LinkedIn is a professional social networking site much like FaceBook, but for business. LinkedIn is great for networking for both job searching and to help expand an existing business. I have found that there are two schools of thought when it comes to LinkedIn and how to use it for professional networking.
1st School of Thought
Only use LinkedIn for personal and known connections. This means that connections should only be made with individuals that you have worked with directly and you know personally. This school of thought believes that it is necessary to maintain strong, direct, and constant interaction with each of these connections.
How many people have you known in your lifetime? How many of those individuals are on LinkedIn? And would you really want a professional connection with everyone you’ve ever known? I can tell you that I’ve known lots of people in my lifetime and I certainly would not want to be connected with some of them on a professional social networking site. Which leads me to the second school of thought.
2nd School of Thought
Connect with anyone and everyone you can. Start with people you know personally and those you are connected with through groups you are a part of on LinkedIn and expand your network from there.
Personally, I like to follow the second school of thought. LinkedIn is meant for professional networking and I can’t network if I don’t meet new people. I personally don’t believe that we have to have constant communication with everyone we are connected with. After all, I don’t talk to everyone I know on a weekly, or even monthly basis.
I probably receive more LinkedIn connection requests than I send. With almost 4,000 connections on LinkedIn there is no way I could personally reach out to all of my connections all of the time. I expect that if someone is reaching out to me they are in need of my help in some way. I am more than happy to help in any way I can (it is usually an introduction request), and I send out plenty of these as well. After all, I may need their assistance in the future and hope they would be willing to repay the favor.
Some tips I live by:
- If someone sends me a request for an introduction to one of my contacts, I happily assist. I like to send a little note to my connection that someone else I am connected to is requesting to connect with them.
- If someone is sends me an email asking for more information on my current or previous company I respond and attempt to answer their question. If I cannot answer their question then I point them to the person who may have the answers.
- When someone sends me a request to connect I like to look at their profile to see who they are and what industry and area they are in. I don’t remember every person’s profile, but if something strikes me about their profile or industry we now have the ability to add notes that only we can see on someone’s profile to help refresh my memory later down the road.
- If one of my connections calls me I take the time to return their call or speak with them. Sometimes they need information and sometimes they are trying to sell me something. Either way, I take that extra time as a professional courtesy.
My advice is to use professional social networking in whichever way makes you feel most comfortable. If you prefer to keep a tightknit circle, then maybe the first suggestion is for you. If you prefer to openly network and meet as many people as possible to help further your job search or business, then I recommend networking with as many people as possible.