What does it mean to be well-networked? Is it about quantity or quality? Is there a difference in networking on-line and networking off-line? Should there be?
There seem to be 3 ways to develop your LinkedIn Network (your connections). There are LION’s, who are all about connecting to as many people as possible – so it’s about quantity. There are the Purists, who only connect with people with whom they have already established a relationship, so it’s about quality. Last but not least, there are those of us that walk the line. We keep our LinkedIn network mostly “pure” bot fold in some prospecting as well. So for me I have about a 90/10 mix. 90% of my LinkedIn connections are people I have built a relationship with or am in the process of establishing a relationship with. The other 10% are people with whom I have schedule a phone call or meeting with at some point over the next 6 – 8 weeks, but have not yet met, and have not determined whether we can be of value to each other. If I leave a meeting and we have decided that we cannot help each other (which has happened a handful of times at the most), then I disconnect from them on LinkedIn.
There are many discussions, even among LinkedIn enthusiasts such as myself, about what the right way to build your LinkedIn 1 Degree Connections might be. Well, our company focuses on relationship development, so we believe in quality over quantity, but also realize the capabilities in purposeful networking leveraging LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows us to stay top of mind with our networks with LinkedIn inbox, provide thought leadership with the publishing platform, and by leveraging Company and Showcase Pages (the 90%), and individual Home Pages. The Home Page, Publishing Platform, Company Page, and Showcase Page also allow a reach further than our 1 degree connections. At the same time, LinkedIn allows us to build purposeful networks by leveraging our networks (1 degree connections) to reach our warm markets (2 degree connections) with LinkedIn advanced searches (the 10%). These searches allow us to choose exactly who we want to network with based on criteria that our company has determined. We can also begin developing relationships with LinkedIn Groups by listening, posting valuable information, engaging in conversation, and targeting specific members of the group based on company size, geographic location, title, vertical, etc. The focus is on building relationships and networking with purpose. We believe if you build your network with your exact target market, stay top of mind, and prove to be a subject matter expert in your field of expertise, then your sales funnel becomes a sales cylinder, conversion ratios will be much higher, and your cylinder will remain full.
LinkedIn Connections as Currency: Example #1
In my networking travels the past two weeks, I stumbled across a couple of situations that led me to believe that our LinkedIn Connections are becoming Networking Currency. In one example, the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company relayed that they were leveraging LinkedIn to hire. So I asked him how it was going. He was disappointed by the number of applicants that seemed to be a good fit for his organization according to their LinkedIn profiles. He explained that his company was not only looking at experience, background, etc., but also looking at their LinkedIn connections to see if the applicants would be able to hit the ground running by leveraging their LinkedIn networks. Turns out most of them did not have actual connections with their 1 degree LinkedIn connections, but just a virtual connection on social media (LinkedIn and Twitter). I suggested that they fold that question into the interview process going forward. Then I turned the tables on my friend, the CEO, and asked how pure his LinkedIn 1 Degree Connections would be if we looked at them at that very moment. After stumbling for a few seconds, he said he could probably clean them up a little!
LinkedIn Connections as Currency: Example #2
Another instance that LinkedIn Connections might be becoming Networking Currency was when I was speaking to the President of a National Business Networking Group. We were discussing how they choose their members as well as the lengthy process of actually becoming a member. One of the points he mentioned was that they look at the LinkedIn networks of each candidate in an effort to determine the “status” of networker that they were. There were specific things that they look for in a candidate’s network to determine if they would be a good fit for the group.
LinkedIn Connections as Currency: Example #3
And the last example I will give is with my own Leveraging LinkedIn Networking Group that we hold in Center City (soon to be NY and DC also!), which is a closed networking group, made up of high level networkers that understand the importance of building relationships, making referrals and introductions, being connectors, and paying it forward. We were just going through the following process today when it dawned on me that we are using our members’ 1 degree LinkedIn connections as currency as well. My partner, Kurt Foedisch and I go through each member’s LinkedIn connections each month, and sort them by company size, title, geographic location, and vertical, in order to pair them with the right partner at the monthly event. So each member is paired with another member with an equal network based on their LinkedIn connections. This helps the networkers with a small to medium company size target to meet with others with small to medium company size targets, the networkers focused on Pharma or Banking or Professional Training to meet with networkers with the same focus, and so on and so forth.
What does it mean to be well-networked?
It means that you’ve located the right people that you want to network with, whether it is your next prospect, career opportunity, speaking engagement, etc., and you’ve made an effort to build a meaningful relationship with them. You can leverage various platforms, including LinkedIn, to locate your exact target market, stay top of mind, and become an influencer and thought leader. It’s about what you give, not what you get. If you give selflessly, then everything will come back to you organically. Make an impression with the people that you network with and become a connector. Why be well-networked if you can’t make a positive impact on the networkers that you have accepted into your network and have accepted you into theirs?
Is it about quantity or quality?
I had a client that I was coaching because she was in transition and wanted to learn more about how to leverage LinkedIn to find her next opportunity. She had about 1500 1 degree connections in the exact vertical she was looking to transition into. She said she had been working hard on building her network to afford her some new opportunities. I thought to myself – this is great. This should be easy! Well, it turns out she only had a virtual/LinkedIn connection with 70% of the 1500, and decent connections with the other 450 1 degree connections. She only had about 5 people that she could truly leverage and network with to assist in her endeavor. So we took those 5 people, and were able to leverage those 5 networks to get her in front of almost 40 decision makers in her target vertical, after weeding through the 65 that we narrowed down through advanced searches. Her 5 relationships were able to get her 40 interviews over a period of 3 months. During those 3 months, we focused on building her existing relationships, reaching out to her 1 degree connections that she didn’t know but wanted to, and requesting meetings/phone conversations with, and brought her LinkedIn connections down from 1500 to about 650. She may build it back up, if she chooses, but it will be over time as she develops relationships and reasons to be connected. My vote is on quality. Your message may be getting out to 1500 people, but if they are 1050 wrong connections and 450 right ones, then focus your energy on the 450 right ones.
Is there a difference in networking on-line and networking off-line? Should there be?
Overall, I would say that there is a disconnect in the way people network off-line and on-line. For some reason, standards for networking on LinkedIn seem to be different that networking in-person. I was speaking to the Owner of a Sales Training Company recently and asked him about his LinkedIn network. He said he went from 40 connections to over 700 in just 6 months. Now, this Business Owner has built his business on referrals and introductions. He has an incredible network and knows how to help his fellow networkers. He is a true connector and believes in the value of building meaningful business relationships. So I thought that it was totally possible that he build his LinkedIn network up to over 700 in less than 6 months. When I asked him how many 1 degree connections he actually knew, he could not give an accurate response. I asked him why he would treat his LinkedIn network any different than his live & in-person network. To which he replied… good question.
- Be the first to give to your new business relationships
- Always pay it forward
- Network with purpose.
Good luck and good networking! Remember… It’s All About Leverage.