Having a large and active professional network can be a strong personal asset.
Before the Digital Age many of us kept our contacts on a Rolodex. For those that don’t know about the Rolodex system, it was a true innovation created in the mid 50’s as a handy way to keep your contact’s information available on your desk. For many of us we transferred that information plus kept our schedules and actions lists in a Day Timer. Another pre digital invention that incorporated a small binder and some fancy ledger paper.
Today, many people are not collecting business cards but are maintaining and growing their professional network digitally. This article is an introduction to the largest professional networking tool on the web — LinkedIn.com.
LinkedIn.com is professional networking utility with over 300 million members. Launched in 2003, the platform allows users to create a professional profile, network with other users, exchange emails, publish content, create status updates and receive notifications when other members update their status. Members may join a number of common interest groups and follow a particular person or organization. LinkedIn users are searchable by several facets including; name, occupation, title, company, location and group affiliation. The site is set up as a true professional networking tool and has separated contacts into three segments known as degrees.
1st Degree contacts are individuals that are in your active network.
2nd Degree contacts are individuals that are first degree contacts of your first degree contacts.
3rd Degree contacts are individual that are second degree contacts of your first degree contacts.
Once you have created your professional profile and included your employers, education and organization affiliations you can start to build your professional network using LinkedIn. There is one caveat, LinkedIn has a 30 day gestation period before you can connect with other LinkedIn users directly on the site. So to get your networking underway send a personal email to anyone you know that has a LinkedIn profile and ask them to send you an invitation to join their network.
After the gestation period, joining an individual’s network is simply a click on an acceptance button but building your network by adding individuals to your network requires a little more effort.
If the individual is a colleague, classmate, friend or you have done business together simply check the appropriate box and highlight the organization or intuition. The dialogue box has a standard message that reads “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”.
If you know the person I suggest that you personalize this message to include their name and how you know them. Something along the lines of, “Hi Brian, We went to Palms Junior High and Cal State University at Northridge together. I am reconnecting with some old friends and would like to add you to my LinkedIn professional network, Thanks Brad.”
If you do not know them a personalized message that mentions their work or a mutual acquaintance will often break the ice. Something like, "Hi Bradley, I read your article on B2B marketing concepts and enjoyed it. I am a friend of Dan Smith. I'd like to add you to my LinkedIn professional network."
What social network do you use the most?
Keep your message concise and to the point there is a limited amount of space.
If the individual is someone you know but they have not listed any organizations or intuitions then you will need their email address. When setting up the invitation you will be prompted for their email address. In the message box I suggest creating a personalized message as mentioned above.
Even if you know the individual knows you it doesn’t guarantee that they will add you to their network. I have approached Brian on several occasions and he has not accepted my invitation. Here is a shout to Brian. Hey Brian, if you are reading this article it would be great to reconnect via LinkedIn.
LinkedIn provides the opportunity to network with professionals you do not know personally. There are couple of different tactics that may allow you to include them in your network. Your 1st degree contacts can send a referral, or you can pay to send an InMail. LinkedIn offers their basic service for free and has a couple different fee based options. If you are not on LinkedIn, there is no better time than now to join. LinkedIn is the primary professional networking social tool and generates over 255 million visits a month ranking it in the top 20 of all sites on the web. Once you become familiar with the site there are several articles and classes that can quickly make you a LinkedIn guru.