For those of us whose success depends upon on our network (and let’s face it, whose doesn’t) we understand that the power of Linked In is not in the number of connections but the usefulness of those connections. Too many people treat Linked In like Facebook. This is a mistake. Networking is not about collecting names.
Case in point: your daughter needs a summer job. You post a note on Linked In for your 700 contacts and 48 hours later, nothing. Now imagine the unimaginable. You’ve just been laid off. You hit Linked In and dust off those old contacts, many of whom you can’t remember. You get a couple of coffees out of it and a few “aw shucks” but again, nothing. I spend a lot of time networking and am fascinated by the number of executives who leave this pick and shovel work to the end of the fourth quarter. Let me gently remind you that networking is a constant activity and being too busy is a cop out.
Okay. So what should you do? I’ve thought about this question enough, tried enough things, and advised executives enough to come away with a handful of things that may not work every time but seem to have a greater degree of success.
1. Feed the network
2. Keep the network active
3. Be sincere
Feed the network
Remember when your daughter needed that summer job? This time imagine that it’s someone else’s kid. Send a note, try to help, give an idea. Do something. You have to give to your network, especially when you don’t need it, to get something when you do. But even more simply, when someone in your network reaches out to connect for coffee or to get some advice, respond. Take the meeting. Feed the network.
Keep the network active
From time to time, cull the list. Go through it, see who you don’t remember, reconnect and if they don’t respond, delete them. The one caveat is if you’re looking to network further and they are well connected you may be able to leverage their contacts. But it’s doubtful that your direct connection will make an introduction and you’ll be relegated to cold calling.
If you can appreciate that having a useful network is better than having a large network consider selecting five people whom you believe to be great connections. Perhaps they’re well connected or they have a position you covet or they’ve done something you haven’t that you would like to learn. Whatever it is, identify who they are and invest. Make sure you reach out to them once a quarter. Give them a reason to connect or respond. But make it interesting.
I receive dozens of Linked In invitations every month and I send a fair amount. I will most often respond to the invitations from people who’ve taken the time to tell me why they’d like to connect. The truth goes a long way. Many times it’s people looking for a job. Sometimes they have companies needing capital and would like a nod from Envision Capital. And sometimes, they’re other entrepreneurs who’d like to commiserate. All of these interest me. But for those people who send a Linked In invite with no intro or reason. Stop it. Nobody likes to be collected. Because when it really comes right down to it, do you want to have a big network or working network?
By Rob Novick, Managing Partner