Critical Decisions: Choosing the Right Networking Platform (And Getting Started)

Used-Networking Decisions Started

Should I network in LinkedIn, when I already know my colleagues and have friends on Facebook?

The concept of networking on LinkedIn has emerged as a powerful personal branding tool for everyone, not just sales professionals. This concept not only amplifies your number of connections, but if done correctly it can help build your brand across the entire social space.  Networking today, therefore, is not only a gateway leading to jobs and new opportunities, but can also help you to create powerful and productive relationships for the future.

And these relationships are directly related to how people perceive you as a brand. Your profile page, community involvement, information shared, and published articles contribute to the creation of your LinkedIn image. What started out as a resume sharing portal has now become one of the world’s most powerful business networking tools. Over time, LinkedIn has emerged as the most popular social media platform with over 380 million members.

And there are some benefits that are unique to LinkedIn – like the professional focus it brings, the control over contact information it has, and the ability you have to download your contacts.  (Disclaimer – any of these benefits could go away overnight, however, as LinkedIn remains fully in control of how their platform can be used.)

Everybody wants to grow their network and connect to new people. You may add people whom you know and can get introduced to new people from your existing connections. Or you can reach out directly to new people – more on this in a minute.

So – sure, you probably will want to use LinkedIn for you professional connections. But the next question is “How?”

So should I accept everyone who tries to contact me on LinkedIn?

Few weeks back, I got an invitation from a ‘Marketing Evangelist’ with a personal note in the invitation. The note said- “Hi, you and I are in the same role and I would like to discuss a business opportunity with you.” I was initially not sure whether to accept the invitation or not. I was curious about the opportunity but at the same time was not sure if I should accept the invitation. After looking at their profile, I didn’t even agree that we were in the same roles in our organizations.

In order to develop a strong network, should you start accepting invites from unknown people? How can you know whether the person is genuine or not? How can one know about the ultimate motive behind getting connected? Will accepting all invitations that come your way help you to build a powerful network of like-minded people? What should be the objective and strategy to network on LinkedIn? I ended up ignoring the request from the stranger on LinkedIn, since the invitation was unsolicited and I didn’t discover any way that we could be helpful to each other. But your experience may differ. The important thing is to have a strategy that makes sense for you and stick with it.

Reaching out to people outside your network via a network connection or introduction is a somewhat new trend – but already there are experts like Mike O’Neil and Ronan Keane who are teaching people how to use this new channel productively. LinkedIn has reported that sales professionals that utilize their platform for selling can achieve 16% gains in year-over-year revenue.

However one of the key concerns that exist in LinkedIn, unlike any other social media page is that people are still skeptical towards adding new connections. The social world remains similar to the real world, where people still are not comfortable sharing personal information with everyone and always think before adding an unknown person— more isn’t always better.

But selling isn’t the only reason why people network online. Networking can land you to a new job opportunity or even establish a new platform to start a new venture. So having a focused reason for why you want to build a strong network is important.

Here are a few key strategies to consider when building your network

The more first-level connections you have, the more people that you can connect with who are actually outside your network. To build this strong web of first-level connections, you can start by connecting with people from your school, college, and job.  If you are not an extrovert and do not naturally form a lot of bonds with numerous people, then make sure that every time you meet someone whom you would like to add in your network, that you send them a quick invite.

Accepting invitations from genuine sources could land you to your next dream job or provide you the business opportunity of the lifetime. So make sure that you have a new connection every week. The person can be from your industry, from your interest area or someone who is actively involved in any of the groups. Also, connecting with alumni who may be working in your dream company might help you getting the right industry break. So don’t leave those people out!

There is no harm in growing your network if you seek clarification before getting connected and are making meaningful connections.

The real work on networking does not end after you have created a strong profile and gotten connected to the right people. You then have to participate – to join the right groups and involve yourself in conversations, polls and views shared in the groups. By joining groups of your interest and interacting with like-minded people, you can unlock the possibility of getting invitations from people from the broader network. The blogging platform of LinkedIn is one simple way to stay in touch with your connections and network. So start liking, sharing, and commenting on content posted on your LinkedIn Pulse.

While sharing a post or commenting on them, you should always speak from the heart and don’t just blindly agree with the influencers in the conversation. This method will help you to craft your voice, and create a unique brand identity. LinkedIn is different from other social media sites in that people generally only want to see professional content and not random funny posts or quiz questions. So your content should be informative and helpful enough to influence your network and attract more like-minded people to want to connect with you. Since 2013, over 1 million unique publishers have successfully posted on LinkedIn and 40 percent of the readers of these posts are leaders in their industries including VPs and Managers.

Another way to stay connected with your network is to reach out to them on special events, such as their birthdays, new jobs, promotions, accolades and other achievements. Remember that they are professionals, but people too!

The art of networking on LinkedIn continues to evolve — it is a place where people participate in mutual sharing and publishing useful content, and are therefore rewarded with broader and more active networks. Some people focus on consistently recommending connections for jobs and opportunities for others, and they get the benefit of increased credibility and authority that contributes to their own individual brand.

But hey, if you still think that networking on LinkedIn doesn’t add much value for you, then please respond to this post, and let’s explore and connect together – maybe you know a few things I need to learn!

 

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MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.

How To Review Your Personal Branding Progress

Used-ReviewSo how was your year?

If you’re like most people, that’s not the easiest question to answer. We often feel like we’re only as good as our latest project, and everyone’s work has moments where you’re up — and then you’re down. And studies consistently show that we’re famously bad judges of our impact on the world around us.

So how can we credibly take stock, look over our performance subjectively and extract the right learning from the past year in order to chart a better course ahead?

Here are a few ways that have worked for me to reflect on my progress from the last 12 months, for your use in charting your course in the coming year.

  1. Set up a few appointments with yourself. I find it helpful to take at least a few sessions to gather my experiences and synthesize the learning from them.  If I try to review everything in one go, I can get fatigued and rush through the analysis, which is my favorite part.  So I schedule 3 different times to sit down and do the work needed to get value from the year. If I need more, I’ll take more.
  2. Go over the results of the year. If I’ve actually set goals for the year, I’ll want to look at what progress I made towards those goals. And hopefully I’ve got a clear set of leading and lagging metrics to examine. That will help me a lot, but I’ll be honest. Sometimes I’ve only had a fuzzy idea about what I was trying to accomplish in a given year, and we all struggle from time to time in getting focused and intentional about where we want to be in 12 months. So, even if I don’t have a rock-solid goal to measure up to, I’ll go back over what I call “the evidence.” I’ll look through my performance reviews, my notes about progress on projects and initiatives, and even my Sent Items box in my email, looking for larger deliverables, issues, concerns, and conversations I had over the last 12 months. I don’t try to read every item, but just re-familiarize myself with what I was dealing with, and how I drove things forward (or didn’t). While I’m reviewing all this material, I’ll keep a legal pad nearby and jot down topics and  thoughts on one side, and facts and statistics on the other. Things like: “larger time spent ‘selling’ the idea than anticipated” on one side and “35 ideas generated by cross-functional team across  5 company units” on the other.
  3. Pull out the learning. The fun bit for me is always the “So What” portion of the work. I like to see what themes the work has been teaching me over the year, what strengths I brought to bear, and what barriers I found myself facing. I’ll start broadly, like separating personal items and challenges from work ones (even though they might come together again later), or interpersonal issues from working style concerns — like trouble I might have had with a particular colleague, versus some issues I had with procrastination around a specific project earlier in the year. And I’ll ask myself a ton of questions, like “what is at the root of this barrier or tension?” “How could things have gone differently, but why didn’t they?” “How could I have better leveraged my own strengths or the strengths of my team in this case?” and “What about this interaction went incredibly well?” I might not even know the answers to all the questions, but I’ll write them down, and posit possible answers that I can challenge later. At this point, I consider that there are no bad ideas, just untested ones. It probably sounds ridiculous, but at some point, I’ll start to feel like I’m pretending to be Oprah, interviewing myself about my progress, and imagining all the positive, thoughtful ways that she would analyze my situation and illuminate for me what has really been blocking my way forward. One time, I discovered that I was not connecting with some people in some situations because I was concerned about showing vulnerability — I felt I had to hide any weakness, even though it was really holding me back from leading my team. After I feel like I’ve got a good view on what issues or development skills I might be struggling with, then it’s time to face the music and try it out on someone else who knows me well.
  4. Review your findings with a friend or coach. Get some time with someone who you trust to help you parse through what you’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to open up and tell them what you think, and above all, be prepared to hear that you may have missed the mark. It’s not easy to take aim at ourselves, because we have so many clever ways that we can rationalize our own behavior. Ask your friend or coach to challenge your thinking and help you make sure you’ve gotten down to core issues that are able to be described and considered. If you don’t get specific here, then it will be hard to move to the next step and take action on them.
  5. Make plans to attack anew. OK, so last year may have had some set-backs, but what’s important is how you respond, right? So take some time to think through how to put your new knowledge into practice in the next few months, to set you back on track to where you want to go. I start by deciding if I need a specific, actionable goal to meet (which I generally do), and so I put together a few options for the goal and see which ones I respond best to. I want something big enough for me to feel like it’s worth fighting for, but achievable and feasible enough not to set off alarms about impending failure. Last year, I decided to attack my fear of starting new endeavors without a full background of data to start with, i.e., learn how to make better decisions and act on imperfect data, and to trust myself that I can course-correct in time to succeed anyway. But don’t just stop at the goals, and instead think about concrete ways to leverage your strengths to make progress and succeed at each milestone on the way. Make sure you can see a relatively clear path to follow that can get you there, even if some points along the way may require a little faith to reach.

Whatever your goals, I hope you’ll take some time now at the end of the year to reflect on where you’ve been, and where you’re going. I think that all of life is a journey, and we’re all just trying to find our way through together.

So enjoy the ride!

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MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.