LinkedIn Network Building

I’ve been sitting on a Harvard Business Review article written by Doug Camplejohn since March due to a surfeit of news.  I figured that if I couldn’t slip it into my blog in August, I would never get to it.  August is when the press releases slow and there is an opportunity to speak about broader topics such as how to write a press release (or not write one).

The piece, titled “The Best Ways to Use Social Media to Expand Your Network” provides a set of social networking recommendations to business professionals.  Camplejohn is VP of Product Management at LinkedIn and heads up development on LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Source: LinkedIn and HBR

Camplejohn’s advice takes a long-run strategic approach to building and nurturing a social network based upon ongoing engagement, asking for advice during transitions, and assisting others.  As such, his advice dovetails well with real-world approaches to building relationship networks.

Camplejohn begins by recommending that business professionals build their network with peers instead of focusing on seniority.  A peer-based network grows over one’s career, creating a network which matures with the professional.  Furthermore, senior-executive response rates are lower than mid-level managers.  Less than one percent of VPs and CxOs respond to cold reach out.

“People earlier in their careers respond most often to an initial message, while VPs and C-level professionals respond the least to people they don’t already know.”

Doug Camplejohn, VP of Product Management at LinkedIn

Initial messages should be short.  Camplejohn recommends three sentences that can be easily read on a mobile device.  InMail messages of under 100 words work best with response rates “decreasing significantly” beyond 500 words.

Camplejohn also advises a hook such as an alma mater, joint interest, or a mutual friend.  “According to our research, referencing a mutual connection boosts the acceptance rate of these messages by 51%, second only to attending the same school at the same time (53%),” wrote Camplejohn.

Camplejohn notes the value of asking for advice and leveraging transitions.  In fundraising, there is an adage, “If you go seeking advice, you get money; if you seek money, you get advice.”  Likewise, transition periods are an excellent opportunity to build your network and seek advice.

“If you’re in a transitional period — starting at a new company, switching industries, or moving to a new city — recognize the opportunity to reach out to people, ask for their advice, and absorb their wisdom.”

Doug Camplejohn, VP of Product Management at LinkedIn

Another recommendation is to pay it forward.  Don’t be looking for immediate benefits or strictly reciprocal opportunities.  Social networkers recognize that they are contributing to the commons, whether helping one person or adding to the group.  Sales reps and others should also continue to nurture their network, maintaining conversations with colleagues, clients, partners, and mentors.

“The best way to build a relationship is to help someone with joy and with no expectation of anything in return.  It feels good, it trains your own sense of generosity, and it informs you of what the other person values.  It also sets the stage for you to ask them something in the future.  You don’t have to offer to help in every circumstance, but make yourself available as a resource to people, particularly to people who are just starting out in their careers.”

Camplejohn concludes that online networking should be viewed as an extension of real-world interactions: “Connect with people personally by finding common ground, then build trust and long-term relationships, rather than one-time transactions.”

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