Triple the Value of Your LinkedIn Network by Interacting

Triple the Value of Your LinkedIn Network by Interacting shows how to attract and maintain the attention of Connections you care most about.

Triple the Value of Your LinkedIn Network by Interacting: adviceOld habits die hard, and so it is with the ingrained assumption that “content sells.” Yes, having a current LinkedIn Profile replete with keyword combinations relevant to your High Interest Connections is very important, but it’s back seat to giving your Connections personal attention. Here I’ll address your protest that “I don’t have time!” by sharing some ultra-efficient processes for interacting on LinkedIn. Read on if you want to outperform 99% of other LinkedIn members.

“I Don’t Have Time!”

Let me tell you a secret. I don’t have time to write this post. But it’s important to someone who is important to me, so rather than sending him an email, I’m posting my advice here. Here’s how to deal with the time conundrum:

  • Get your priorities in order. This will make some people uncomfortable, but you need to rank your LI Connections in order of importance to your goals. More on that here.
  • The fact is, that we all make time for some people but not others, based on what’s most important to us at the time.
  • I’ve yet to meet a LI member (who’s not a client ;^) with a clear idea of his/her priorities for LI Connections.
  • Without an honest assessment of who’s most important to you and why, you’re overwhelmed, you have sporadic LinkedIn activity, and you probably have lackluster results.
  • Use the Relationship Value Map to organize your network quickly.

Inter-Action

Triple the Value of Your LinkedIn Network by Interacting: interaction on linkedinI’m sure you’ve been reading that we’re in the “attention economy” as it’s been around since the 1990s. The fact is, time is finite and one of the most precious things we can give another person. In business, that means individual attention. High opportunity cost. Meanwhile, social networks give us interesting ways to slice/dice attention and sprinkle some digital seasoning on it (as I’m doing here, for example).

In case you’re not convinced about the power of interacting, let’s review how the network effect works on LinkedIn:

  • The Relationship Value Map describes how the most effective businesspeople work, although most do it unconsciously. Once you think about it, you probably have a mix of people in your LI Connections that rank high on the Trust Vector or the Interest Vector. So does everyone else. Most people on LI have tighter networks (i.e. they “know” people). So that means that when you interact on LinkedIn, LinkedIn broadcasts that interaction to your network, according to its algorithms. That means relevant people see the interaction.
  • Think about it another way. I’ll wager that 95% of your LI Connections haven’t seen your Profile in over a year. But most of them have seen your interactions this week or month, in their Activity Streams. I’m proposing to help you make your Activity Stream tantalizing for your High Interest Connections. Here’s how to do it practically.

LinkedIn Hierarchy of Interactions

Here is a rough hierarchy of social actions/interactions in LinkedIn, from the least commitment to the most commitment (time).

Respond to updates for High Interest Connections

  • [Update] LinkedIn and Twitter have half the connection they had when this post was written. LinkedIn no longer accepts tweets as LinkedIn updates, but you can publish your LinkedIn updates as tweets. For a full rundown on this, see Twitter-LinkedIn breakup.
  • [Update2] Hootsuite, even the free edition, enables you to use the same message for (Twitter) tweets and (LinkedIn) status updates, so I highly recommend this if you are on Twitter, and you should be. Also Google+ !
    • [Update, no longer relevant] If you are on Twitter, you probably recognize that many people update their LinkedIn Activity Streams with Twitter; if you aren’t on Twitter, or you have multiple Twitter accounts, you’ve probably been frustrated by LinkedIn’s Twitter integration (as I have).
    • [Update, no longer relevant] You can minimize this issue by distinguishing between updates that people make from within LinkedIn (“native”) from updates that come into LinkedIn from Twitter. You care because you can easily respond to native LinkedIn updates and can’t respond to Twitter updates (LinkedIn requires you to log in to Twitter).
    • [Update, no longer relevant] Click the thumbnails right to see the difference; the Twitter ones have the star “favorite”; LinkedIn’s look different. Look at the bottom. This just saved you some time and frustration.
  • Triple the Value of Your LinkedIn Network by Interacting: linkedin update

    Native LinkedIn update [click to enlarge]

    Roughly speaking, about 20-30% of your LI Connections should be High Interest. Depending on their habits, that may translate into many LI updates, but probably not too many if you have a B2B executive network as I do.
  • Most important, when you respond, ask a question or share a related thought or link; don’t just say, “Wow, that sounds great!” You need to add value, even though your comment will only be a sentence. If you have organized your Connections, this will be easy because these are High Interest Connections.
  • Make this a habit; remember, your interactions are seen by all your connections and theirs unless one of you has restrictive privacy settings.

Write updates relevant to High Interest Connections

  • This is easy to organize because there are many tools for scheduling updates for most platforms, including LinkedIn. In other words, you can tee up a week’s worth of updates on Sunday evening.
  • Most B2B execs should be on Twitter by now, but most don’t know how to use it; that’s okay, head over to the Guide to Twitter to tune up. Twitter is not required for LinkedIn updates, but it does increase leverage. Twitter in 2012 is like a website in 2000.
  • Here are some tools that enable you to schedule updates ahead of time: Buffer | Hootsuite | PingfmEven more
  • The number of updates you schedule depends on your High Interest Connections; you don’t want to overwhelm them; for most B2B execs, relevant updates are appreciated, anywhere from one per day to one per week.
  • Write your updates at the same time; here are some ideas: share thoughts, links, questions; your updates can also tell a story, so do one a day during the week on the same theme, but make it super relevant; if you blog, consider lifting your topic sentences from a current post and using them as updates.
  • Most important, though: these should be unusual and relevant to you and your High Interest Connections. What topics would you like to talk with them about over lunch or a drink?

Share links in relevant LinkedIn Groups

  • LinkedIn Groups are now private (only Group members see interactions) or public (Google sees Group interactions). Be aware of this when interacting. Group Admins can change the visibility. This shouldn’t be a huge deterrent to you but it could be, depending on the nature of your business and Connections.
  • By now you probably aren’t surprised that I’m recommending that you focus on 2-3 LinkedIn Groups that are most aligned with your High Interest Connections. Share links to your blog posts or the best posts or news/analysis stories you read.
  • When you share the link, write a sentence explaining why you’re interested in it and why you wanted to share it (IOW, why you think they’d be interested, too).
  • Ask a question! Questions are the best conversation starters.
  • Bonus points if you LinkedIn message group members who are also your Connections, inviting them to check it out.

Use Polls and share them for free to all your Connections, but make them most relevant to High Interest Connections

  • LinkedIn Polls is a fun and useful way to communicate with your LI Connections and LI overall; once you learn how to use Polls, it only takes five minutes to create one.
  • The value here is asking High Interest Connections about things that are important, to you and to them. You could also use results in blog posts or elsewhere.
  • Write the “question” and up to five “response choices”; even better, write four responses and use the fifth one to invite people to use the comments below to answer “other”; that enables you to correspond with them in LinkedIn, even if you aren’t Connections. Here’s an example.
  • You will get more value from this if you take its URL and email it to people or share anywhere your High Interest Connections congregate. Polls also can publish to Facebook and Twitter automatically.
  • When you create a Poll, LinkedIn invites you to send a message to your Connections for free.
  • You can pay to send your Poll to LI members with specific characteristics.
  • Do this once a month.
  • Don’t get hung up on the number of responses you get; the point is, all your Connections saw the Poll; make sure the question part speaks to your High Interest people.

Start and moderate a discussion in relevant LinkedIn Groups

  • Here you are focusing on interaction and actively reaching out to invite people to discuss something that’s important to you (and them).
  • To hit it out of the park, let a few people know ahead of time that you’re going to hold the discussion and tell them that you’d really like them to weigh in on it. When you post the discussion, LinkedIn message them and share the link.
  • Yes, Groups let their members know when new discussions are posted, but many people have Group notifications turned off, so it’s important to LinkedIn message people directly.
  • Write a good question, and make sure to use the “add more details” field, so people understand your point of view or angle on the issue.
  • Do this once a month in each of the three Groups.

Respond to questions in Quora

  • Quora is a gold mine that few executives know about. It’s a hybrid between Q&A discussion forums and blogging, and it’s public, so discussions are searchable via Google.
  • Here are some more thoughts on LinkedIn Answers’ power and how to use it; note that LinkedIn Answers no longer exists, but the ideas work elsewhere. By the way, many Q&A forums give members badges or other recognition (voting up or down).
  • Take a couple hours and familiarize yourself with the forums relevant to you and your High Interest Connections.
  • Practice using Quora’s Search so you can find questions that are relevant to you and your High Interest Connections. Follow high-interest discussions.
  • Answer one question per month, or per week.
  • Q&A forums are extremely powerful. You can import your Quora activity into LinkedIn or other sites, so in effect its activity is a part of your Profile, so people see your activity, which is very valuable when you make your participation relevant. (right)

Post questions and moderate discussions in LinkedIn Answers Quora

  • Similar to the Groups recommendations above, you can also post questions in LinkedIn Answers Quora, one of the most business-focused Q&A sites. Most people post the question and abandon it. Don’t do this.
  • When you post a question, actively moderate it by checking it at least 2/3 times a day (and night); interact with people, thank them for responding and ask them follow-up questions.
  • Very important tip: during client work, I’ve analyzed thousands on forum posts, including LinkedIn Answers. When you have a very high quality, serious response soon after the question posts, it dramatically influences the quality of other people’s answers afterward (sets the bar). Therefore, increase your chance of a home run by inviting High Interest Connections to respond to your question; Linkedin message them with the link to your question.
  • By the way, LinkedIn Answers are Quora is public and have URLs; you can reference them always.

Parting Shots

  • Give yourself a month to try most of the interactions above, and create a plan for yourself. Depending on your work habits and your High Interest Connections, put together your palette of interactions.
  • Remember, you won’t necessarily see an immediate “business benefit” from being top of mind, but you will build your reputation as someone who is doing “worthwhile” things (in your High Interest Connections’ eyes). If you’re in B2B, the deals you do are probably large. My firm has landed two large enterprise consulting contracts from people who found us online, based on our activity.
  • But rather than deals, focus on relationships; when you help people out online, everybody sees. It’s cumulative and builds your reputation.
  • Most people use LinkedIn as an “online resume,” but I hope you realize that they are leaving almost all the money on the table. Interaction is what pays off; it gets you noticed by the right people, for the right reasons. And you dramatically increase the probability of creating relationships and closing deals by how you conduct yourself online.
  • Here’s a big picture view of how social networks are disrupting and transforming B2B sales and marketing.

We’ve covered a lot of ground here, so please post your questions in comments!

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