LinkedIn’s advice on sending connection requests reads that you should “only invite people you know and trust.” The number of requests I receive from individuals I’ve never met (and therefore have no basis for trust) leads me to believe there are a lot of people who are not following that rule of thumb. Or, perhaps it suggests their “trust” in certain profiles is deep enough to overcome their fear that they’ll be rejected because they don’t personally “know” their desired connection. Research shows that social rejection activates the same part of the brain that physical pain does. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like pain. So, I generally don’t like taking on a great deal of risk in those situations.
LinkedIn connection strategies can vary from one extreme to another. On one side you have the LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) who is open to both receiving and sending connection requests to people they don’t know. Apparently they don’t feel pain. On the other extreme are individuals who will only connect with people they personally know and would professionally vouch for. Those individuals probably tend to be risk adverse. I’ll admit that when I first joined LinkedIn I followed the suggested rule. I had to know and trust you, and I followed that strategy for several years. In the past couple of years I’ve found myself being less strict, but still nowhere close to the LION strategy.
The world is flat and we live in a 24/7 global economy. If you have a passport and a website you’re a worldwide citizen, right? It seems like the best practice for that mindset and environment would be open networking. The big downside with that strategy is that you get approached by hundreds of individuals with ideas, products and solutions that are not remotely connected to your interests, needs or desires. In short, it quickly starts feeling like endless spam.
That’s why I found it useful to leverage different networking strategies across the various social platforms.
Twitter: My approach on Twitter is the most open. Most of my Twitter content is focused on marketing, sales and management theory and my strategy is to connect with as many other like-minded (English speaking though – yes, I’m handicapped by only understanding one language.) individuals as possible. Twitter is a great real-time news source and a fantastic business platform for driving traffic to my website and LinkedIn profile for deeper engagement.
LinkedIn: As I mentioned earlier my strategy has shifted over the years with LinkedIn. I still don’t attempt cold connections in the LION fashion. If I’m interested in networking with an individual I usually try to establish the relationship first through an introduction via a common friend or try to build a solid relationship with them through other social media platforms (Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.). And I always customize the invitation to connect letting them know why I’m reaching out. When approached by someone I’ve never met or interacted with on other platforms I asked myself one question; what would connecting with this person do for me? Yes, I know that sounds terribly self-center and has no “pay-it-forward” vibes. But down deep it is what we are all thinking, so we might as well get it out in the open. Now, of course that question leads to several other questions that I often can’t answer. Like the following:
1. What does this person think a connection with me would mean to them?
a. Do they want to sell me something? Why do they assume I would be interested?
b. Do they see mutual value in our connecting? If so, what is it? Because I can’t read their mind! That’s why connection requests that are not customized with some amount of content that explains “why” they are reaching out drives me crazy. You should not assume that just because you are a LION that your motives are crystal clear.
2. Do they focus in geographic areas or solution areas that are important to me?
3. Does their job title and current position suggest they are a major player that I would be foolish to ignore?
Facebook: I save my personal Facebook account for family and old school chums. If you don’t fall into one of those categories your chance for a personal connection or a “Like” is basically zero. Yeah, I know Facebook has a billion users or something like that. But guess what, I found out very quickly that my family and old school friends don’t want to constantly see my business stuff. Therefore, I separated church and state. I have a personal Facebook profile and a business page, and the two never meet.
If you were to dig down deep I’m sure you would find that most individuals in your target markets have different strategies for each platform they have a presence on. They probably can’t even verbalize why they do what they do. But they’ve found out what works for them. And what works for them is what you need to be mindful of because it’s not about you or your brand. It’s about your customers.