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The Secrets to Connecting on LinkedIn

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I’m fairly new to the whole LinkedIn thing. I’m on it, but I haven’t really been using it to my advantage. I get updates from my Alma Mater’s LinkedIn page each week, but I usually throw that email right in the trash. Is LinkedIn just another social network I have to pay attention to? I decided to take a closer look.

Recently I have been logging in more to my LinkedIn page. Some of the most interesting articles I write about for this blog I have found through LinkedIn. And this article, about connecting on LinkedIn, I found…wait for it…on Linkedin.com! Here are some tips from that article to consider before connecting on LinkedIn…

Connect Wisely

Like any new thing I try, I like to follow the rules—or at least try to figure out what they are. Seems the rules for connecting on LinkedIn are a lot like the rules for connecting on Facebook—only connect with people you actually know. Many people who use LinkedIn to broaden their professional network are connecting to people they have never talked to. Why?

“One major pet peeve of mine when it comes to LinkedIn requests is when people who don’t know you say you’re a ‘friend,’ or that you have done business with them at their current company,” says social media strategist Scott Swanay. “First of all, that’s not true, and second of all, it’s just lazy on their part—those are generally requests that I’ll ignore.” —Inc.com

I agree with this. I don’t need virtual friends that I’m not friends with in real life. Social networking isn’t a popularity contest where you try to get as many friends or followers as you possibly can. If you are using social media for your business, it should be about quality, not quantity. What is the point of having 1,000 connections on LinkedIn if no one is engaging with you? A waste of time.

I used to work with this guy who thought the more connections he had on LinkedIn the more successful he was. Turns out, most of those connections were empty. He would walk by my office and boast about how many new connections he made over night, as he sent invite after invite out into the great big world. I was not impressed. Seems no one else was, either, as he eventually lost his job.

Be Professional…and Interesting

LinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals. If you want to connect to the right people, make sure your profile is 100% complete and you have a nice photo featured. Don’t post a photo of your cat or your baby—feature YOU!

According to veritable LinkedIn black-belt Mark Amtower it’s important that your profile is not only professional, but interesting. “This is your first impression; it’s where people will decide to connect, read more, or simply move on.” Amtower says. “Bare-bones profiles indicate people who do only the minimum required.” Amtower goes on to suggest that your profile should emphasize an area of expertise. “You need to strive to be a subject matter expert in your chosen niche if you are going to truly stand out.” —Inc.com

Make sure, when you address others that have the same area of expertise and experience as you, that you aren’t constantly marketing yourself. Add value by contributing to groups and acknowledging what others have to say. Just like on Facebook and Twitter, too much self-promotion is a real turn-off.

A great way to add value is by paying attention to the Questions and Answers section. Use your expertise to help someone else out. Establishing yourself as an expert with insightful comments, questions, and answers will make you stand out from the crowd and, in turn, meet more interesting people.

Want to connect with someone who is a member of the same group as you? Send them a personal invitation instead of using the standard invitation form letter.

Give them a compelling reason to connect and let them know that you will value the relationship. Investing the time to craft and personalize your initial communication will demonstrate this. “If there is no information exchanged indicating why we would be able to build a mutually beneficial relationship it indicates this person is only interested in the value of my connections for their personal agenda,” says Tony Faustino, author of Social Media ReInvention. —Inc.com

Go the Extra Mile

If someone accepts your invitation, say thank you! I’ve written before on how beneficial a simple thank you can be. Same goes for online connections. Does your new connection have a connection to someone you’d like to know? Send a note asking your current connection to make an introduction—and do the same for others.

Just like other social networking sites, you get out of LinkedIn what you put into it. If you are looking to really build a network of other professionals with the same expertise and background as yourself, you have to put the time and effort into doing it right and not cutting corners. Know that it will take time, but that, in the end, if you foster these relationships they can be very rewarding.

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