The beginning of the year is always a great time for resolutions of every kind, and I’d like to suggest that it might be worth adding one to your list which could result in better business relationships. It’s the task of spring cleaning your social networks, and then putting in place some useful strategies for ensuring they don’t get too dusty and tired in the future.
I started my ‘spring cleaning’ at the beginning of December with my personal Facebook account. Over the years I seem to have gathered a whole host of people that I know well through business, but who aren’t actually close family or friends I spend my free time with; I found that I wasn’t using Facebook because I didn’t want to put updates out that were more personal. It was obviously time to separate my personal and business personas, I removed around 150 people from my ‘friend’ list.
Please don’t mistake me, I do enjoy meeting all the people I removed at the various events I attend; I keep in touch with them through LinkedIn and Twitter in many cases as well; but I really didn’t need them knowing what’s going on my personal life, after all we don’t have that sort of relationship.
My next task is to ‘spring clean’ my LinkedIn account. Over the years I’ve managed to connect with quite a few hundred people and, whilst I try to keep up with many of them through the course of a year, with the best will in the world I also have a life and a job to do.
Back in 2011 I introduced a simple weeding system which has helped me to reduce the amount of unnecessary connections I gain. Every time I receive a ‘canned’ LinkedIn request (you know the one that reads ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network’), I send back an email which asks them why they want to connect with me. My monitoring has shown that only around 15% of the people I send my message to reply to me. This could mean one of several things:
- they think I’m arrogant to have asked the question at all
- or they don’t really use LinkedIn and are rarely on the network (in fact, I received a reply in December to a message I’d sent in February the previous year!)
- or that there is an awful lot of ‘happy clicking’ going on.
In each of these cases, these are probably not people for whom online social networking is an essential business activity, and they are therefore less likely to want to engage in meaningful dialogue with me about how we can help each-other.
What do I mean by ‘happy clicking’? Well it’s the temptation that arises whenever you’re presented with that, not so useful, list of people that LinkedIn thinks you might know. It’s easy to run down the names clicking connect, connect, connect without paying attention to who it is you’re contacting. This action might boost your network numbers, but it won’t win you any brownie points in the inner game of business relationships.
It might take a little longer, but perhaps you could try the following alternative ways to ask for, and get, connection requests:
- Use the business cards you collect at events; after all you’ve probably at least said hello and maybe had a longer chat.
- Read the profiles of people you don’t know, and if you think they’re a good fit, send them a personalised request from their profile page.
- If you’re getting good engagement from people on Twitter, your blog or another social network, why not ask them if they’re on LinkedIn too.
- Don’t automatically accept all requests that come your way; check out the profiles, message them back and then make a decision. The biggest benefit of this is that it gets you into a dialogue and you never know where that might take you.
My spring clean on LinkedIn will mean me going through my connections list and working out whether we’re actually mutually compatible for a business relationship, or whether our connection came about as a result of happy clicking. If it’s the former, then I’ll send them a message to say ‘hi’ and if it’s the latter, then I’ll probably delete them. After all, we only have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week; I’d like to spend my time profitably and happily.