Networking. Love it or hate it, you've got to do it. The days of social media as a fad have long passed.
If you don’t have time to network, you don’t have time to market. And you’re out of business. Period. People can't do business with invisible providers.
This isn't to say you can't network in person. You can, and you should. Just as the best advertising campaigns include both online and print components, your personal networking strategy must include elements of online and offline activities.
Why do so many continue to ignore networking? Perhaps networking means work. Take this morning, for example. I spent about an hour going through my Who's Viewed Your Profile section, as I do every day. It took longer today because I've been out sick. Could I have spent my usual 5 minutes? Sure. But I understand the many deep benefits of this activity, and I want to reap those satisfying rewards.
Not long ago, networking was a much weightier affair, taking place completely offline. At minimum, one had to schedule the time, get dressed up, leave the office, drive to a location, spend awkward hours among strangers, drive home, and then "follow up" via snail mail to those who had proffered their business cards.
Today, you can accomplish all of this and more: better and easier than ever, across a wider geographic area if you like, and in your favorite slippers, if you so choose.
So why is it that people still have "no time" for networking?
Like most things in life, networking online is much easier when you have a schedule of tasks before you and you stay on top of those tasks. The key to successful online networking is maintenance.
Here are a few daily and weekly tasks to get you started:
Daily LinkedIn Networking Tasks
1. Invite 5 valuable professionals to join your network. Not people just like you! Stretch a little. Look for people from whom you might gain new business or who can provide introductions to those who have a need for your services. 5 connects x 5 days = 25 x 4 wks = 100 x 50 wks = 5000 new connects per year. Painless.
Note: LinkedIn caps each member's lifetime invitations at 3000, so you'll need to work those Introductions and use other tools to reach this goal. Consider groups, since you can invite group members to join you and it doesn't count towards your 3,000.
2. Respond to and accept most invitations sent to you. Remember that 3,000 lifetime cap! Better to get invited than to invite. Get personal. Write a few (brief!) sentences about who you are, what you do or how your offer can solve a problem for that individual.
3. Check out Who’s Viewed Your Profile and connect with at least 2 new people. To see the full picture of who’s looking at you, you’ll need a Premium account. $23 and change per month, that’s less than $1 a day to get free leads daily. Tell me again why you aren’t already doing this?
4. Post one status update on the Home page, preferably in the morning, between 8 and 10 a.m. This requires some thinking and planning ahead to cut down on the time needed to post. Use Google Alerts or a similar tool to get content in your area of expertise delivered to your inbox.
5. Support others. Read through status updates on your Home page and like or comment on relevant ones. Social is as much about supporting others as it is promoting yourself.
This list of daily activities – a mere 15 minutes’ worth of tasks even if you don't work quickly – assumes you have already crafted a profile and optimized the you-know-what out of it, especially the headline and Summary. If you haven’t yet optimized your profile, do this first. If you can’t, or don’t know how to promote yourself properly, get help from someone who can. (And please...write your summary in 1st person. No one wants to interact with your cardboard cutout!)
Assuming your profile is well done, and you’re on track with the daily activities, what's next?
Weekly & Biweekly LinkedIn Activities
1. Publish via the Publishing Platform – if you can manage this once a week, even better. Novels not required. Just get out there on some interesting topics.
2. Post in your groups. While you can join up to 50, this is too many to manage well. Choose just 5 or so and post in these regularly. Once a week is great; more often is better. Feel free to change up your group selection periodically. And be sure to support the efforts of your fellow group members too. Did you know you can connect to group members for no reason other than sharing membership in the group? It’s the ultimate in effortless network expansion.
3. Peruse Your Connections (Connections tab > Keep in Touch). Congratulate those who received promotions, are having birthdays or celebrating a work anniversary. Not everyone! Just a handful of people to whom you are connected or want to be. It’s simply good business to keep your name out there, without asking for anything in return.
4. Run an Advanced Search using job titles as keywords. Reach out to key players. A conversation can begin with something as simple as "Hi - I see we have some similarities in our work, and I'd be honored to connect with you." You can then save those searches (up to 5), and LinkedIn will alert you whenever someone new enters the circle, so you can reach out and start the cycle over again. Child’s play!
We're now up to about 2 hours out of your whole week. Surely, you can find this time.
Granted, these activities only begin to tap a complete list of things you should be doing on LinkedIn to gain visibility. But here’s the point many miss, to their detriment: Once you get going, it’s like a giant snowball rolling downhill. Before you know it, you’re making less and less effort to get more and more connected to people who can get you where you want to go.
And every bit of that is free exposure…except for the $25 or so you might spend for that Premium access. So get to work!