Any time you take the complexity of real human relationships and try to break them down into very simple codification, you’re bound to have some challenges. In LinkedIn, you’re basically either connected or you aren’t — in or out. Some people let everyone in, others only let in those that they know well.
But what about someone who knows you well, but you don’t know them well? This is called an “asymmetrical relationship”, and they present a significant challenge for those who prefer to use LinkedIn to connect with people they “know and trust”.
See, people who have worked together in the same office may both have a pretty good idea of the other’s professional skills, personality, etc. Or if you’ve engaged someone for B2B services — legal, accounting, management consulting, etc. — then the supplier may know the client fairly well professionally, as well as the client knowing the supplier.
But what if it’s a B2C service? How well does your barber/stylist know your business? The person you bought your car from? Your personal insurance agent? The owner of a local restaurant where you’re a regular? You know their services well enough to recommend them, but they probably can’t say the same about you.
In my own situation, I encounter this when I give speaking engagements. If someone listens to me give a presentation for an hour, they pretty much know my expertise and can recommend me, at least for speaking engagements. But I don’t know them at all.
Should I connect with them or not?
I do. In fact, at the end of my presentations, I usually invite everyone in attendance to send me a LinkedIn invitation. I tell them, though, that they must say in their invitation that they attended my presentation, or else they may not get a reply from me.
When I reply, I also tell them I’m interested in collecting relationships, not electronic links. I read everyone’s profile thoroughly, look for common connections or possible ways for us to work together, and give them a personalized reply. Most importantly, I invite a dialog so that we can get to know each other better.
Does it work?
It takes a fair amount of effort, but I think the return is well worth it. For example, last week I did a talk to several hundred recruiters. Nearly 20% of the attendees have sent me a connection invitation, and at least three have already turned into specific business opportunities of some kind. But the real payoff is this:
I checked out your site and also the e-book. These are great services that you provide.
Whereas most “open network” users simply collect connections, I can respect your being particular in accepting invites but also how you back up your tenet of creating value. I am new to networking and have a lot to learn but so far, you are the only connection that has shown selfless service and value in having a relationship with you. I hope that I am able to reciprocate in the near future. Thanks for setting the example of walking the talk and a personal reply.
Warm wishes for the holidays to you and yours.
Remember that one of the most important things in networking is to be memorable (in a positive way). And that takes more than a mouse click.