One of the cardinal rules of business is that it’s all about relationships. But how do you maintain contact with all the colleagues and clients over the years without working the phone all day?
Increasingly, the answer is to get LinkedIn.
Until recently, I thought of LinkedIn as an early alarm system for finding out which colleagues were on the verge of losing their jobs. Invariably, I would get an invitation from a former client –and a few days later, I’d find out she was pounding the pavement looking for work.
That’s changed. As I’ve accepted invitations from colleagues, I’ve explored the site more and found some useful ways to network in a more high-level and collegial way.
Here are some applications I’m fond of:
What are you working on?
Every time I accept an invitation, I’m presented with a sidebar featuring my own picture (which I uploaded to my profile) that says, “What are you working on?” Whenever I’m there, I fill in the blank to mention a specific project I’m involved in that I’d like my colleagues to know about. This note then appears in weekly LinkedIn Network Updates sent to my connections.
As a result, I’ve gotten notes from former clients asking me about those projects — creating a dialogue. And of course, mentioning these projects boosts my credentials as an expert in these fields.
People You May Know
Seeing a list of people from my past prompts me to get in touch with them with a quick e-mail to join my connections — and usually renews a relationship.
I just heard from a colleague I haven’t worked with in over 20 years — and we made plans to hook up while I was in D.C. He work for a major newspaper there and I was able to help him with some e-mail metrics for launching an online campaign and introduce him to another expert who could help him.
I’ve joined a number of professional groups in the different fields where I have expertise. Truthfully, some groups are turning out to be sinkholes cluttered with get-rich-quick schemes. However, others have maintained a high professional caliber.
In these groups, you can post news so I upload my ClickZ columns and also articles that have been written about me. As a result, colleagues as far as the United Kingdom have contacted me.
When I’m traveling for business, I post my travel plans on TripIt. In doing so, I see which of my connections are nearby — and it spurs me on to get in contact to set up a quick coffee or lunch.
Reading List by Amazon
I recently posted a quick review of a business book explaining how it helped me achieve a huge success for a client. Although no one has contacted me about this, I think it’s a good way to encourage a dialogue.
I’m intrigued by this feature that allows you to upload your presentations. I recently uploaded a presentation I gave at a ClickZ conference, but then took it down. I realized that with 45 slides, it was too much for anyone to look at — and that without the narration, it was hard to follow. At some point, though, I think it would be a great idea to create a streamlined version of the presentation as an example of the talks I can give for other professional groups or for corporate trainings.
I’ve slacked off from this practice, but I used to routinely offer colleagues a recommendation whenever I extended or accepted a LinkedIn invitation. Most colleagues reciprocated by writing a recommendation about me. It’s a gracious way to reconnect and reaffirm a relationship — and all those recommendations are pretty impressive to read on your profile. I’ll definitely have to remember to resume this enjoyable networking practice.
And that really points back to another key tenet of networking — you need to give first before you ask. Recently, a business person I don’t know sent me an invitation — which I will normally decline. But when he offered to put a link to my ClickZ columns to his Web site, so how could I say no? After I accepted, he sent me a demo of his solution — and I have to say that I am more predisposed to watch it than if it came unsolicited from a “stranger.”
I know that I am barely scratching the surface of the different ways you can network in LinkedIn. Feel free to send me your best LinkedIn networking tips for a future column, and we can learn how to expand our community of colleagues together.