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A practical guide to LinkedIn | Part II: 7 tips for making connections

January 12, 2012

In our first post on LinkedIn for investment industry professionals, we talked about building your LinkedIn profile. With your best professional face toward the world, you’re ready to start making connections. Here are my 7 tips for widening your business network.

But first this reminder:

These tips are based on what I understand to be the typical social media policy. The policy at your firm may be more restrictive, so. . .

Make sure that you read your firm’s social media policy carefully. If you have any questions about it (or even if you don’t), ask your supervisor to clarify exactly what is and is not permitted – then follow the guidelines to the letter. It’s not worth losing your job over a social media post.

  1. Your LinkedIn address book. Making connections is natural if you think of LinkedIn as a replacement for your address book. No need to keep track of email addresses and phone numbers – you can easily get in touch with any of your LinkedIn connections through a direct message. These days, whenever I meet someone new at a meeting or conference, I follow up by asking them to connect through LinkedIn.
  2.  Have rules about who you will connect with. . . and stick to them. My policy is to agree to all requests to connect – even if I have no idea who’s making the request. In other words, I click “connect” first and look at their profile later. My logic: Everything in my profile is completely public, and I’m interested in widening my network to help promote NICSA. . . and I don’t want anyone to feel that they’ve been discriminated against. (I suppose there’s some possibility that I would “unconnect” with someone if they were sending me messages I didn’t want to receive – though that hasn’t happened yet.) You’ll probably want to limit your connections to people that you’ve had some dealings with, but see the next rule.
  3. Be evenhanded – this is business. This rule is especially important when it comes to your current colleagues, and it’s critical for those with supervisory responsibilities. Don’t ask to connect with 7 of your 8 direct reports and leave one person out. Nothing good can come of that.
  4. Use tags. LinkedIn allows you to categorize your contacts by using “tags”. You can see and edit your tags in the left-hand column of the Contacts tab. To assign a tag to a contact, click on a name in your contact list, then click “edit tags” in the right-hand column. Assign tags to each new connection as you make them. Don’t be like me and wait until you have several hundred contacts before putting them into some sort of order.
  5. Review the LinkedIn connection suggestions periodically. These appear in the upper right-hand corner of your LinkedIn home page under “People You May Know.” I’ve reconnected with some long-lost business friends by going through these.
  6. Customize your connection message as needed. Social media experts will tell you that you should always write a personal connection message whenever you look to connect with someone – but in my experience, the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network” works fine in most instances, especially with people you know reasonably well. Save the customized message for those you’d like to approach more formally.
  7. You can’t connect with everyone. LinkedIn only allows you to send invitations to those in your immediate network, meaning that they’re colleagues, classmates or connections of your connections. (This is one reason why it’s important to link yourself to the correct company page when you build your profile; see the prior post.) In fact, you won’t even be able to see the full names of people who are outside that group. To connect with those in your extended network for free, you’ll either need their email addresses or introductions from mutual connections. (Click on “Get introduced through a connection” to see a list.) Or if you’re willing to pay a fee, you can send them “InMail.”

LinkedIn groups can help you get around the restrictions on invitations. We’ll cover groups in Part 3 of this series.

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