A strong network can take you places. Spending some time grooming it, curating it will guarantee that once you’re ready to engage, your message is received and answered. It will help build up your Credibility as your chances of getting the right endorsements and recommendations go up. It will also self-expand as your 2nd and 3rd degree universe becomes bigger.
A well looked after network is the best framework you can have for Social Selling.
There’s a lot to be said about your network, on how to build it and maintain it and of course use it. There’s some fallacies around networks too but all of that comes in later. I prefer to take a practical first approach to them: how should you start building up yours?
Building a strong network takes time but you need to start somewhere, so here are 5 different approaches I tried myself that might help you start building your network.
The L.I.O.N. approach.
Who can benefit from it? Anyone who’s after volume. Most likely, community managers and social media experts.
LinkedIn Open Networkers basically accept invitations from everyone and anyone. All you need to do is invite them with no other reason or explanation than “Growlll, fellow LION!”. Try visiting sites such as inviteswelcome.com that allow you to subscribe to a list that’s updated periodically. Your name will appear there and other L.I.O.N.s will invite you. In the same fashion, you can download the list and invite them yourself.
Pros: rapid growth of your network. Skills endorsement and increased visibility. Higher conversion rate from invitation to connection.
Cons: Lower quality connections – you accept invitamos from anyone/everyone -. Your credibility falters. Open Networkers are perceived as potential spammers or scammers. You also expose yourself to receive spam.
The Piggy-ride approach.
Who can benefit from it? Business Executives, well seasoned professionals.
You’ll basically piggy-ride your 1st degree connections. Look at who you are connected to, and if their setup is right, look at who they are connected to. That’s your 2nd degree connection universe, meaning people that’s connected to someone who you are connected with. Leverage your 1st degrees, as in “Hey, I know Jack X, and he speaks the world of you. He thought I should reach out to you…” or even better: ask for an introduction from that 1 person in common.
Pros: Higher quality connections. Strong network, more responsive. Your credibility builds up as you’ll most likely be connected to the right people for your business and theirs. Higher potential for recommendations.
Cons: Slower growth. Requires more time to find contacts within your network and craft the proper message. Conversion from invitation to connection is lower but solid.
The Hunter-Seeker approach.
Who can benefit from it? Hunters-seekers, or typically, Account Managers. Sales People.
This is probably the slowest approach yet also one of the most effective ones. You’ll prospect them before inviting them to connect. Depending on what you want to contact people for, all you have to do is find them. You go out and find a Company you’d like to sell something to, then find the Company page on Linkedin and sort through it’s employees until you find the person that know is most likely to buy your product, solution or service.
All you need to do after that is connect similar people and there you go.
Pros: You’ll most likely only get who you want to get, no fake or un-responsive connections. Strong network, based on business, possibly very active.
Cons: Slowest approach of all. Prospecting takes time. It won’t escalate.
The Job Seeker approach.
Who can benefit from it? Job seekers and people who’s just starting to build their network up.
Another great way to grow your network, yet possibly not the best for anything other than finding a job, is seeking out Recruiters. There’s one thing they need that facilitates their job a lot: a network of candidates. Connecting with them gives you straight access (no inMail credits required) to the people that might put you up for your next interview. Most of them will accept a well written invitation to connect.
Pros: Quick access to a certain volume of contacts. Good conversion from invitation to connection. Great way to build your network up.
Cons: Limited network. Having only recruiters will be great to find new job opportunities but won’t grant you endorsements or recommendations, which you need to strengthen your profile.
The Peer approach.
Who can benefit from it? Those building their networks from scratch.
One way to go if you’re not interested in any of the above, is simply adding your peers. That means anyone that works with you in the same or a similar role, and then branch out from through their networks. If you don’t want to reach out to your 2nd degrees or 3rd degrees this way, then just add your peers and let LinkedIn recommend you who to add next. Peers tend to accept peers.
Pros: Safe way to grow your network from those who know you to whom might know you. Credibility not at stake. Great to work on endorsements and recommendations
Cons: Insufficient or limited exposure. Too many peers and no potential champions equals a weak network.
The rule of thumb here would be: pick one and try it out depending on which one resonates the most with you and your personal brand. If you’re looking for a new job, don’t try the Hunter-Seeker approach for instance. If you’re trying to sell out your product, don’t go nuts in Social Media as a L.I.O.N. might do. Pick one, try and start building.