We all have networks of contacts. Thankfully, we don’t usually refer to them as “our network” – we talk about business colleagues, friends, clients, family, people we met at networking events, prospects etc. Nevertheless, they are all part of our personal and/or business network.
Therefore, for me, an important first step in developing our online network on LinkedIn is to link up with these people, the ideal people that you want to connect with – the people who are in your network already! While it does many things, one key element is that it immediately makes their network more visible to us – not to then dive in and ‘pillage’ but to identify where personal introductions might be possible through people we know well. There’s no stronger approach to a company than through a personal introduction and this opens up that opportunity.
So how to bring our networks online
In most cases, we keep in touch with them by phone or, more often than not, by email. And there’s lies an opportunity and one that LinkedIn offers us some tools to help us tap into. It gives us the option of importing our contacts from our preferred email systems, it then automatically checks who is already on LinkedIn before then allowing us to send a generic message to them all inviting them to connect with us on the site.
Nothing could be simpler. The trouble is that nothing could be less personal either.
If you really want to use that key information that sits in Outlook – or rather in the people you communicate with via Outlook – then may I suggest a different course of action. Have a look at the Outlook Social Connector, a toolbar that LinkedIn provides us with – you’ll find a link to it via the “Tools” link at the bottom of every page.
Although it does lots of other things, the one element that I find most useful is that when an email arrives, it creates a small icon next to the sender’s address. If you hover over this, it tells you if the sender is on LinkedIn and gives you their key details and, importantly, lets you send them a personalised message inviting them to connect with you.
Now that’s much more the way to connect with people that you are already know and talk to, isn’t it?
So, in summary, using the Outlook Social Connector, you can invite people individually using a personalised message, exactly how it should be with anyone, but certainly with people you already know!