I'll Link In to that!

Last night, I presented “Personal Branding: The Social Media Way” at a local job seekers’ group. Here are answers to questions posed in a follow-up email from one of the participants.

Why didn’t I discuss the one-to-one connections one can make on Linked In?

The talk focused on branding--which is generally accomplished using one-to-many (broadcast communications). Nevertheless, as the questioner correctly points out everything you say or do affects your brand. Therefore, one-to-one communications are also fair game.

What’s the best use of this feature?

The short answer is that the best use of this features is to build a network that will meet your objectives. That said everyone's goals differ.

Another answer is to use it in a way that fosters, rather than hinders, relationships. This is especially important when communicating with people with whom you don't already have a strong relationship

For example, when you invite someone to join your network, consider writing a short note--rather than sending the default invitation. In it, describe the existing connection between you and why you hope the two of you will connect. In addition to being more thoughtful and courteous, a warm note will also increase your chance of acceptance.

When you decide not to connect with someone, consider just not accepting their invitation. That way, it's less likely to feel like a rejection. Also, try to avoid checking the box that says you don’t know the other person—especially if there’s any chance that he or she thinks the two of you do know each other.

Loose links sink ships

The third question asked about how I use this feature. In general, I try to connect only to people with whom I have—or want to have—a relationship. As for the rest, we can link up and discuss mutual interests using the Group function of Linked In. My reasons follow.

One of the primary ways that people use Linked In is to contact third parties through others in their network. I want to make sure that I’d feel comfortable contacting everyone in my network to ask that favor of them.

Familiarity becomes even more important when someone in my network wants me to connect them with someone in my network. That’s because I’m only comfortable connecting two people when I feel it is likely that both will derive value from the connection.

Another reason that I limit my connections is that I sometimes send messages to everyone in my network. Examples include requests for information or news about my business. In either case, my goal is to send messages only to those who will be receptive—and I suspect those who don’t know me well may not be receptive. We all get too much mail.

Some would argue that anyone who requests or accepts a connection is tacitly indicating that they want to help out others in your network and are receptive to your messages. All I can say is that I’m not sure that’s true. But then, that’s why there are many perspectives on this issue.

This leads to two follow up questions. The questions and answers follow.

Do I do as I say?

I haven't always adhered to my own policies. First of all, in the beginning I had a different policy. I wanted to protect the privacy of my connections. Therefore, I only accepted invitations from others—I didn’t extend any invitations—and accepted invitations from anyone who invited me.

Now, I only extend invitations to people with whom I want to have a relationship. By the same token, I accept invitations from those with whom I would like to have a relationship.

That leaves the small number of people who I would not have invited to join my network. Of these, I accept about half the invitations I receive.

The primary reason for this incongruity is that I don’t like to reject people. So, I add those I know and have a positive feeling about. Nevertheless, I view the relationship differently and hope they will understand if I’m not comfortable connecting with them someone they’d like to meet.

Avoiding invitations you'd rather not accept

I don’t respond to the remaining invitations—rather than rejecting them outright. The primary reason that I don’t accept these invitations is that I want to avoid the discomfort that may arise later if and when they ask for an introduction.

These are my policies. I believe they may also pertain to job seekers--since not everyone in your network is looking for a job. Those that are not, may not be as receptive to connections and too frequent updates.

Do you agree or disagree?

Everyone networks differently--and for different reasons. How do you use Linked In and what’s your rationale?

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