Linked In– Is it about Large Networks, Relationships or Both?

I joined LinkedIn back in 2005 not knowing that it would be such a global networking tool.

I heard about LinkedIn through a Yahoo group and decided to join. Many of the Yahoo group members had 500+ LinkedIn connections and I wanted to get to 500 as quickly as possible.  I joined all the open networker groups on Yahoo and accepted every invitation sent to me.  I reached 500 connections within a few months.  I sat proud in my office chair looking at my enormous network and then thought, “now what?”

I was a full-desk recruiter in the Biotech industry and I only had 40 connections within the industry I recruited in!  I realized early on that building a large network is important but building a strategic network and developing relationships was the key.

My first “aha” moment was shortly after I returned from a large conference last Spring.  I started working as a Talent Sourcer for 7-Eleven, Inc.  I changed my title on LinkedIn and received four messages congratulating me. Those messages were from my former boss, a recruiter I networked with and only met once, someone I met at SourceCon, and a connection I had never engaged with.

That really hit home because it was such a personal touch. It was such a small but nice gesture and made me smile.  I sat in my office chair and thought how I barely glance at my homepage and status updates. I hardly ever take time to send a quick message when I saw a title change or job promotion from someone in my network.

What really made me evaluate my approach to building valuable relationships on LinkedIn was when I received a message from Margo Rose (AKA @HrMargo). Her message was that she enjoyed meeting me briefly at SourceCon, but wanted to set up a time to talk by phone for 10-15 minutes and get to know each other and how we could professionally help each other out.

I realized that my first-degree network of now 5,000 was just a number and I needed to build relationships with many of my connections that I have met at conferences, within groups, and locally.   Here are a few tips I recently implemented in my own network.  I have built more relationships over the past five months than I did over a course of five years!

  • Read your homepage and send out a congrats message to someone in your network who has been promoted or recently changed jobs.
  • Send a message to a connection you would like to know more about and set up a time to talk 10-15 minutes once a week.
  • Start answering questions in LinkedIn Answers
  • Reply to every connection request, thanking them for the invitation.
  • Offer networking assistance with a short message to your new connection that lets them know if you can be of any professional help to them or their team.
  • Personalize each Invite or InMail by actually reading their profile prior to sending an invite.
  • Participate in groups you join by starting a post or replying to a group post.
  • Send a recommendation to someone in your network that you respect currently or was a wonderful mentor, boss, colleague, etc.

This is what optimizes your social networking and creates quality relationships with real two-way value.

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