LinkedIn is a great tool for professional networking. In fact, it’s probably the only professional networking tool you need. As of June, 2013, LinkedIn reported 225 million users in over 200 countries with 178 million unique visitors a month. That’s a lot of professionals to connect with!
Building your network on LinkedIn takes some time and effort. But when done correctly, your LinkedIn network can provide tremendous value.
The first step to building a network is creating a great LinkedIn profile. To a certain extent your profile is what people are “connecting to,” so before you begin to build your network make sure your profile is complete and compelling (see How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile). Then you can start building your network by inviting other members to connect. This invitation is probably your first communication with them through LinkedIn so unless you know them well, it is important to take the time to personalize the invitation.
Here are some key things to remember when sending an invitation to connect with someone on LinkedIn:
1. Be sure to mention how and when you met and under what circumstance. The person may not remember how they know you. Was it a conference? through a mutual friend? on an airplane? Did you used to work or go to school together? This will help remind the recipient of exactly who you are.
2. Explain who you are. Mention your title or job responsibilities so the person understands more about who they are connecting with.
3. Tell the person why you want to connect. Do you have similar interests? Perhaps the individual is just someone that you enjoyed speaking with. Or maybe you view them as someone that might be able to help you at some point in the future such as an accountant, lawyer, or recruiter.
4. Don’t ask for anything in your invitation. If you want something from this individual, give it some time. Build some rapport. Its really no different than real life. Take some time to develop the relationship before you ask for anything.
5. The invitation to connect will show up in their email inbox so treat it like an email. Would you send an email to this person that simply says “I’d like to connect on LinkedIn”? In some cases, where you know the person very well, the answer might be “yes”, but in most cases it’s “no.” So write your invite like its an email, because it is.
6. Don’t over-do it. Keep it simple. Think of yourself on the receiving end of the invite. Invitations to connect have a 300 character limit, which is good because your invites should be succinct and to the point.
So let’s put all of this into play and write some sample invitations to connect on LinkedIn.
It was nice speaking with you at the Dreamforce conference last week. I’m already missing the great San Francisco weather. As a Marketing Director, I always enjoy hearing different marketing approaches. I’d like to connect so that we can continue our exchange of information. Best of luck with Salesforce.com.
I enjoyed working with you for the past several years at Bank of America. As you may have heard, I’ve moved on to a new position at JP Morgan Chase. I’d like to stay in touch with my former colleagues though and I don’t want to rely on just running into you at an industry conference! Look forward to hearing from you.
Have a great day!
I can’t believe it’s been a year since the class reunion! Time certainly flies. I’m reaching out to you hoping to stay connected to my classmates between celebrations. If you find yourself in Denver please let me know. It would be great to catch up.
You get the point. Simple and direct, not too long, or short. Be thoughtful about who you send your invitations to but also remember that you are building a network and not everyone will respond with a yes. Be sure and send out enough invitations to build a useful network. Don’t limit yourself to only coworkers or friends, or classmates, or just people you know really well. And take a few risks in reaching out to people you may not know well but would like to know better. And if you have tips on how to network more effectively using LinkedIn, we’d love to hear them!