A few weeks back I attended a networking function and saw someone I had recently added to my LinkedIn network. I smiled really wide and waved, but the person only briefly looked my way then later walked right past me.
My first thought was, “Wow, I have been meaning to upload a new profile picture. Guess that person didn’t recognize me!” The other thought was, “Are we making real connections online when we send and accept requests? Or are these people simply filed away in our minds under this-or-that category of “what-this-person-can-do-for-me” – to be reviewed again only when we need something? Are we studying people to make real connections?
Having rich, meaningful relationships with people you trust in business makes up the foundation of our free market society. Because no government entity forces us to do business with xyz vendor, partner, colleague or even customer, we are free to make our own business associations. Here are a few tips to help you get to know people beyond the surface so you can make associations that are right for you.
- Send a personalized message with your connection request. Particularly if I haven’t spoken with the person ever or in a while, I like to remind them of how I know them and why I want to connect.
- Follow up with messages to indicate how you guys might help each other. I know tons of people who are peeved by connections that sent a generic request and never contacted them again after being accepted as a friend/connection. Trust me, I know things get busy. For me, it’s easiest to create a scheduled reminder to follow up. At a loss for what to say during follow up? Then, you’re just like me. I also need a system of what will happen on the follow up. I’ve recently created a list of ways I’d like to get to know my connections better and can’t wait to start reconnecting.
- Call people. Even if you leave a message, there’s nothing like the sound of a human voice to communicate sincere interest in building relationships.
- Only send requests to people with whom you really want to build a mutually beneficial relationship. Would you mind meeting this person for coffee and discussing your challenges and triumphs? Would you be comfortable sharing at least 10 valuable connections with them or even introducing them to someone you know? If you know this person from past employment, did you admire their character? Did they go out of their way to make you feel important? Would you ask them for a recommendation, referral or job? Do you trust them? If not – you may want to leave this person out of your network for now. It doesn’t mean, “No, I don’t want to add them ever.” It could mean, “Based on what I know now or where I’m heading professionally, I’m not sure how we can help each other.” Don’t let a guilt trip or greed cause you to clutter your network with people just for numbers sake. It’s quality not quantity connections that you want.
These 4 tips can help you find the emotional connections often missing from online networking. By building more emotional bonds, you’ll overcome a chief reason these connections fail to translate into strong, offline relationships. Try applying what we learned today. Then test yourself by checking out the profiles of 5 people you know only superficially. Now, does the individual’s smile and character expressed in the profile pic resonate with you at all – or at least enough for you to pick them out of a crowd if you saw them in person? Hopefully, this post gave you some insight on how to truly get “linked in” with the right people.