’t just an exercise in amassing numbers of connections, its also really important (as much as possible) to have had some sort of interaction with your network and introducing youself is the perfect chance to build some initial rapport.
Here’s a sample of a message I use, that I have found to be quite effective:
“Hi John, I noticed we are both members of the UK & Ireland Startup Entrepreneurs group, so I’d like to add you to my network. How’s business? Regards, Neil”
I then ALWAYS respond to any messages that get sent back to me. I’d strongly recommend you do too. It shows you are prepared to invest some of your precious time into creating a quality network and it will give you a base to speak to that person again in the future, should you need to ask him/her for an introduction to somebody else, or should you need to speak to him/her directly about something that matters.
It’s nice to be nice, and in this case perhaps eventually even profitable.
As the image above illustrates there are a number of different ways you can connect to somebody on LinkedIn for business, depending on what type of relationship you have with the person you are trying to connect to.
Please take note of the following rules of thumb for each of these options, which should be obvious but I see people breaking all of the time. There are penalties which I will explain in just a moment.
If you have worked with the person you are attempting to connect to in the company you choose from the drop down list then this is your best choice. It should NOT be used if you have not both worked for the same company.
Have you gone to the same school as the person you are trying to connect to? If not, then don’t use this option.
We’ve done business together:
To be used in a situation where you have bought or sold something to the person you are trying to connect with. This one can be used in some other situations, for example if you met someone at an offline networking event and you had a very good chat, got on great and intend to do business in the future. Do NOT use this option if it’s a case that you want (but haven’t as of yet) to do business with a future connection.
Do NOT connect to people you do not know using this option. Ever.
All of the above methods of connection are designed for connecting with people you know very well. If you connect to someone you don’t know through any of these methods, the first impression that person has of you is that you are either: incompetent (don’t know what you are doing), lazy (couldn’t be bothered doing things the right way because it’s more work) or not trustworthy (attempting to connect under false pretences).
Also if you use any of those connection mechanisms and the person you attempt to connect to responds by clicking the “ignore”, and then the “I don’t know” or “report spam” button, then LinkedIn will start to demand you enter an email address for EVERYONE you attempt to connect to, even if you’re trying to connect to your mum!
This is the single best way to connect to somebody cold (i.e. you’ve never met them). It gives you an opportunity to connect to them without needing to know their email address, and because you have something in common, the connection request is almost warm.
If you check out somebody’s profile before you attempt to connect you will see what groups they are in and if it’s a really important connection, you can join the group and then connect to the person.
However, as I will be covering in the 3rd rule for LinkedIn for Business below, this shouldn’t happen that often because you should have joined the max number of groups possible.
This is the safest way to connect to someone but that’s because you need to have the person’s email address, so the drawbacks here are pretty obvious.
I don’t know :
This option is a trick. Select it and LinkedIn will give you a little lecture about how you should only send invitations to connect to people you know personally. It won’t let you connect to the person, until you select a different option.
3) Join groups
Joining groups is a great way to interact with other LinkedIn users, they give you a chance to showcase your knowledge with people in your target market and most groups have an “Introduce yourself and your business” type of post where you can add a description of what you do, leave your email for people to connect to you, invite connection and regularly find a lot of other people who have invited you to connect to them.
More importantly if you are looking to connect to somebody in particular, joining a group that they already share is probably the easiest, quickest way to invite them to connect with you.
You have a limit of approx. 50 groups that you can be in at any one time so don’t be shy. Find groups that people who fit into your target market are active in and get involved with the conversations going on there.
Is that it?
There are lots of other ways you can really leverage your efforts on LinkedIn to produce even bigger results – such as “Creating Groups”, “Answering questions in the Answers section”, “Using your status updates properly” amongst others.
I hope to cover those tactics in future LinkedIn posts but for this edition I wanted to get the basics covered and at 2,000+ words I think I’ve kept you long enough!
Any questions? What LinkedIn for business tactics do you use?