Look – it’s not you. It’s me. I’m sure you really are a swell person. It’s just that I feel you’re looking for something else. When you send me a LinkedIn connection request and we don’t really know each other, I’m sorry – but for you to get the most out of LinkedIn, you deserve better than me.
Many people underestimate and misunderstand the real value of LinkedIn. It offers a way to create profitable first-degree connections. I underscore the word profitable, because unlike connections on Twitter (which are often fleeting, superficial and anonymous) or connections on Facebook (which are supposed to be fun, personal and carefree), first-degree connections on LinkedIn lead directly to new careers, new sales leads, and new business partnerships.
Without profitable first-degree connections, your LinkedIn nework is nothing more than a collection of random people of limited value to you and your network.
To Serve and Protect
Accordingly, I believe the network you build on LinkedIn – unlike Twitter, and very much like Facebook – needs protection and curation. Protection, because you have a responsibility to defend your connections from unwanted solicitation. And curation, because in business, choosing the people you associate with makes a big difference.
Because I have this belief, I’ve always maintained a policy of connecting with people I really know. And I define “really know” this way:
- I’ve had professional interaction with them (ie. client, colleague, business partner)
- I’ve met them in person- and had a real, memorable, conversation with them
- They are family or a good friend
The quality and depth of my connections becomes important when the time comes to make an introduction, provide a recommendation or give an endorsement, so that the recognition I give is honest, and informed by what I really know about them.
For example, when I’m asked to make an introduction between two first-degree connections (who by definition are second-degree connections by way of both being connected through me), I always like to add color to my intro. Specifically, I like to describe how I know each person, when we met, and why I feel it’s important the two connect. Like this:
Jim, meet Leonard. We went to school together, and he remains a good friend. He’s also probably one of the best doctors I know. He’s exceptionally focused on his patients, and regularly reminds me that he’s a doctor, and not an engineer. Leonard saw your posting for a new staff physician, and wanted to learn more about the role directly from you. By the way, his close friends like me call him Bones. Long story.
Bones, meet Jim. We met a few years ago while on vacation, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Over the years Jim has shared many stories with me, and its clear he’s an exceptional leader, cunning strategist and loves a good adventure.
Jim – I feel Bones would be an ideal addition to your team. He’s just the kind of Doctor your team needs. I’ll leave it to you to connect and arrange next steps.
Without the context and value that comes from really knowing both people, this introduction would probably read like this:
Gentlemen- Leonard asked me to connect the two of you together. Jim, we met on vacation a couple of years ago, and I hope you remember me. It seems there’s a new job posting in your organization. Leonard is interested in learning more. He and I attended a workshop together last May. Hope you don’t mind me connecting you two. Good luck!
Every introduction I make is like the first example. I provide color and context to the introduction, and explain clearly why I feel the connection should occur. It provides value to both recipients, and has the added benefit of reflecting well on me for providing contextual clarity – which helps my own reputation and personal brand.
I believe in quality versus quantity with my LinkedIn network. I’d sooner have a smaller network of people I actually know, than a large network of people I know only by name or reputation. This approach helps me create more meaningful relationships for everyone – and serves my connections best when the time comes to help them.