One goal in social networking is to connect with others, in meaningful manner, and then to develop these relationships. Our primary goal should be to do this with the right people … those who we can best assist with achieving their desired results and vice versa.
Twitter and Google+ are fairly simple and straightforward. You follow or place somebody in one of your circles and then see if they will return the favor. LinkedIn and Facebook require a more formal procedure of extending an invitation to connect or friend and then hoping that this is accepted.
Regardless of the social network, there are many steps that you can take to maximize your chances for a successful linking. We can effectively engage with people prior to any actual connection being realized. These can be baby steps which I call taps to more direct overtures which we will call touches. Both can, and should, be done in a progressive manner. We move from more casual activities and then onto those engagements which request an action in the form of a connection.
Speaking for myself, and particularly when I receive a template invitation from someone on LinkedIn who I don’t recognize, the chances of me accepting that connection request are minimal unless … I can associate this person with some form of prior engagement. In a perfect world, this request is personalized and it will remind me of how, when, and where we may have engaged previously. Sending me one tweet, or liking my page on Facebook, and then asking me to connect, ain’t exactly progressive and … it ain’t gonna’ work.
Let’s say that our ultimate goal is to connect on LinkedIn. How might we approach that? For our purposes, we will first assume that we are not connected. One of my major sub-goals will be to establish name recognition (my name) with this other person.
- Look at their profile and don’t do it anonymously. Just this simple act will be brought to this person’s attention and your name, and your company name, will be mentioned.
- There is one place on LinkedIn where you can freely interact with others who are not connected with you by any level of degree … groups. Here you can comment, like, share, and start your own discussions. You can also follow people in groups which means that their updates from this specific group will appear in your newsfeed. They will not be notified if you follow or unfollow them but it will make it convenient for you to tap them on group discussions.
- Be active in group discussions. Every time you do your name, and your headline, will be visible to your other group members.
- Follow them on Twitter. If they follow back, thank them with a PERSONALIZED direct message, or a reply message, that mentions their first name. This simple act is so rare that they will never forget you!!
- Reply to them or retweet one of their posts on Twitter. You don’t even have to follow them for this to be effective. It is best if you use and old-style RT (RT @craigmjamieson) for maximum visibility. Be sure to leave a space between the RT and their Twitter handle! The new style one-click retweets will often be overlooked by users.
- Favorite one of their tweets or add them to a Twitter list. More sophisticated users will see and appreciate these!
- Connect me to someone else or just mention me in a tweet (by my Twitter handle) and I will see it. Mention me in conjunction with sharing one of my articles from my website and I will want to marry you.
- Add them to a circle(s) on Google+. They will be notified and you now have the ability to mention them in an update. If they add you back into one of their circles … engagement has begun.
- Direct message them on Twitter. You may even want to let them know that you are sending them a request to connect on LinkedIn and are hoping that they will accept.
- You can direct message any group member on LinkedIn. Nice and few people are aware of this!
- If you see the OpenLink icon on a member’s profile, they are premium members who will accept direct private messages from ANYBODY.
- If you are a LinkedIn premium member with InMail privileges, you can private message ANYBODY on LinkedIn.
- Always, did I say ALWAYS, send a personalized invitation to connect (LinkedIn) and remind them of any previous engagements that you may have had and … give them a reason to connect with you!
- If you cannot send them a personalized connection request, you can still message them to alert them of your intention. These can be done via any network, in some fashion but, should probably originate via the channel that the request is coming from. Are you aware that you can private message ANYONE on Facebook. Facebook does not offer personalized friending invitations so this would be a way for you to augment that.
Don’t stop now! While you may have successfully connected, and you may have already invested some sweat equity to get to this point, why would you not carry this further? Why would you not wish to develop this relationship? If you won’t take it to the next level, you have a connection. Nothing more and nothing less. What you do not have is a relationship!
- Continue to use the taps and touches discussed previously and on all of the networks. You will now be able to like, comment, and share on any of their updates and they will be notified of when you do that.
- Endorse them or, if you really love them, skip the endorsement and write them a recommendation! I am on record as stating that I think that LinkedIn’s endorsement feature is one step above being worthless but, when you endorse somebody they will be notified. Please, please make it sincere. If you have no personal knowledge that someone has this skill, why would you endorse them for it? I am regularly endorsed by people who I only know casually and often they are endorsing me for skills that I do not have, or they would have no idea that I have, or even for skills that I have to look up because … I don’t even know what that skill even is! Make it real!
- Now that you are connected, you can private message them at any time.
- Provide valuable, and appropriate, updates on the social networks and build your expertise in the process!
- Take your relationships to real life!
I read and interesting article the other day that talked about how Twitter was not a particularly good platform for engagement. The author focused on Twitter Analytics to show the dismal stats for retweets, favorites, and link clicks. I would submit that they have missed the mark entirely. Engagement is a two-way process involving a conversation which, by the way, can and should be initiated by both parties. Still, I shared this article on Twitter. The author actually thanked me and even used my first name. I replied “You are most welcome, Fred!” That is engagement.
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.