Building relationships is a fundamental aspect of the social networking process. If your goal is to build a strong and mutually beneficial or collaborative social network, then you should begin every online interaction you have with this Mindset. The fact is, you can’t really expect to achieve your LinkedIn goals if you are not willing to build relationships with your connections.
Building relationships on LinkedIn is all about keeping the conversation going after you become connected. Traditionally, networking used to involve attending an event and meeting new people. However, with the advent of social business networks such as LinkedIn, it is has never been quicker or easier to grow a professional network as it is now, and you should seize this opportunity to achieve your business goals. The focus should be on the quality and not necessarily the quantity of networking relationships you aim to develop.
Keep in mind that the true power of networking isn’t simply who you know, but also the people who are known by the people that you know: your 2nd and 3rd degree connections. That is the very essence of networking on LinkedIn, and you can get a lot of valuable business opportunities from second and third degree connections.
Once you have identified someone you’d like to connect with either through their content, Advanced Search or a group you are both members of, the first thing you’ll want to do is to read their profile. This will give you some useful clues on the best way to approach the potential contact. Most people will indicate how they would like to be contacted in their profile. You need to respect this so that you don’t jeopardise the relationship before it has even started. Look at the contact page and respect their contact preferences whatever they may be.
If the individual is in your first-degree network, then you have an opportunity to email them directly. To send a direct message, look for the message button at the top of their profile. When you click on it, a dialogue box will popup where you can craft your message.
When reaching out for the first time, always begin with a self-introduction if you do not already know the person, or know the person from afar. In your message, you’ll want to highlight what your contact can get out of associating with you. This is where a good understanding of your ideal target client will be crucial. When you understand their problems and challenges, you’ll be able to craft laser-targeted messages that will effectively resonate with them.
If you are a service provider such as a web designer or search engine optimization specialist, your message needs to be crafted in a way that the potential contact will be able to clearly see what they have to gain from a collaborative relationship. Be brief and to the point so you’re respectful of their time. Something as simple as, “Please let me know if I can be of any help,” will show the person the potential benefit of being your contact.
Follow these tips when constructing your message which should really be no longer than 100 characters long:
Your aim with this message is to build trust and credibility. Avoid adding anything in your message that could remotely be interpreted as a sales pitch for business. You want your contact to perceive you as an authority in your field rather than a salesman. Pushing for business reeks of desperation, and will only make your potential contact wary of you as to your ulterior motives. Let sales happen as a natural consequence of your relationship rather than something you overtly push.
It is important to invest in your network and think of it as a long-term, professional development strategy. Nurturing your relationships by providing value and helping others in your network will allow you to get the help you need when you required it.
Consider using these tips as part of your LinkedIn lead generation and marketing strategy:
It is important for you to be seen as active on LinkedIn, and posting on a daily basis will help keep you top of mind with your target clients. Every time you post an update, your connections will see your message in their News Feed. Get into the habit of only sharing relevant content that your target audience will find educational, inspirational, informative or entertaining such as industry news, quotes or links to industry-specific blogs which could include your own.
Don’t post more than once or twice a day. Add an interesting comment with each post that will encourage people to interact with the post. For example, if you share a blog post on Google’s algorithm updates, you could add a question such as “How confident are you that your website is ready for Penguin 3.0?”.
Make your presence on social media platforms essentially about what you can do for people in your network. Think about not only how they can help you, but how you can add value to them. In other words, use social media to show your target audience who you are, and what you do, and then find out what your connections want and how you can help them. Keep the conversations about providing value for your audience.
LinkedIn notifies whenever you have new email or any form of interaction with your profile. This includes any likes, endorsements or recommendations you’ve received, any interaction with your status updates or sharing of your content, etc. You should review your notifications on a daily basis to identify any opportunities to make a connection or start conversations.
At the top of the Contacts page, you’ll also find notification boxes that inform you if any of your contacts are celebrating a birthday, new job or other special event that they have chosen to share on LinkedIn. You can message these contacts to wish them happy birthday, or whatever occasion they are celebrating.
Give valuable content away to your network – no strings attached. The content should be meaningful and centred on helping in your target audience. Keeping up with industry news is a great way to contribute to conversations and keep your audience updated. The key is to be a powerful information resource that interprets the latest news or information for your audience. Remember, you are aiming to spark conversations about you and your personal brand.
Get people engaged with you by posting meaningful content that is relevant to people in your target audience such as updates or latest news. This will demonstrate that you have up-to-date knowledge and a true interest in your career and industry.
Once you have identified some of your hot prospects, you may want to create a separate folder for them so that you can engage with them separately. LinkedIn allows you to share status updates with a subset of your network, so you can choose to share some of your more valuable and insightful content with these prospects.
Once you have built your network, you need to actively engage and interact with your target clients on a regular basis. Like, comment on and share their status updates. Be sure to add value to the conversations rather than going through the motions. Share your curated content. Focus on providing value and building a reputation as a knowledgeable and credible information source.
Help to facilitate introductions and referrals when you receive requests for help. If someone asks for an introduction and you know the person they want to meet, check out their profile first to ensure they will not be a source of embarrassment for you. Bear in mind that your reputation is also on the line when you make these introductions, so only introduce your connections to reputable service providers, vendors, suppliers, etc that you are reasonably sure you can trust.
It is important to provide endorsements and recommendations for your connections on a regular basis. According to the law of reciprocity, when you give recommendations and endorsements freely, your network will want to do the same without you even asking. However, hesitate to turn down a request if for any reason you’re not sure of the credibility of the person requesting the endorsement. You don’t have to know someone personally to recommend them. Check their profile to get a sense of who they are and what they are asking for, and you can often base your decision on what you read there.
Rather than simply broadcasting messages to your network, make sure you also engage by regularly contacting people that are seeking help or particular information or even other people. Respond to questions or requests for help. If someone in your network mentions that they are looking for a person to fit a particular role and it is not something that interests you, if you know someone, connect that person with somebody that you know will fit the role.
Another way to add value to contacts in your network is to let them know of any opportunities you become aware of. For example, you may hear of a social media consulting opportunity through one of the recruiters you’ve established a relationship with.
Broadcast the role to your network to see if anyone that fits the bill might be interested. Once you are known as someone who helps to solve problems, this will define your brand on the network. By looking out for your connections, they will look out for you. When you can, connect for coffee or lunch with some of your connections from time to time, just to catch up and see how they’re doing. These techniques will allow connections to see you as a real person, and they’ll think of you when a new opportunity presents itself.
Aim to join four or five groups that are relevant to target clients as well as two or three that are industry-specific. You want to go where your target audience is hanging out. For instance, if you’re an SEO strategist, by restricting yourself to only SEO groups, you’ll be missing out on prospective clients that are not interested in joining groups exclusively about SEO. So join groups in your industry to stay up to date with industry trends, as well as groups that your ideal target client is likely to join in order to get advice or solve problems.
Once you have built up a strong rapport with your connections, start considering taking your relationships off-line whether through Skype, phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
The Relationship tab is a feature that you can use to manage your relationship with your connections. It is a very useful organizational tool that you can use to maintain the history of your contact with a prospect. If you have been tagging your connections and putting them into specific tag groups every time you connect, you can use this tool to easily access your tabs. For example, you can have different tabs for vendors, suppliers, prospects, existing clients, etc.
Once you have tagged your connections into a specific group, you can setup notes or add reminders to remind you of how you met a particular connection. You can also setup reminders for follow-up. All of this information is private, and is never shared with anyone. You can use this tool to stay focused on achieving the goals you’ve set out to achieve for each relationship.