The hottest trend on the internet and in business today is Social Networking.  At the forefront are powerhouse sites like Linked In and Facebook.  Anybody who spends anytime online knows about (or should know) the power of Social Networks. Many have heard about Linked In, created a Linked In network, and even toyed around with the Groups and Answers features.  But most people don’t know how to effectively use Linked In to grow their careers or business effectively.

Many people join the site, and send and receive invitations to connect.  Some follow the unspoken rules of the site, some don’t and make spamming a pass time.  While some people have managed to just barely navigate Linked In and create great networks, few people know how to effectively use the Social Networks they have created. While there are many social networking sites, for the purpose of this blog entry I will focus on Linked In.

There is a lot of information on Linked In and other places on the internet describing the features of the site.  You can find stories about the site owners and how they’ve raised money for the site.  You can find self professed gurus telling how their expertise can help them turn a Linked In network into a sales pipeline or using it for successful job hunting.  But you rarely learn about the work and effort you need to put into it to make it work for you.  Signing up for an account is the first step.  Putting up a profile is the next important step.  But if you leave it there, you are doing yourself a disservice and only adding to Linked In’s numbers, not it’s success stories.

To be effective in any type of networking, you need to put in the effort.  I set aside time each quarter to connect with all of my 700+ connections to let them know what’s going on in my world and how I can help them with any issues they are dealing with.  I am on Linked In daily because I run two groups on there and  get approval requests daily, not to mention inmail and invitations I need to weed through.  Every weekend, I am on Linked In looking for potential people to connect to.  I craft personalized introduction letters and request connection.  I also take time to answer questions when I can.  Sometimes I’ll answer publicly, sometimes privately.  But I try to take advantage of opportunities that will allow me to showcase my expertise (not solicit business or recruit, but show my expertise).  I send notes to my connections who have posted recent promotions, successes and good news.  They are almost always surprised by that action.  It shows I’m paying attention.

Another thing I try to do is humanize my networks.  To me, it’s not enough to just join a group or add a connections.  If I am connecting with someone it has to have meaning.  I’ll call when I can, and in some cases plan to meet face to face.  This coming Friday, I am having lunch with some of my connections and I am very excited.  What is the sense of “knowing someone” without getting to know them?  I’m not in some contest to see who can have the most connections.  I connect with whom I want to connect.  Somehow it all works itself out.  Remember that video I posted a little while back by IBM, where the guy is explaining he has 600+ friends on his network, and his boss tells him to find 10 potential high level employees?  And he responds that he doesn’t know anyone like that?  Well that’s an example of poor networking form.  I can guarantee that any type of position someone has I can find a contact who knows someone who is an ideal fit.  That is a wonderful advantage to have.  Because I keep in touch with my network, it is easier for them to remember who I am and makes them more willing to help me.  I’m not bothering people with forward requests.  I’m not referring people I don’t know.  I respect my network and am growing it organically. That is what makes me a successful networker.

There’s more to social networking but this blog isn’t long enough to hold it all.  I teach courses on social networking that breaks it down to the bare essence. If you’re interested, come check one out.  They’re not expensive.

So before you Link In, consider why you are linking in and what purpose it’ll serve.  Consider what amount of time you plan to put into it and what your expectations are.  Don’t connect for the sake of connecting or numbers.  Cultivate your network like you would your garden.  I guarantee the more attention and love you give it, the better your return.  If you don’t know how to do it, learn.  It’ll do wonders for your career and/or business

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

Social Networking. That seems to be the term of the decade. Everywhere you go, it’s Web 2.0 this, social networking that, Linked In this, Facebook that. Who would have imagined back in the day that social forums would evolve into professional networking opportunities?

I teach a few webinars that focus on not only Linked In, but also social networking to its core. One of the features I read and take advantage of often is the Answers section of Linked In and Yahoo. By answering questions and giving my advice, I seem to draw a lot of people who ask to network with me.  An avid user an fan of Linked In, I am cautious about how and with whom I network and connect.  Daily, I get invitations to connect.  Despite the fact that I have clearly mentioned on many occasions that I prefer people send a note asking to connect and making it personal (ie: an introduction), and that I always take the time to send a personalized note letting a person know how I found them and my reason for asking to connect, this is what I still manage to get from people:

Adrienne,

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

It drives me nuts!  It’s as if they haven’t even read my profile.  Recently I received the same generic note from a young man .  I politely responded back to him my preference for contacting and connecting with me and asked him to a least introduce himself.  He replied back that he was sorry I didn’t see anything in his PROFILE that would make me want to connect.  I was taken aback.  So not only did he not honor my request, he STILL didn’t even take the time to introduce himself and tell me how he’d like to network with me.  But he was upset.  It left me scratching my head.

I tell this story to illustrate a point.  When you are stepping into a social networking situation, it’s not like being on Myspace, Facebook, Blackplanet or any other social networking site for pleasure.  When you join a professional networking site, you must have a different approach and mindset than you would with the above mentioned networks.  You cannot assume that people will take the time to read your profile if you didn’t put any thought into introducing yourself properly or abide by their wishes.  The rules of engagement are simple.  Do your research.  Read a person’s profile and see if there are any specific request about how to contact them.  Make sure the person wants to be contacted, and what their preferences are (if you are a pet lover who wants to share an event for your pet, you wouldn’t contact someone who doesn’t own a pet).  Do NOT EVER send cookie cutter or standard template messages.  That will turn a person off immediately.  I know it turns me off.  Take the time to properly introduce yourself, indicate why you are contacting them, and offer to discuss any possible synergies.

Building networking relationships takes work.  Building networking relationships ONLINE takes not only work, but also the proper etiquette.  The people you reach out to cannot see you.  So you have to be extra diligent about presenting the proper first impression.

The next webinar will be held on Saturday, April 26th.  Please be sure to visit the website for more details.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham

Ladies, online networking is a mandatory component of your overall networking strategy. If you aren’t on Linked In, or are on but don’t utilize it, you are letting tons of opportunities slip though your fingers. Recruiters have tapped into this tool and are using it to find star talent for their companies. Others simply want to get to know you to keep you “warm” for networking purposes. In either case, you are doing yourself a disservice for not tapping into the power of Linked In. Come join us for a 60 minute Webinar.

  • March 20, 2008- Linking In to Linked In- $39-

The web offers tons of opportunities to establish yourself and make solid connections. Join us to discuss how to make Linked In an effective tool in your networking, finding business leads and job search. Learn how to get the most out of the free and paid subscriptions, incorporate Linked In in your job search, build your profile to attract recruiters and hiring managers, position yourself as an expert in your field, how to incorporate online networking with your traditional networking strategies, Linked In Etiquette and how to reach any contact whether you are connected or not.

To reserve your seat visit us online. Seating is limited to 100 attendees. Register today to guarantee your seat.

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