Our ability to thrive in business depends on the extent to which we can build, manage and leverage our professional relationships. Once you have assembled compelling content on your LinkedIn profile and defined your personal rules of engagement on the site, you can embark on the journey of building, managing and leveraging a professional network. This is an ongoing challenge and one that requires diligence and vigilance. Throw in any architecture metaphor you wish: LinkedIn achievers are bridge builders. Their networks form strong pillars which, in turn, are supported by a solid infrastructure of professional resources. Conversely, neglecting or mismanaging a network, no matter how stable, can result in bridge burning, cracks in the foundation, or worse—implosion.
Success Secret No. 5: Build a Tightly Knit Professional Network on LinkedIn
As the cliché goes, we do business with those we know, like and trust. The better you become at relationship marketing, the quicker you will get to that level with others. The successful leveraging of your LinkedIn network involves creating a series of touch points, starting with an approach to connect, that advance mutual interests and objectives. As the communication becomes more meaningful, engagement deepens, and a true business dialog emerges that can give rise to opportunities. When you apply this information to real-world scenarios that culminate in a transaction, you have monetized LinkedIn.
Success in working with your LinkedIn network is reciprocal; what you get out of it is in direct proportion to what you put into it. In order to leverage it properly, you must:
♦ Appreciate the Depth and Breadth of Your LinkedIn Network
Your professional network on LinkedIn is defined as the sum of your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections and those individuals with whom you share memberships in the LinkedIn groups. Those outside this domain are considered “out of your network.” The greater the degree of separation, the greater the degree of difficulty it will be to convert these individuals into valued 1st degree connections. Moreover, your LinkedIn network is not linear; it is a tightly latticed, multidimensional structure that can expand horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Assuredly, as your network grows, the time and energy commitment required to keep track of it increases. LinkedIn achievers strive to stay top-of-mind with high-priority contacts, assimilate network updates and manage change daily. To gauge and monitor the growth in your own network, click on “Network Statistics” in your LinkedIn profile under the “Contacts” tab. The numbers may surprise you.
♦ Understand the Value of Social Capital
Let’s face it: Those names that populate your LinkedIn directory are, well, just names. Some call it a virtual Rolodex. Once you attach status and value to each name, you create social capital. Once you harness the potential of this economy, you add durability and viability to the system and those names become a network. Be methodical in connecting with others, communicate with purpose and diplomacy, and you will increase your social capital reserves. LinkedIn achievers are magnificent social capitalists. Their deposits far outnumber their withdrawals. They know that it’s not the size of a network that matters, but rather, those cohesive, trusted relationships that will earn interest over time.
♦ Respect the Sanctity of the 1st Degree Connection
Your direct (1st degree) LinkedIn connections are the sine qua non of your LinkedIn existence. When two parties connect on LinkedIn, there is an implied contract to respect each other’s privacy and interests. Just as in the real world, you have an obligation to comport yourself in a professional, ethical and responsible manner (LinkedIn Etiquette will be discussed in a later post).
LinkedIn achievers grow their networks organically—that is, through their 1st degree connections. They embrace the quality introduction—one that is made by a center of influence that speaks to core competencies and is framed by trust and credibility—as opposed to the spewing of names under the guise of leads or referrals. Not every 1st degree connection will lend itself to leveraging, introduce you to colleagues, become a client, or furnish you with a recommendation that you can post on your LinkedIn profile. That’s fine. Be selective and focus on those people who truly “get you” and are receptive to what you have to offer.
♦ Nurture Your LinkedIn Network
LinkedIn achievers have a natural mentoring quality and take an active interest in the success of their direct connections. They are always looking for ways to create value, be proactive, and contribute to the greater good. They communicate early, often and effectively to build trust, and will frequently steer people to relevant articles or blogs—written by others. The interactive space on LinkedIn isn’t solely about promoting oneself; it has to do with supporting and recognizing the achievements of those in your network. This is powerful relationship marketing.
LinkedIn achievers understand the dynamics of professional relationships and are adept at recognizing when LinkedIn-generated conversations will play out favorably offline. They will frequently take the lead in answering the question, “We’re on LinkedIn—great!—now what?”
How are you communicating with your LinkedIn connections? Please leave a comment and tell us how!
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