I was at a conference a few weeks ago listening to an excellent presentation by JD Gershbein on the power of LinkedIn in business communications. He told a great joke that resonates with me everyday while I’m networking online: a guy walks into a bar, sits down, orders a drink and notices a good-looking woman sitting at the end of the bar. He stands up and walks over towards her. As she notices him standing next to her, he politely asks, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” That was where the joke ended, but I’m sure most of you can imagine that the woman was not impressed. You wouldn’t approach a prospective connection in person as informally as you do online, would you? As the lines blur between online and offline communicating, it is essential to understand the inner-workings of personal messaging and how this can increase your networking power.
The key to understanding why automated messages do not work is thinking of online communications in the same way you think of offline communications. If you were meeting prospective clients at a networking happy hour, you wouldn’t approach them with an automated greeting, would you? If you were pursuing a business lead and met them for lunch, you wouldn’t spit out automated messages throughout your meal, would you? It’s the exact same online. You would start with a warm greeting and build on valuable conversations that manufacture personability and importance. In doing so through personal messaging you’ll find a much greater return through an increase in network connections, the possibility to create new business relationships and increase sales.
Unless you are simply adding connections to your network to build numbers, which is not recommended – by the way, then you need a personal messaging strategy. If you are connecting with someone, there should be an obvious rhyme or reason, such as a shared group, shared industry, shared connections, or shared location. The key word here is shared. Sharing something with someone simply means you have something in common, and if you have something in common, then you have something to write about in your personal message. Are you trying to connect with someone in your industry? Talk about it! Tell them who you are and why you’d like to connect. Give them a reason to want to accept your invitation. Give value to your message and the connection you’d like to make.
Personal messages don’t take a lot of time to create, but the return you’ll find you receive from them is huge in comparison. A huge time saver is compiling a bank of personalized scripted messages that can be used for different scenarios, that way you can use a specific message for someone each and every time you want to connect. Create, build and manage your social network connections in the same fashion you do your offline connections. Take advantage of the example below, and if you have any questions please let us know.
Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and president of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached through her website at www.financialsocialmedia.com and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (@InsuranceMKTG).