I have writen here before to encourage communicators to use LinkedIn for business-related social networking. I just ran across some great advice for building your network. These tips are from Chuck Hester as summarized by Christine Kent in “How and why to grow your LinkedIn network” for ragan.com.
1. Search LinkedIn for the top people in your industry area or region; that is, the people with the most connections. Find the connections that you have in common, even if they’re via “2nd level” or “3rd level” connections, and ask these connections to introduce you to the big players.
2. Always be on the lookout for new connections. Whenever you meet or talk to a new business or media contact, search for the name on LinkedIn and send out an invitation right away.
3. Don’t send out the generic invitation template provided by LinkedIn. Customize the invitation with some information about yourself and explain what you can do for the invitee.
4. Follow up the accepted invitation with a personal e-mail that offers more information about what you do, and how you can help out the other person. This is how you build strong LinkedIn relationships—not by simply making the connection and then fading away.
5. Don’t start asking favors right after you’ve made a connection. “I’ve had people ask me for a recommendation right after we connected,” Hester says. (LinkedIn members can post recommendations about their connections’ services.) “I don’t know them well enough to do that. It’s like going to a cocktail party—you don’t walk right up to someone and say, ‘Hey, buy my products.’ The old-fashioned rules of business still apply.”
6. Boost your LinkedIn cred by answering questions that members of your network post to the community. The numbers of questions you’ve asked and answered appears on your profile, and other LinkedIn users can rate the quality of your responses. (Tip: Journalists often post questions for story sources.)