When I first signed up for LinkedIn I was semi-belligerent. I had no LinkedIn Etiquette whatsoever. Any fleeting interaction seemed like a reasonable excuse to connect with someone. At first the perceived notion of having an escalating professional network felt good. 500+ connections here I come! But when it came time to put these connections to work, I realized how how ineffective this behavior actually was.
I mainly use LinkedIn to see who is inter-connected in and out of my network. This information provides transparency and context which can be leveraged in a variety of ways. Requesting intros and recommendations along with preparing for important conversations are my most typical use cases. This is exactly where my initial strategy fell short. It felt awkward asking some guy I barely knew for an intro to someone. This coupled with the realization that initiating knodes of connectivity across social services can hold psychological capital forced me to rethink my behavior.
For starters, I’ll only ask to connect with someone if I feel comfortable asking this person for an introduction to someone in their network. This varies, but usually requires multiple offline interactions and a certain level of rapport to get this point.
The gamesmanship does not end here. Few realize that the biggest networking fail is consistency. You meet someone awesome, you have the warm and fuzzies, and then you forget about them after not hearing from them for 4 months. Initiating knodes of connectivity across internet services is an effective way to prevent this. It enables you to stay top of mind while triggering an ego hit. Therefore to maximize value, these actions should be used strategically. They should be conserved and spread out over time in certain instances.
Within this vein, I try to think about the timing of a LinkedIn recommendation in 2 ways after the rapport pre-requisite is met. The key differentiator here is the level of rapport I’ve reached. If I’m at the point where I’d feel comfortable calling on this person for the foreseeable future regardless of how often we interact I’ll give them the old linkedin pat on the back sooner than later. I like making friends feel good and I’m making myself more accessible to inbound opportunities from their network. In scenarios where I haven’t reached this point and am not seeing someone as regularly, but feel like they’d go to bat for me, I’ll be a bit more savvy about the timing. I want maintain this bond by staying top of mind and letting them know I’m thinking of them. So if too much time has passed, I’ll send a linkedin request their way with the hope that this keeps the relationship warm.
This practice is more a shift in recognizing the capital in initiating online connections more than anything else. I’m not advocating anyone should sit in front of a spreadsheet all day plotting LinkedIn connections. I certainly don’t. Rather, I just think these actions have utility that can be maximized when exercised thoughtfully. Always be putting capital to work.