“I love LinkedIn. It’s my favorite social network by far.” – Scott Ingram in today’s Tip 85
What’s your philosophy or approach when it comes to LinkedIn? Can you better articulate the value of a more reach centric open networking approach than I have? What would you love to see LinkedIn change to improve the experience for all of us?
Join the conversation below and share your thoughts!
You’re listening to the Daily Sales Tips Podcast and I’m your host, Scott Ingram. Today I’m doing something a little bit different and I’m not sure this quite qualifies as a tip, but I hope you’ll still find value in it. I’m going read the article that I just posted to LinkedIn called Reach vs. Relationships, and instead of directing you to the post page on DailySales.Tips I’d like you to head over to the full post on LinkedIn and comment there. You can get there directly at DailySales.Tips/RR or just click the link in your podcast player. Here we go:
The struggle is real. At least mine is…
I love LinkedIn. It’s my favorite social network by far. Twitter was incredibly useful early on, but has diminished in value for me pretty dramatically over time. I also consider myself a “conscientious Facebook objector” having disabled me account a few years ago, but that’s a whole different story/topic. Though it goes to show that I have always been pretty thoughtful about how I use these platforms, where I invest my time and why. LinkedIn has been consistently valuable for me since I joined in April of 2005.
One thing that I find myself struggling with more and more is how best to use the platform. Specifically whether I should continue to adhere to my core philosophy which is all about using it to manage “real” relationships OR if I should be a bit more open as my audience continues to grow around my sales podcasts and books.
This is a very personal struggle and question, but I imagine I’m not the only one who’s conflicted in this way so I thought I’d open up about it and think out loud a bit in hopes that it serves others in their own journeys. Perhaps it will also prompt some constructive dialogue as well.
This post is a little on the long side so I’ve broken it into 4 sections:
- My LinkedIn Philosophy
- The Value of Relationships
- The Value of Reach
- Things I Wish LinkedIn Would Do, So We Can Have the Best of Both Worlds
My LinkedIn Philosophy
First and foremost I’ve always thought of LinkedIn as a platform to help me maintain my professional relationships. I’ve relaxed my threshold a bit over time. Initially I only connected with people that I had a real live relationship with. Meaning, at the very least we’d had a substantive conversation together at some point. I’ve always tried to maintain the idea that if anyone in my network wanted or needed an introduction to anyone else in my network that I would be in a position to do it because the relationships are real.
As my podcast audience began to grow and more and more people reached out to connect with me, I figured I’d still be in a position to make those introductions if someone was deeply familiar with me and my work. So for the last couple of years I have accepted invitation requests from people that I don’t actually know IF they sent a personalized invitation request and mentioned the podcast or my other work. In which case I would accept and always send a personal reply.
I still don’t accept invitation requests from people I don’t know who either send an invite without a note (which is the vast majority), or who send a super generic note. Here are a couple of recent ones that I’ve ignored: “Hi Scott, We have some mutual contacts here on LinkedIn and I’d like to connect with you.” “Hi Scott, I’m looking to expand my professional network and would love to have you as part of my growing network.” Anything with a generic pitch out of the gate gets summarily ignored as well.
Generally speaking, if somebody can’t take the time to actually look at my profile page and spend 10 seconds writing a truly personal note, then I can’t take the time to press the accept button. Perhaps I’m a bit of a snob in that way, but randomly clicking a “connect” button, and the 1/2 second of effort that requires, doesn’t quite match up with the level of effort that I believe real relationships require.
The Value of Relationships
The way I prefer to use LinkedIn helps me stay up to date with what’s going on in my network. Since I’m not active on Facebook, this is my primary feed for getting updates about how people are progressing through their careers. I get to see when they change companies and get promoted. Through their shares I can see what they’re interested in and what they find valuable and interesting. Some even share some really valuable original content that tends to be quite a bit more thoughtful than what I see other places. Perhaps because LinkedIn has always been a bit more “professional.”
If I were to accept every connection request that came my way, I believe the value of this feed would be greatly diminished. The updates and shares would just be random from people that I didn’t know. Sure I might get to know some of these people over time if they consistently shared particularly valuable stuff, but I essentially get that benefit anyway as my network will frequently like and share those that act in that way anyway.
As I was thinking through this piece this morning I actually started to question whether I really had “relationships” with 2,988 connections (the difference between that number and what you see on my profile is about 500 followers, we’ll talk more about that in a bit). That didn’t seem right even when accounting for the loosening of my standards for my podcast and book fans. Then I realized that in the 14 years I’ve been on LinkedIn I’ve worked for 6 different companies, run two of my own (one of which was a business networking organization here in Austin that pretty massively contributed to the size of my own network) and been in sales the whole time which means I’m pretty constantly connecting with new people.
Being able to keep up with all of those people over all these years is really cool. While it’s still a pretty light way of keeping up and a bit more passive than it is active, I still value it and don’t think it would feel the same if that number were 10,000 or 15,000 and composed predominantly of strangers.
Most importantly I value being in a position to serve my network. For those of us in sales referrals and introductions are gold, and I like being able to do that for my friends when I can. The way I use LinkedIn today, 9 times out of 10 I’m able to connect my friends with the individuals that they see that I’m connected with, because I actually know them.
The Value of Reach
There’s value in having more people know about you and your work. In my case I started really focusing on creating quality content a couple of years ago when I launched the Sales Success Stories Podcast where I only interview top performing individual contributors to try to understand exactly what they’ve done to get to the top.
I don’t create that content just for my network, but for the benefit of the entire professional sales community. So it would make sense to connect with as many people as possible, especially those in sales, to reach more people with what I hope is career changing and potentially life changing content.
This would mean not only accepting the more generic connection requests, but also proactively reaching out and connecting with people as well. Though at some point there appear to be limits to this approach with LinkedIn’s 30,000 1st degree connection limit.
Over the years I’ve heard many people talk about the value of having a very large following and have shared examples of how they’ve been able to create opportunities through this type of an approach. Heck, some have even suggested to me that I’m missing out due to my approach.
At the end of the day it’s a very personal decision. There’s nothing right or wrong about either approach, but through the process of writing this I think I’ve gotten some additional clarity. You can probably tell that I’m a bit biased, because I struggle to articulate some of the additional value of the reach based approach probably because it’s not my style. Perhaps someone will take the time to write the counter to this post and share some more ideas on why that approach can be so valuable. In the old days of LinkedIn we used to call those folks LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers), though I haven’t heard that term in years.
I do believe that there are some things that LinkedIn could easily change that would potentially give us the best of both worlds:
Suggestions for LinkedIn (My Wish List)
Perhaps LinkedIn and the product team will consider some of these ideas:
- Make the default option “follow” everywhere there’s a “connect” button today. Connecting should be a more intentional act, and it’s OK if it takes an extra click. Or perhaps the connect option should only available on someone’s profile page.
- Either require, or always make it easy for someone to include a personal message with their connection request. Encourage users to always personalize. Perhaps by blocking the ability to paste content into that field.
- Rather than just offering the “Accept” and “Ignore” options for new connection requests, change “Ignore” to “Make Follower” (or a better term that means the same thing, but sounds better than “make follower”)
- Allow for tags to be applied to contacts (whether connected or following) and allow for feeds to be created based on those tags. For example I’d love to see updates just from my clients, just from my prospects, just from my close friends, etc. and easily be able to toggle back and forth between these different groups that I’ve identified.
- Overhaul Sales Navigator. It should be a layer of additional functionality that becomes available to enhance the everyday LinkedIn that we all use, and not a completely separate and disconnected area with a separate inbox.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What’s your philosophy or approach when it comes to LinkedIn? Can you better articulate the value of a more reach centric open networking approach than I have? What would you love to see LinkedIn change to improve the experience for all of us?
Again to share your comments, please do so on LinkedIn and you can get to this article at DailySales.Tips/RR
Thanks for listening, Thanks for your thoughts and be sure you’re subscribed and come back tomorrow for another great sales tip.