Please note that the operative phrase is “engaged with” and not “connected to”. I’m sure that there are probably thousands of folks out there who are connected to thousands of other folks on LinkedIn. The question is, how many are they really connected with? How many of their connections do they really know? Engagement implies some sort of a commitment and that commitment is generally long-term.
I suppose that if you are an affiliate or internet marketer who relies to a large extent on reach, the more the merrier. Not that reach isn’t important to all of us at least on some level. However, if your business model involves you being more directly engaged with those in your network, things can get a little more complex and both the number of connections and the time needed to effectively manage them can become mitigating factors.
In terms of numbers. overall I will fluctuate between being a fairly open networker and one who is maybe a little more discerning. On LinkedIn. I’m all over the board. If I don’t know you, and you don’t send me a personalized invitation, we probably are not going to connect. Still, that rule is not 100%. My goal, though not easily realized, is to engage rather than to just connect. There may be people who you flat do not want to connect with.
Still, how many of my LinkedIn connections do I really know? The answer is too damn few and, if you are honest with yourself, your answer regarding your own network will probably be similar. Let’s face it. It’s challenging! Of my 600+ connections on LinkedIn, I maybe “know” half and that is probably being optimistic. In the final analysis, when it comes to being engaged with my connections, I have a lot of work to do! Also please remember that engagement is not just for individuals. It is for companies too!
It is also equally important to chat a bit about who we are connected to. Sometimes we get caught up in the heat of expanding our networks and forget about those folks who should be the foundation of our efforts who will not only help us to build our network but will also prevent the whole damn thing from falling over in the event of a catastrophe …
- Our fellow employees – When we think about LinkedIn, we think about our external network. Is not our intranet equally, or perhaps even more, powerful?
- Our existing customers – This would include multiple connections within the same company. There are few more sickening feelings than to find out that your key contact at your biggest account has moved on to other opportunities and you now find yourself to be both disconnected & unconnected.
- Our best referrers – Are your best customers the people who buy the most from you? Not necessarily. What do you do with the contact who never buys anything but consistently sends you referrals to people who do? Your erect a shrine with their name on it!
Fact is, LinkedIn gives us many opportunities to better engage and develop relationships with our existing connections in addition to discovering new ones. Some are these methods are taps while many others are what I would term as being touches. A true touch is a specific effort to engage directly. A tap, on the other hand, is more like just letting somebody know you are there and are thinking of them.
Taps: Examples of taps include liking somebody’s update or sharing that update with your network. LinkedIn’s Endorsement feature is another example of a tap. Taps are quick and easy (generally one click). However, every time you tap somebody they will be notified in their notification windows and, depending on their settings, directly to their email inbox. Since these notifications will identify you as the tapper, this keeps your name top of mind in a nice non-aggressive way.
Touches: Touches are more direct and are designed to invite engagement in the form of a conversation. Asking to connect is a touch. So are direct messages and leaving comments on somebody’s updates or their discussion threads. InMails (premium feature) are another example of a direct message. Other touches would include: inviting them to a group, engaging with them within a group atmosphere, requesting or providing an introduction, or writing somebody a personalized recommendation. I have my own views on LinkedIn’s endorsement interface and it is not all positive however, if you really want to make somebody’s day, write them a considered and sincere recommendation without being asked to do so. You, my friend, are now their new best friend!
LinkedIn’s new Contacts interface (if you ever looked at ConnectedHQ which was purchased by LinkedIn a year or so ago guess what? It’s back as an integrated LinkedIn feature!!) now offers us even more ways to ensure that our efforts are consistent, informed, and strategic. In many ways, this new interface has CRM-like characteristics albeit within the confines of the LinkedIn network. While that may seem limiting on one hand (LinkedIn only), there is certainly something to be said for targeting a group of folks who you have already identified, hopefully, as some of your most important business connections. But wait! LinkedIn is also now making it even easier to invite my connections to join LinkedIn if they are not already enrolled on the platform. These capabilities also encourage us to expand our networks and then allow us to take advantage of these tools to manage them …
- Bringing all of your connection networks into your contact’s record: Instantly see how you are connected: email, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Nice!
- Communication records: What is not to love about this feature! From within a contact record on LinkedIn, I now have access to emails exchanged, messages on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and even calendar items. With actual pop-outs no less! Want to remind yourself of what has transpired in the past before you make that next tap or touch? Well, here you go!
- How you first met: A nice simple touch but how many of us can actually recall the circumstances surrounding your first meeting/connection? I can’t.
- Notes: You have a whole slew of tap and touch methods at your disposal so use the notes section to register when each of these have been utilized. Mix it up! The same old touch or tap every time is less than exciting and equally as sincere. Keep track of where you have been, what you have learned, and where you are going!
- Tags (Folders): A great way to organize your contacts into groups. You might think about an A, B, C system with A contacts being your best, B’s being up and comers with potential to become A’s, and C’s are there but are needing work or are yet to be fully classified. For example, you have never engaged with them directly in any fashion. D is for delete. As far as I know, the premium features associated with the Profile Organizer remain the same, i.e. they are still premium features. They have simply been brought over to this new interface.
- Recurring reminder schedule: Carry the A, B, C system over to set reminders to stay in touch. 500+ recently offered an app to do this specific task. Now it is built into LinkedIn. Maybe you contact your A folks every two weeks, B’s monthly, and C’s quarterly.
- Sort contacts by: recent conversation, newly added, alphabetical, company, location, or by “lost touch”
- Birthdays, announcements, calendar items, and reminders to stay in touch: Make Contacts your first stop of each day!
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.