This post is the third part in a series on examining your LinkedIn connecting style. If you haven’t read the previous post, LinkedIn Connections: What’s Your Style? Part 2, you probably should. You might also want to read our debate on Quality vs. Quantity (in part 1). To remind, here’s one take on the networking continuum on LinkedIn:
Content Providers and Other Talented People
If you are a writer, blogger, videographer, photographer, artist, dancer, musician, actor or media pro, you want to build and support an audience / reader base. If you freelance or consult, you want to connect not only to pros in your own field, but to potential purchasers. My recommendation is to gradually move towards the direction of open networkers, step by step.
A few of you may just want to build a fan base, but what works on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t work on LinkedIn. Although you want a more professional network here, consumers can still pay a big role. So can promotion. You definitely want to be active in sharing your content with your network and groups. It’s also important to have links to work samples available on your profile.
If this is your gig, however, you should be involved in a wider variety of social media in order to market your own services or product. For arts professionals, media, and labor activists, LinkedIn might be useful, but it should not be your primary social media. (For example, Google+’s photographic community is far more active and a lot more fun than LinkedIn’s.) Once you choose among LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, you will probably also find it useful to use some of the social add-on tools for sharing content between media.
If you are in a creative field, you should also seriously consider blogging to establish your social cred and to create a social media home base. If you are not a writer, consider video blogging, podcasting, a photography blog, or whatever you love. At least create an online portfolio to share with potential employers.
If you are older (and wiser), you know that clippings files or boxes of Polaroids and slides, or videotapes don’t cut it these days. But digitizing them could help build your new portfolio.
The Working Class
If you are currently employed, but not in areas that involve growing an audience or a consumer base, you might want to be towards the center of our networking scale — depending on your own personality. Concentrate on building a network of peers in your industry and follow interesting thought leaders. Also join professional groups (on LinkedIn and off).
Keep in mind that jobs are rarely permanent these days, so investing in slow-and-steady activity to build your network now will be invaluable on the day you actually WILL be looking for a job. You will then be able to jump into online job hunting from day one — while others are just joining LinkedIn after their layoff.
If you are employed, but looking forward towards owning your own business, then you probably want to expand your contacts and prospects a bit more aggressively.
Movers, if not Shakers
If you are thinking of relocating to another city (or country), you need to connect with people or groups associated with your home-to-be. Most people in Minneapolis, for example, have few connections in Shreveport, Nashville, Colorado Springs, or Princeton. However, with the magic of social media, it’s now possible to begin networking with locals before you move there.
Ten years ago, this was a difficult task. Today, you can find regional and city groups, nonprofits, career centers, Chambers of Commerce, church groups, and men’s and women’s groups like Rotary, Lions (the pre-LinkedIn type), and so forth, all of which may have groups on LinkedIn as well as websites.
Likewise, if you want to move up in your career, you should look online for trainers, educators, and thought leaders in your career-to-be.
Retirees and Baby Boomers
Are you retired? Congratulations. Are you dead? No? Well, you’ve been part of one of the most successful generations in history. Are you planning on just sitting around for a few decades or are you going to go out and do something else?
Retirement offers opportunities and potential. LinkedIn and other social media are great tools for learning and creating second (or third, or fourth) careers and other opportunities.
There are also lots of volunteer opportunities. LinkedIn just started a new volunteer matching service a few weeks ago. It’s in its infant stages now, but take a look. If LinkedIn doesn’t try to monetize it, it could grow into something useful. Also search for nonprofit Company pages and Groups on LinkedIn.
Also, Idealist.org and Catchafire feature volunteer opportunities. You can also research the business side of almost any U.S. nonprofit on Guidestar. Every state (in the U.S.) has a nonprofit info site, see the list on the National Council of Nonprofits site. Once you find a nonprofit you want to volunteer for, do a search for other volunteers and staff on LinkedIn.
If you want to start your own nonprofit, the IRS has a lot of info you need to know, as well as lists of every registered nonprofit in the U.S.
Instead of pursuing a new career and interests, you might want to advise younger business people on or off of LinkedIn.
Also check out the University pages on LinkedIn for your local education resources. Although LinkedIn is emphasizing using university pages for recruiting of high school students, you can ask about Continuing Ed courses, too. Or get a new degree. If you are a business expert, perhaps you could offer a lecture or a teach a class.
Even if you find your mobility isn’t what it used to be, online groups are a great way to stay active. Check out the nascent Boomer groups on LinkedIn (not to be confused with the submarine “boomer” vets group).
Having said all that, unless you are marketing a new business, you probably don’t need to be that aggressive in expanding your connections. You have the luxury of concentrating on Quality connections.
Every day you wake up on the green side of the sod is a good day. Seize it and learn something. On LinkedIn, connect with your old colleagues and collect and give some recommendations. Check for corporate “alumni” groups. See if your school alumni are active on LinkedIn as well as check their University pages. If you’re a veteran, see if there are any relevant vet groups on LinkedIn and elsewhere. You have a lifetime of connections behind you. If you haven’t been nurturing them, you can still start. If you have, helping others on their own career path is not a bad thing to do.
Finally, Use Those Open Networkers
You don’t have to be an open networker to benefit from one. Strategically invite open networkers as connections. If you join a LinkedIn Group, find the open networkers in the group. (The group’s moderator is usually a good bet.) Invite one or two well-connected people in that group to your network, and you will find that most of the other people are now second degree connections. You can then send many of your peers invitations without going through introductions and you will also have something in common when you do write them an invitation to connect.
Remember, It’s Not Just About the Size of Your Network
In the chart above, note that the scale from left to right mainly reflects the size of one’s network. Just as important as your network’s size is your involvement. If you communicate more with your connections, and generally spend more time on LinkedIn sharing info and offering comments, even a small network becomes more valuable. Size is not the only factor — involvement, time and networking activity (listening and helping people in your network and groups) is also important. THIS is where LinkedIn is on target when they say to concentrate on Quality.
Where do you sit on the LinkedIn networking scale? What ideas or questions do you have about LinkedIn networking? Share with us in the comments below.
Ducks in a Row photo is from Photobucket. Artist not listed.
Featured image (used in Part 2), “Social Network,” is courtesy of Renjith Krishnan and FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Copyright © 2012 by Andrew Brandt