Confessions of a LinkedIn addict
I want to apologize to you.
You may have shaken my hand at a conference, gone to school with me, worked with me, even heard me speak. That prompted us to connect on LinkedIn. I joined back on February 19, 2007, and since then have "connected" with over 3500 people from around the world.
When I first joined LinkedIn, I was known as a "LION", someone who would connect with anyone, at any time for any reason. Just send me the request to connect and I would gladly accept. I would even go through LinkedIn and connect with people just to connect (and was kicked off LinkedIn twice for trying to connect with people I didn't know - ok, I get it, but then why even have the feature and suggest that I connect with them?!?). My ego got in the way. I thought quantity over quality.
During my Master's studies at the University of Limerick, my thesis was on LinkedIn and how entrepreneurs use it to grow their network. It was then that how I used LinkedIn changed.
I now consider my network (my little black book if you will) as part of my capital. Just like you may need financial capital for your projects, you may also need social capital, and many times the social capital can be more valuable than the financial capital. I might not be able to help you, but chances are that I know one or more people that can. But that is where my being a LION has failed me, because I may not really KNOW you.
I treat my LinkedIn network now more like a dinner party. I have lots of interesting friends that I invite to my party, but just because someone knocks on the door, it doesn't mean I will simply let them into the party. That is doing my other guests a disservice.
Today when I receive a connection request, I always send a reply asking three simple questions (I've actually automated it using TextExpander). If the person takes the time to respond (which shows me they really do want to connect), I then have a very simple idea of who that person is, what they seek, and how I can help. We may have actually met at a conference and this was a simple follow up, or they read a blog post and wanted to become more connected. I will accept those requests. They have shown me value.
But guess what, less than 20% of those that initially thought they needed to be part of my network actually respond to my email. That means more than 80% didn't see the value. I want my connections to feel the value, to be part of my "family". If you ask me for a recommendation for a great lawyer from my LinkedIn, you will know that that person most likely has received my approval, otherwise, I wouldn't be sharing them with you. When you don't know your LinkedIn connections, it is extremely hard to do that.
So here I am, sending this email to my entire LinkedIn network. I am sorry I may not have taken the time to get to know you. I want to do better so here is what I want to offer:
1. Send me a note and let me know how I can help you;
2. Sign up for my emails - I do most of my communication these days with my entire network via email, so if you find value in being connected with me, please consider joining my mailing list. I promise not to bore, but I will share some of the tips I talk about during my presentations and will even have my list help me write my next book via crowdsourcing.
3. Connect with me on Twitter. I did my Ph.D. on Twitter and use it on a daily basis (I know, a Masters on LinkedIn and a Ph.D. on Twitter - what was I thinking?).
If you want the actual email reply I talked about above (the one I send to those that request a LinkedIn connection with me, the simple three-question email) just sign up for the newsletter and I will send you the template right away. Feel free to use it exactly as is or modify to meet your needs.
Thanks for being part of my LinkedIn family for the past 12 years. Here's to a more effective way towards more value in networking.