Sunday, November 1, 2009

How most people have no idea of utilizing LinkedIn effectively

It's sad to say but that is truth of the matter that most people don't know how to use LinkedIn effectively. Here is a conversation I had with a friend of mine about his LinkedIn profile a few days ago.

As a result of my advice, my friend recently dropped over 100 people from his LinkedIn connections. He took a list of his existing connections and wrote a simple email trying to find a time to re-connect and catch up(the whole point of networking, don't you think?). He asked some of his old connections for a chance to re-connect due to the fact that his personal network had grown since the last time they spoke. He thought to himself that he might be able to make some new introductions and be able to help everybody in his network. He was absolutely shocked at how many people were willing to take up his offer due to time or other reasons. He was convinced that most people really didn't understand what he was trying to accomplish despite the simple email. My personal feeling was that he had added the wrong contacts in the first place.

Here is what I advised him to do next. "Ask your connections the following question via an email": It would be great to catch up since we have not spoken in several months. 20 minutes over the phone would be sufficient. My circle of connections have grown and I would like to find out if any one of these service providers can help you or your business in some way(i have met some great connections and I am convinced that they would be a great compliment to you and your business). If connections don't respond or if they say, I don't have the time, you know where you stand.

This request is pretty straight forward and as a rule of thumb, you should be requesting this from all of your connections(say once a quarter). You should give them a reasonable amount of time to respond (2 weeks is plenty) and if you don't hear back, you should  remove them. In this day and age I think 2 weeks is ample time to give your LinkedIn connections time to respond and book a 20 minute phone conversation. If you are unsure on how you can help them and most importantly how they can help you, you should not be connected. Its not about showing people you have 10,000 connections(Of course I am exaggerating since I see people with 500+ contacts but you get the picture). That is something I talk about during my LinkedIn monthly webinars. You should not be proud to have 500+ connections(you are actually not productive with that many connections). This is not a race to get more people to connect to you(as most people seem to think so). Simple mathematics tells me you cant have an effective relationship (2 way) with more than 100 connections/professionals/people. If you are really good, you might have 200+. It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

Way before anyone knew what LinkedIn was(let alone arrival of social media), I had a profile (you can blame it on my computer science background). During last year, I used it pretty effectively to meet new people in Chicago after moving from southern California(built over 200 new connections). The number one question I got was, how do you know so many people having been here under a year? Its pretty simple actually. I contact professionals from CPA's, attorneys, advisors, insurance professionals and closely help business owners (and also corporate business executives) with an offer of helpful thoughts/strategies to help them do 2 simple things(amongst many others):
1) Drive new revenue
2) Reduce costs

What amazes me the most, is the fact that most people (after all these educational webinars, online help and other tools) still do not know how to utilize this tool.

Summary and some useful tips:
1) LinkedIn is for business networking. Its not a social site. Get a hold of this concept pretty well as it will help you to be very efficient. Its a phenomenal tool to help meet the right decision makers for your product or service. If you spend any time on this platform you will see that its the most comprehensive and complete platform (most of it available for free) giving you access to everyone that you need, at a touch of a button(Isn't technology great?).

2) Don't just add anyone. Get to know them. How do you do that?
Ask a lot of questions to learn more about their business. If you dont know much about your connections, whats the point of connecting with them in the first place? The whole point of networking should a be 2 way street (not one way as many people think). Surround yourself with a good number of people who can work with you. The presence of competent professionals in your circle should help your career development too.

3) Reach out to your connections regularly(once a quarter). Show interest in what they do. It gives you a chance to re-connect again. How well do they know what you do and vice versa, how well do you know what they do?

4) Recommend some of your good strategic partners. Ask your contacts what do you have to do (3-6 month goal) to see if they can recommend you?

5) Make sure you are using slideshare(some 80% of LinkedIn users still don't have slideshare).

6) Utilize the events tab for your events or see what events are good to attend(I recently talked about how to network without wasting your time and going to useless networking events).

7) Make sure you join the right groups(most executive and senior VP's from companies are not part of many groups). That trend is changing rapidly with over 80,000 people joining LinkedIn every day(with over 2 million users on LinkedIn in the US already). Picking the right groups requires strategy and thought. I actually do these on a one on one basis with certain strategic partners(inquire directly with me via email).

8) Don't join your college alumni groups unless you are using them to create new contacts. I talk to a lot people(every week) who never have or will reach out to their alumni colleagues. Whats the point????

9) Are you utilizing You Tube in your presentations?

10) Put a professional picture. Don't have pictures of paintings or buildings. This is your profile.

11) Thank someone if they recommend you or make an introduction for you.

12) Be very clear who you like to network with and who should be introduced to you. Spell that out clearly.

You dont have to spend 2 hours a day on this tool. If you know where to go and what to look for, your job  (on a daily basis) will take no more than 30 minutes to an hour(depending on how advanced you are).

Want to know more? Register for the webinar!

Building a professional profile on LinkedIn(Nov 4th)

Have a great week and till next time be safe!

"Helping America one business, one non-profit and one family at a time"

Amir Homayoun Rafizadeh, MBA

Private Business Advisor email)

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