6 Ways to Make Real Connections on LinkedIn

I often tell a story from the stage about a time when I was speaking to a large group of job searchers about networking. A man in his early sixties approached me right before my talk and told me that he's a big time networker. I replied, "Great to hear. Tell me a story!" He said that, just the day before, he had spent over 11 hours on LinkedIn.

Yep. 11 hours.

I learned he had been in a job search (or "career transition" as they say in the trade) for a year and three months. So, for 15 months, this poor guy had been looking for work. I did my talk for 90 minutes and afterward, he shared some kind words about my talk. He said he had wished he met me 15 months ago. I said, "You should have looked me up on LinkedIn!"

I couldn't resist.

I've spent a lot of time sharing LinkedIn related stories during my talks and making mention that LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms are NOT business networking.

But they are!

That is, if you personalize your communication, create engagement, offer value, position yourself as a resource, be clear about how you can help and create visibility on a daily basis. If you do, others will get to know you, speak with you and hire you. And now you're networking, baby!

Personalize Your Communication
When looking to invite someone to be a part of your LinkedIn network, write a personal note rather than the prepared note that is offered.

Hello ___!

It seems that we both serve the same marketplace and that you also know ___. Do you know him well?

Would be great to connect with you here, and perhaps by phone, to explore ways we might help one another.

Warm regards,

Or something like that! Certainly, for time's sake, if you want to have a template of a note set up for copying/pasting purposes, great! Don't worry, nobody will know! The same personalized approach also holds true for responses to those that "like" you and have invited you to connect with them. Yes, all of this personal communication stuff can get tedious, and I could be much better at it myself, but a personal approach is more likely to lead to a personal connection. Isn't that what we're ultimately talking about?

Offer Value
There are certain people I follow on LinkedIn and those, well, I don't. I'm interested in thought leaders in the LinkedIn space so I try to keep track of what they're up to. Same thing with leaders in the insurance and financial services industry (my marketplace), as well as other speakers, trainers and people I hold in high regard. When they post their thoughts, I'm interested in reading them. When they post articles, blogs, links and quotes, I tend to pay attention. Of course, there are those that just post things just to post things. If I don't value them for what they do, I certainly don't value their posts. Would you?

Create Engagement
I have to admit that Facebook drives me crazy. There are people on there that take pictures of themselves every two minutes and post what they're doing every waking hour. Hey, maybe I just don't get it. One of my "friends" (he really is a friend!) would post every day that he was going to the gym, drinking a protein shake, having an avocado, working on his biceps and then report when he was leaving the gym and all that happened throughout his workout. In fact, we were briefed about every power meal, concert he attended and his preparation for the gym the next day. He would do this every day. Every day. After a while, the comments he would get were more entertaining than his posts. He eventually stopped.

Outside of satisfying our own ego, at least on Facebook, social media (certainly with business in mind on LinkedIn) is about getting others engaged by responding to your posts, commenting on your articles, sending you resources and hopefully exchanging business opportunities with you.

Position Yourself as a Resource
When agency managers, branch managers, financial advisors, brokers, wholesalers, agents, reps and other sales producers contact me, it's because they want some insight about networking and generating more referral business. Hopefully, they think I may have a knock-out idea or two (couldn't resist!) that can help their sales team. If you visit any of my landing pages (website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), that message is there -- somewhere. How are you positioning yourself so YOU are viewed as the best possible resource for information about life insurance, mutual funds, long term care, financial planning or whatever it is you do or sell?

Be Clear about How You Help
It should be evident on all websites and social media platforms that you help a distinct marketplace solve a specific problem. Write about success stories and the outcomes of your clients that work with you. (Whatever your compliance department will allow.) Your profile on LinkedIn is an excellent place to do this. Also, the testimonials section can be used for clients, customers, referral sources and other colleagues to talk about how you helped them make or save money, time or how you may have offered peace of mind. If you can't be clear about who you help and how, nobody else will be either.

Create Visibility Every Day!
Make it a daily routine to jump on LinkedIn and spend a minimum of 15 minutes contacting those that visited your profile, liked you and contacted you. Also, post something of value that reflects your views and way of thinking. Every now and then, you may want to promote something -- but not too often! Search for specific companies you want as clients and research "Connections" that might introduce you. Contact your referral sources to compare notes. Track your progress. Spend a minimum of 15 minutes a day (probably no more than an hour) on your LinkedIn strategy. Write your routine down so you have a process to follow -- every day. If your 15 minutes becomes 11 hours, it might be time to get a job.

Although I'm still learning a lot of the social media tricks of the trade myself, I realize that, like any form of marketing, LinkedIn is a process, not an event. It's got to be used for the long haul. Just like the hundreds of phone calls I used to make off of lead lists. It's a process.

Keep in mind, all the ideas above can be applied to those you meet and "like" at actual networking meetings, holiday parties and business functions. Yes, real life people! Not just those that appear on your hand held device.

Whether online or off, it just comes down to having a system to connect with and relate to people.

And it always will.