Build Your Network
A deep, diverse professional network is an invaluable asset in today’s business arena. And it’s also easily attainable, thanks to technology-driven networking tools such as LinkedIn with 150 million+ members that are specifically designed to help you build the network of your dreams and capitalize on all the contacts and connections you make. So if you haven’t done so already, develop a strategy for networking, share your knowledge, help others and become a trusted, recommended connection.
Why do you need a “network”? In our modern, global economy, people are becoming increasingly numb to traditional advertising and cold calling, and so leveraging business opportunities with people who are referred through a trusted network contact is “a must.” What’s more, the professional relationships you develop in your carefully cultivated network can play an important role in your next career opportunity. So if you haven’t done so already, develop a strategy for networking, share your knowledge, help others and become a trusted, recommended connection.
Think you don’t need to develop a network through key sites like LinkedIn? Think again!!! Nowadays, LinkedIn “is to business what Google is to search,” according to Rick Itzkowich, a marketing consultant whose expertise with this particular business-related social networking site has earned him international recognition as “The LinkedIn Guy.” Simply “a must” for professional credibility in contemporary business circles worldwide, having a LinkedIn profile and network is now just as important as having an e-mail address, he says. But far more than just a way for others to contact you, it’s an opportunity for you to source, navigate and build critical relationships that can help you achieve your full, professional potential. And it’s a totally free way to generate potential business, making it one of the smartest marketing moves you could ever make in our recession-rocked economy.
No doubt, if you join LinkedIn and use it wisely, this new norm for networking can net big rewards. But join LinkedIn and succumb to a number of common pitfalls, and you’ll likely never experience the power of this tool. Itzkowich shared with MAP a few of the most common pitfalls and how to prevent them.
Specifically, always avoid:
1. Posting incomplete profiles. Believe it or not, people do read what you write about yourself. If you just haphazardly throw something together, it’s no different than just throwing up a website without paying attention to the details. It looks sloppy and unprofessional, creating a negative impression about you and your basic competencies. Take the time to develop your profile with care, making sure you have completed all the suggested categories, including a decent, professional photo. Whatever you post or write should speak to quality, be grammatically and factually correct, and accurately reflect your professional brand or persona.
2. Premature solicitation. LinkedIn and other professional social networking sites are not sales channels, they’re relationship channels. The quickest way to turn someone off is to ask for business before cultivating a relationship first.
3. Asking for recommendations from those who won’t give them to you. It simply doesn’t make sense! If you don’t know someone or don’t have a reason to believe they will absolutely give you a recommendation, don’t even go there — it destroys credibility. You should be 100 percent sure that people will recommend you whenever you ask for their recommendation.
4. Not understanding how the site works. Like any tool, if you don’t know how it works, you can’t leverage its potential. Commit to learning by setting aside an hour or two to go through the site, explore its features, read articles on recent updates, and test it out with a couple of trusted connections. If you need additional help, reach out to a marketing expert who can help you capitalize on the benefits.
5. Failing to have a strategy. The key to excellent networking (whether online or in person) is always to have a strategy that’s proactive and goal-oriented. How many connections do you want to make this year? How many of those do you want to develop into solid relationships? Of those, what percent would you like to turn into actual clients? How will you get there? What will you say, do or offer to those in your network to make them trust and want to “friend,” work with and recommend you? Consider all these questions and create a strategy for networking. And then, most importantly, implement the strategy you create!
How have you leveraged the power of LinkedIn or other professional networking tools?