How many times have you gone to an event, maybe a conference or a business after hours, or even just a social event with friends, and a new acquaintance sends you an invitation to connect on LinkedIn? You might have seen the notice in a LinkedIn email or on the app itself.
Maybe you collected that person’s business card. I know, I know, business cards aren’t used as much as they used to be, but they do still exist.
What happens after that? What happens to those LinkedIn invitations to connect? Maybe you aren’t sure whether to accept or ignore, or whether you should personalize your responses (you should).
Maybe you’ve even turned off the notification emails in your LinkedIn settings so you have no idea you are receiving these invitations until weeks later when you decide to log in for a minute.
How about those business cards? What happens to them? Most of the time, absolutely nothing. I have to tell you; I have a few stacks of them on my desk. I throw them away every few years or so, the most recent being this morning. There are always a few I just can’t throw away because they were given to me by people who became very special friends to me. From a business card to a special friend…who knew?!
Is This A Hobby or Your Business?
Let’s say you get far enough to click accept when this person you met sends you that LinkedIn invitation to connect. Then what?
You’ve only just begun.
If you and I don’t do anything with these contacts after that acceptance to connect or that exchange of business cards, then all we have is a hobby of collecting contacts and that’s not good use of our time.
“LinkedIn is about connecting talent with opportunity at massive scale. We’re not just talking about the tools to enable people to find their dream jobs. We’re also talking about tools that enable people to be great at the jobs that they already have.”
- Be great.
Yes, indeed. I chose this quote because part of being great at our jobs is connecting with people.
3 Main Reasons For Using LinkedIn
Jeff’s quote flows nicely into what I define as the three main reasons for using LinkedIn. When you think about it, his quote flows nicely into using any of the social networks, but it’s extremely important on LinkedIn.
The 3 Main Reasons To Use LinkedIn Are:
- To find those with whom you want to do business,
- To be found by the people you want to do business with, and
- The most important of them all is to turn contacts into connections.
Why Should You Turn Contacts Into Connections on LinkedIn?
That name on that piece of paper could sit there for years, but it’s more likely it will be thrown away if it is not chosen.
It is when we take our contacts to the next step and even further that we have the opportunity to make true connections with those human beings.
- When we connect, we begin to form relationships.
- When we form relationships, we learn about one another.
- When we learn about one another, we decide if we want to get to know them.
- When we get to know them, we come to trust them.
- When we come to trust them, we learn to like or respect them, and hopefully both.
All of this is what leads to more lasting business relationships. Knowing, liking, and trusting others are the stepping stones that turn our contacts into connections.
How Do You Turn Contacts Into Real Connections?
We have to remember a very important rule, which is that it takes proper care and feeding in order to create and grow a true connection. We can’t just join these networks. We have to actually use them.
When we use them effectively, we are giving people more of us.
- A piece of us
- Our helpful attitude
- Our ability to talk about what they’re sharing on LinkedIn
- Our ability to help give perspective to a conversation or situation being discussed on LinkedIn
- Our ability to send them a private message every once in a while to say I’m thinking about you, how is this going, or maybe to let them know something is brewing
- …or our desire to show we care by sharing their content on LinkedIn
The more we do that, the greater the chances are that we will turn these mere contacts into true connections.
Is It Possible? Is There Enough Time?
Yes, it is possible, but it is better to do it now while you have a manageable network because the day might come when you have hundreds and thousands of contacts and find this kind of personal interaction with all of your contacts difficult to scale. You might already have that many. If so, you need to make sure you are prioritizing these activities with those connections who are most important to you and your growth.
To be present on LinkedIn and to engage in the practices I am suggesting, you should plan on spending a little bit of time on LinkedIn on a regular basis. When you are active by doing what it takes to turn contacts into connections, this helps LinkedIn’s algorithms see you as a valuable member, which helps you and your content to be shown in the newsfeed. That’s a good thing because that algorithm is what helps surface your content to those people with whom you want to do business. In case you didn’t know this, all of the social media sites show our content to those we interact with the most. If we don’t interact with them, and vice versa, we might never see their content, and they might never see ours.
When it comes to creating true relationships, you can’t have a faith-based strategy.
What does that mean? It means that you can’t just throw a bunch of stuff out there, meaning a bare-bones LinkedIn profile and a little bit of content, or brag about what you’ve done and what’s wonderful lately about your practice and your firm, and have faith that everybody’s going to be attracted to you. That’s not how it works.
It’s easy to sign up for LinkedIn or any social networking site. It just takes a minute. It’s what we do on LinkedIn after we sign up that determines whether it will help with business development. As I mentioned, you need to get in there and make comments on people’s content. Be helpful. Connect.
Is LinkedIn Networking Similar To In-Person Networking?
LinkedIn networking is very similar to what you do in person. When you meet someone face-to-face, you need to engage that person in conversation in order to develop a relationship, don’t you? Of course, if people aren’t ready for a certain level of discussion, you have to use your intuition and your gut feeling about what’s appropriate. It is the same for LinkedIn. You have to interact with others if you want them to interact with you.
Don’t forget your three reasons for being on LinkedIn:
- To find the people with whom you want to do business
- To be found by the people with whom you want to do business
- To turn contacts into connections.
Also, a reminder of a few of the ways we discussed that you can turn contacts into connections:
- Share yourself with others
- Have a helpful attitude in everything you do on LinkedIn
- Comment on what others have shared on LinkedIn
- Add your perspective to others’ comments, posts, and discussions
- Send a private message every once in a while to let someone know you are thinking about them, or if there is something they need to know about. Wait for it, though. Most people on LinkedIn don’t care for private messages from people they barely know.
Nancy Myrland is a Marketing, Business Development, Content, Social & Digital Media Speaker, Trainer & Advisor, helping lawyers and legal marketers grow by integrating all marketing disciplines in order to maximize business development efforts to grow their practices. She is a frequent LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for Business trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers learn and implement business development efforts that are more relevant to their current and potential clients. She also helps lead law firms through their online social media strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases. As an early and constant adopter of social and digital media and technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasts, video marketing, voice marketing, flash briefings, and livestreaming.
If you would like to reserve an hour of Nancy’s time to begin talking strategy or think through an issue you are having, you can do that here.