We all know that the LinkedIn was designed for business, but is personal networking on LinkedIn a possibility as well?
Have you ever tried maintaining personal relationships — connecting with friends and relatives — on LinkedIn?
There is no denying that LinkedIn is an excellent tool when it comes to building business networks and implementing social selling strategies. However, it’s also interesting to look at how well it works as a tool for establishing and nurturing personal relationships.
Networking on LinkedIn: Business, Personal or Both?
A recently conducted survey among almost 16,000 LinkedIn users across different countries revealed interesting — but not entirely surprising details about its international user base.
According to the study, 70% of the respondents said that they applied for a position at businesses they were connected with through LinkedIn; almost half of them said that they don’t have the luxury of time to maintain LinkedIn relationships over a regular basis.
Furthermore, 38% of these respondents expressed that they actually have difficulty establishing connections with people.
In fact, the very idea itself may sound ridiculous to the social media-savvy business professional: Maintaining a LinkedIn account for keeping in touch with friends? It seems like an ill fit.
Then again, you might be wondering, “Why not?” After all, in theory, LinkedIn functions a lot like Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking platform, right? You simply add contacts and accept connection requests, and your network of so-called friends will get bigger and bigger.
However, there are a number of reasons why the social networking aspect of LinkedIn doesn’t work quite like every other platform out there — and why it’s harder to maintain personal relationships or friendships on LinkedIn than on, say, Facebook or Twitter.
1. LinkedIn’s user base is mostly comprised of busy professionals.
Since LinkedIn was designed for business networking and is very effective with lead generation and social selling, it makes sense that a lot of its users would fit the profile of the typical corporate warrior: job-oriented, business-minded, and with little to no interest in social media mingling that isn’t related to their work. That’s what Facebook and other social platforms are for, after all. LinkedIn is much more business, than social.
2. The line between friend and co-worker is much more pronounced, thanks to LinkedIn.
Other platforms were designed not just to allow us to bond with our friends regardless of physical proximity, but also to provide us with protection against individuals we don’t know who may invade our privacy. It’s considered normal, for example, for a user to reject a message or a friend request from a person they don’t know in real life.
The case is different when it comes to networking on LinkedIn, and rightfully should be if you want to gain new business via LinkedIn. For instance, LinkedIn users tend to accept connection requests from people they don’t personally know. It’s all part of LinkedIn’s actual purpose: To help you find a starting point upon which you can build your network within your industry. This entails connecting with people you know next to nothing about — not always acceptable when it comes to other social networking platforms.
3. There’s a tendency for communication to sound a bit mechanical on LinkedIn.
To maintain the air of professionalism, LinkedIn’s default message for new connection requests avoids being too warm and friendly. It’s a simple statement that says, “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn,” which is about as direct and mechanical as one can get.
This is why it is highly recommend that when you send LinkedIn connection requests to go the extra mile and add a custom message to your request. At the very least, this simple task of personalizing a message shows the other party that you’re not just mechanically adding people as connections.
Not all people follow this, though, for a number of reasons (time being among the most crucial of them). Thus, even if you do accept the person’s request and become connections there’s no guarantee your relationship will ever go beyond that.
4. Personal updates are usually reserved for other social media platforms.
Very rarely would you hear about someone whose problem is oversharing on LinkedIn. In fact, most of us share and discuss updates on our non-work-related activities and personal lives on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms — basically, anywhere but LinkedIn.
5. Spammers and fake profiles on LinkedIn.
Due to the nature of the LinkedIn platform as a venue for business professionals, sales and marketers to establish connections and find leads, questionable groups and users have created spammy and fake accounts to further advance their plans and goals.
Usually, these fake accounts connect with you with the sole purpose of wanting to sell you something. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to spot fakes and spammers on LinkedIn, as they usually have no photos and just send requests out of the blue. Still, this makes spotting genuine contacts a bit more challenging. These people exist on all platforms and fortunately it’s easy to discover them and to block them on LinkedIn.
Where and How to Build Relationships on LinkedIn
Quite honestly, LinkedIn does NOT have to be a platform for you to have conversations with your friends. However anyone in business knows, the key to getting new clients is through building relationships. In the case of LinkedIn, this is business relationships.
What makes LinkedIn unique is the business focus of the platform. This is why many Linkedin users like and use the platform. In fact many people that don’t use social media, still use LinkedIn. So take advantage of the platform’s strengths and benefits to facilitate relationship-building with your ideal prospects and clients.
Here are some simple tips you can follow to make sure that you and your potential new connections get to start off on the right foot:
1. Don’t hesitate to connect with people you meet off-line on LinkedIn.
When you meet someone off-line, connect with them right away on Linkedin. If you are attending business events and find someone you’d like to stay in touch with, LinkedIn is a perfect place to learn more about them by watching their activity on LinkedIn. Engage with them and their content on LinkedIn.
2. Take the time to improve your LinkedIn profile AND personalize your connection requests.
Make sure you have a LinkedIn profile that stands out and speaks to the ideal clients you want to attract. Your profile is an important part of your personal brand, it’s often the first place someone will learn about you professionally. Think about specifically what do you want them to know about you? Don’t just stop at adding keywords for your target audience to find you — make them want to connect with you by having an interesting LinkedIn profile that is effective in client attraction.
We mentioned earlier that LinkedIn’s default messages look painfully standard and mechanical. Set yourself apart from every other professional out there by writing a personalized message in the place of the default connection request.
3. Continue to engage with your connections.
Once you’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn don’t stop there. As a social selling and LinkedIn speaker I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken at events and someone in the audience has said to me, “Melonie, I have been using LinkedIn for years and I’ve never gotten any business from it.”
You won’t get business from a platform or from your new connections by ignoring them. Initiate conversations, stay in touch, add value to them — and if you are using LinkedIn to generate business then you must have a lead generation system in place.
4. Become a resource for your connections.
If you are networking on LinkedIn the right way, you are building a network of people that are prospects, referral partners and strategic alliances. Think about what they’d be interested in, what would provide value to them (and their business) and share valuable content that helps and educates them.
In addition to helping your network by sharing valuable content it’s important to stay top of mind and position yourself as an authority on your topic.
LinkedIn is not the network to share personal posts of what you ate for lunch and pictures of your vacation, keep it professional.
Having said that, it’s perfectly acceptable to occasionally give your network a glimpse of you personally, but remember that LinkedIn was designed primarily for business professionals. To leverage Linkedin effectively share content that inspires, engages and educates your ideal clients at least 95% of the time.
5. Leverage your network for introductions to people you want to meet.
As you build a network on LinkedIn, your connections will be connected to others that you may want to meet, many of which could be perfect clients for you. When you see that someone you want to connect with is connected to someone you know personally, ask them if they know that person well enough to make an introduction.
When you get introduced by a person that is respected by them, that third party credibility makes all the difference.
It’s important to return the favor as well, if you have two people in your network that should meet, go ahead and introduce them. Your connections will be grateful for that and many will be happy to recriprocate when the opportunity presents itself.
In summary I think most can agree that networking on Linkedin tends to be very business focused. Quite honestly, that’s what I love most about LinkedIn. It’s not a network that we play on, chat with friends and family, it’s a business social network and much less social than other networks.
From a business standpoint, I appreciate this, as there is no better network for B2B companies, professionals and sales people to leverage the power of social selling than LinkedIn.
Relationships can be built on LinkedIn, powerful and profitable relationships. And when one of those relationships turn into a friendship you may want to connect with them on Facebook as well so you can stay updated on your friends personal life.
What are some of the ways you’ve found success in networking on Linkedin? Do you think you keep LinkedIn all business? Tell me in the comments below.
If you would like to learn how to build profitable relationships on LinkedIn with a predicable and repeatable social selling system, let’s talk. Book a time to speak with me 1-on-1 by clicking here and start to generate leads and maximize your results on LinkedIn.