Find, Connect, Engage

It is important to keep in mind when using social media that the overriding goal is to build lasting relationships. This focus is critical because, like all relationships, they are built over time and they often become “fruitful” or valued once others know you, like you and trust you.

From a strictly business standpoint heaven is reached when you are viewed as an authority or expert in your primary industry or vocation. The necessary steps to achieve such a state of nirvana include multiple, satisfying personal encounters, testimonials from others, and frequent sharing of relevant articles or tips for success.

Little by little, a prestigious reputation can be established and recognized by many. Referrals result when others believe you to be the most active, most knowledgeable or most reliable in a given area. Those that try to short-cut this process are usually disappointed with inconsistent leads and income.

How to Begin:

New connection opportunities abound on LinkedIn. It is easy to invite members of your groups if they are 2 or 3 level contacts. Usually an email is not needed to send them an invite since there is a group membership in common.

Some LinkedIn members become LIONs. A LION is a LinkedIn Open Networker. Members of these groups—and some are very large—accept others’ invite without question. They will not report to LinkedIn that they don’t know you so there is no jeopardy involved in inviting a LION into your LinkedIn family. It is LinkedIn’s stated policy that you should not connect with LinkedIn members that you do not know.

Additionally, LinkedIn suggests “People you Might Know” based on interests that you might share. This list might include past school associates, former co-workers or local professionals. If you know one of these individuals, then hit the connect button. If you don’t know them well or at all, then connecting with them directly might get you in trouble with LinkedIn since their policy discourages connecting with people you don’t know. Your account can be restricted if you persist in violating their standards.

Lastly, accepting invitations from others is another easy way to connect. LinkedIn gives the options to “Accept” or “Ignore” an invitation. I see it as yet another way of building your network–provided the new contact fits your criteria or target market.

What to do with your Connections

Once you have a new connection I recommend that you thank them for joining your community. Few do this so it is another way to distinguish yourself from other LinkedIn members. It only takes a few seconds and is helpful in getting the relationship off to a good start.

I also thank those that have invited me (and I have accepted) to connect with them. The reason is the same…everyone loves to hear a “thank you” unexpectedly. Consider thanking those that endorse or recommend you. They are helping you build your “social proof” and credibility so in that sense they have earned some appreciation.

Next, take the opportunity of your thank you message to inform your new contact of your desire to work together mutually. Part of the message can also include a reference to the skills or benefits that you bring to the table. In this way you appreciate, express value and inform all in one short message.

So that is how it begins. None of it is complicated or terribly time-consuming. Begin developing these habits and they soon become second nature. If you don’t think you can build your network quickly this way, then remember that you can join up to 50 groups (with the opportunity to connect with hundreds of members in each group). In addition you have LinkedIn’s ongoing, daily rollout of People you Might Know. That sounds a lot like 5,000 or more connection to me!

By Gary Kissel | LinkedIn Strategist | Speaker | Author