How do you determine who you should connect with when doing professional networking? Connecting with others is easier than ever which, like many things, is a double edged sword. It is great that social media provides more channels through which you can reach those you want to meet, but it is also easy to get overwhelmed by the variety of choices available to you. In addition, you can quickly build a large network of people who can only be of marginal help to you (and vice versa) which makes it more difficult to keep up with those who can help you the most.
LinkedIn has features to help you organize your network, but it is useful to have a strategy for whom to bring into your network from the start.
This post will be addressing people who fall into the categories of acquaintances or those with whom you have no prior relationship. It is a good idea to connect with family, friends, classmates, work colleagues and others who would be happy to introduce you to individuals in their network if you ask.
Here are some simple questions to ask went deciding whether to reach out to someone new or accept their invitation to connect.
Who can I help in some way?
You may be able to help them with your products or services, with advice, with a connection referral or with information. In some instances, simply offering encouragement can be a tremendous help. All of us can probably remember at least one instance where someone’s encouragement made a difference in our lives.
Who shares my values?
This is extremely important when considering any type of partnership arrangement or other working relationship. You will be far more productive and fulfilled if you work with others who share your values.
Who serves that same audience I want to reach?
Those whose audience is the same as yours can be great partners, sources of referrals and resources for valuable information.
Who can I refer business to?
This is a similar question to the preceding one, but with a different twist in shifting the focus to who you may be able to help. In addition, when you help others first you will benefit in the long run.
Who is influential in a space that is important to my business?
Connecting with influencers, those with an following of their own is a great way to learn as well as get in front of new audiences. A big advantage of developing relationships with influencers is that they can open doors for you. Their endorsement, either implied through association with you or explicit can position you in front of their audience and provide you with instant credibility that it would take you a long time to develop on your own.
Who shares a similar background or interests?
While this is a softer means of connecting that the earlier mentioned criteria, it is an easy way to make new acquaintances. You may share an interest in a professional area, have attended the same school, be interested in the same types of volunteer activities or share one of many other commonalities that can serve as a basis for starting to build rapport.
When you have decided on the types of individuals that you would like to bring into your network it becomes much easier to decide where to invest your time and decide how you should respond when others invite you to join their network.