Make it personal when it comes to LinkedIn, Twitter and even email

Frank Hutton

I receive a lot of invitations via LinkedIn to connect up with people. It’s mostly people I’ve never met. Some pundits will advise you to ignore them, but I’ve seen some good things come out of taking a quick look at a person and responding to them to enquire whether there is something with which I can help them.

I received one such approach earlier this week, and I responded in the normal way. I thanked him (the advertising manager of a group of newspapers) for his connection request, and said I was always pleased to make new acquaintances (which I am). And I asked him if there was anything I could help with or whether he just wanted to expand his network (both of which are acceptable to me - I’d already accepted his request).

Puzzlingly, he did not reply. At all (well not yet anyway, 10 days and counting).

Perhaps he was too busy - not a great contact for the future therefore. Perhaps he was embarrassed that I was trying to have more of a relationship with him than he wanted. Perhaps he just wanted to hit  a certain number of contacts to prove something to someone else. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am extremely unlikely to put myself out in any way for this person in the future. I am unlikely to invite him to join my inner circle of contacts who enjoy special access to me or the information and knowledge I have. I am not feeling very special to him so it’s difficult for me to feel he’s special to me.

I work with people to help expand their networks for their personal career and business advancement. Getting this kind of thing right is central to much of what we do and can make the difference to finding that people chase you or you’re chasing them. So here are some thoughts which will help keep you on the right track:

Email

People get hundreds of emails every day. It’s easy to get lost in the midst of it. Many of us have put time aside to deal with them, often early in the morning. So recognise the fact that not everyone will give every email their full attention. Make it easy for people to know why you’re emailing and if you have a connection to them, remind them of exactly what it is. I have a memory like a sieve. I suspect I am not the only one. Keep it short but also personable. Try limiting your message to 4 sentences maximum. It might save you time as well.

LinkedIn connection invitations

Never expect much from sending a simple standard wording LinkedIn connection request. It’s the swiftest way to give your possible connection the impression that you don’t care. Mobile devices offer few options in LinkedIn so don’t use one when trying to build your network - they’re great the rest of the time for responding rapidly in LinkedIn and making the most of a quick 10 mins while drinking a coffee somewhere. But avoid it for connection making. Always give a reason why you’d like to connect even if it’s just to gain more connections: “ Hi I’m looking to expand my network further and perhaps my contacts could provide a useful increase in reach for you. Care to connect?”

Twitter

Following people on Twitter is one of the easiest ways of letting someone know you’re interested. It’s swift and impersonal. So if you’d like to take it to the next level with someone who follows you, then follow back and direct message a ‘thank you’ for following. If you don’t want to follow someone, then look at their tweets and Retweet or Favourite something, it’s a great way of introducing yourself - add a word or two to a retweet where possible if you want maximum effect.

Discussion groups

If someone is polite and interested enough to comment on something you post, respond, thank them and add further value. It keeps the conversation going so you can gain an opportunity to connect in other areas (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook)

Phone

Do respond as swiftly as you can to phone messages, especially if hey are to do with a networking situation or job hunting. It’s increasingly rare so it has real impact, even if it’s swift text, an email follow up or tweet rather than a call back. Don’t ever be afraid to leave a message, but keep them brief to avoid them becoming a source of irritation and that negative feeling transferring across to you. G back like lightning where possible in job hunt situations. It’s crucial and very helpful to the person organising interviews or connections. It will make you stand out from the crowd (surprisingly!).

 

All these activities are about making people feel you care - making it tailored and responsive is what we all like - it makes it feel personal to us. We feel special.

And what about the guy I mentioned right at the beginning? Well, I’m still connected to him. Why? Because you never know. He may be helpful to me one day. Don’t write anyone off, ever. We all deserve another chance. Perhaps he’s reading this now....

 

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By Frank Hutton