How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Practice Part 2: Building Your Network

By Mark Ginsberg
 
What do you consider a great LinkedIn profile? Your picture looks great, your bio is solid, and your work-related resume would make those on your LinkedIn page want to know more about how you could help them in their professional career or business.
 
Now what? A great LinkedIn profile is good to have, but unless you use LinkedIn to build your network, you'll find yourself back at square one.
 
This process may seem as easy as inviting anyone you'd like to join your network, but, unfortunately, it isn't quite that easy. However, with a little up-front work and consistently paying attention to using LinkedIn to network, there's no reason why you shouldn't begin receiving referrals and leads within a short amount of time.
 
First Step
Make a list of people or industries you'd like to work with. It's important that you know who your target audiences are going to be. For example, if you provide accounting services primarily to technology companies, you'll want to target that industry and then pick the people who you'll want to have in your LinkedIn connections.
 
Here's the tricky part: Never, EVER, use the introduction from the invite that pops up from LinkedIn: "Hi Carl. I'd like you to join my network." Not only will you not get any response (unless you already know the person pretty well), you may get an inappropriate reply or a reply that LinkedIn considers an "abuse." If you get six or more reports of abuse, I've heard from good sources that LinkedIn will suspend your account for six months.
 
Building Your Network
There are three ways to build your network:
 
1. Connect with people you know. This includes anyone you've met at a live networking function, friends, colleagues, clients, customers, and even family.
 
2. Connect to second and even third connections through people you know. Scan your initial contact list (step 1 above) to see who those people are connected with, then invite them to join your network. One question I'm regularly asked is how to connect to someone you don't know. My response: ask the person! In my opinion, the least favorable way is to get introduced through a connection. I've never found it to be very powerful, unless you contact the first connection and ask the person how well he or she knows your target connection. If someone doesn't want to join you on LinkedIn, that person will ignore your request. 
 
3. Join various LinkedIn groups. I think this is the best way to connect because of like-minded thinking. If you look at groups on LinkedIn, you'll see there's a group for just about every industry and profession. Once you've searched the groups, click on Join Group. The next step is to look at the members in that group who you would like to connect with. Don't think you'll only be connecting with one person; in fact, you'll be connected to everyone and all of their connections!
 
This is what I say in my invitation:
 
Hi xxxx,
 
I'm building my LinkedIn network and would like to add you to my network. You can never have too many great contacts.
 
Thank you in advance for allowing me to join yours.
 
Mark
 
Obviously, you can use any form of this invitation, but please keep it short and sweet.
 
By joining a group, you're doing two things: (1) you now have something in common with the person you would like to invite; and (2) people will see that you're involved, even if you're in a group but never post. Posting in a group is an excellent way to have group members see you as involved and see that you have something of value to add to the group.
 
In my opinion, the minimum number of connections to have is seventy, but you'll find the more connections you get, the more people will want to join your network. It seems to be the bandwagon effect.
 
Building your LinkedIn network may sound like a lot of work, but it really isn't if you spend twenty minutes on a weekend or during the day, join groups, and start inviting ten to twenty people a week. It won't be long before you see your efforts mushroom.
 
Related article:
 
About the author:
Mark A. Ginsberg is a business consultant with Staff One, Inc., a company delivering a comprehensive range of HR solutions to clients in more than forty-one states. Contact Mark at mark.ginsberg@staffone.com.

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