Rarely, if ever, am I at a loss for words. Ask anyone who’s ever met me. But when it comes to my ability to describe, to truly emphasize, just how immensely vital it is to establish, nurture and grow a strong business network of interpersonal and mutually beneficial relationships, I feel as if I fall short putting it into words.
Because it’s really, really, really important.
See what I mean?
I could tell you a million stories about how my network has helped my business life. It’s made me money, introduced me to new people, enabled me to help good people land great jobs and, quite literally, saved my fledgling startup business from going under. I could tell you how confident I am that, through my network, I can get a meeting with pretty much anyone. I make it my business to know everyone in the room.
But this is about you, the young entrepreneur in 2018, the fresh-out-of-school business-builder who doesn’t have my 20-plus years of experience. And guess what. You’re in a better position than me. Why?
You have the net. Now do the work.
You Have The Tools; Use Them
You have LinkedIn, which I consider the single greatest networking tool in the history of modern business. But here’s the key: You have to make the effort to use this technology effectively. Imagine if the first caveman never discovered fire because it was too much work rubbing all those sticks together. Where would we be today?
LinkedIn has more than 562 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, yet the average user has only 1,300 contacts. That’s barely a shoebox worth of business cards. You are the caveman; LinkedIn is the flame. Why are you not setting fire to the world?
I currently have a modest 3,400 connections on LinkedIn. And while I’m going to make it a mission to max out the cap (30,000) before my day is done, I’ll also be sure to treat those connections as a community, not simply a network. Why? Because the relationships you build will help you build your business.
You may or may not (depending on your age) remember when the business card was the most important networking tool. Differentiating oneself meant a subtle watermark or a fancy font. For you, on LinkedIn and other social media platforms, it means making an impression beyond the basic capabilities of the site.
Of the aforementioned 500 million users on LinkedIn, only 3 millionshare content weekly, and only one million have ever published an article on LinkedIn. Look at those numbers again, and think of that caveman armed with the tools he needs to create fire but never using them. Are you simply filling in a standard LinkedIn profile page with a nice new photo and waiting for the connections to come flying in like moths to a flame?
You need to engage, entertain, inform and inquire, just like you would if you were meeting someone in person. How?
Ever heard the saying “give without expectation?” Well, it’s true. And it’s a philosophy that is massively effective on LinkedIn. In order to grow your LinkedIn community with quality members, you should be putting out valuable, educational content. Whether it’s an article, an anecdotal post or a captivating video, put yourself, your knowledge and your experiences out there. Engagement from your existing network and new connections will follow.
Write A Note And Connect
The No. 1 way I see people limit themselves on LinkedIn is when they hesitate to hit the “connect” button. The second-biggest way is by neglecting to write a personal note along with the connection request. It takes five minutes to explain why you’d like to connect with that person and how you might provide value, and it’s that personal touch that can be the difference between your request being ignored or accepted. Hit “connect,” but write a personal note first.
Take Your Connections Offline
Whether it’s getting a cup of coffee, meeting at a networking event or (my personal favorite) breaking bread over steaks and bourbon, take your connections offline. Once you’ve built a rapport with a connection, make some time to meet that person in the real world. Looking somebody in the eye helps you know if they are authentic and real, and it deepens the relationship better than a comments-section quip ever could.
This is why I share content on LinkedIn every single day — and whenever possible, I include video so people get a better sense of my personality. Because, in all fairness, words sometimes don’t entirely convey my … shall we say … enthusiasm.
And honestly, I’ve never been a big business card guy. As extensive as my network is today, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who possess a Mike Luzio business card. It’s like finding a Mickey Mantle rookie card — good luck. I was always more of an in-person, make-an-impression-and-they’ll-find-a-way-to-contact-me kind of executive. That’s how I built my network. But for you, social media and the internet have changed the game. So get to work.
This article first appeared in www.forbes.com
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