As a beginning, I decided that I would send messages to 3 of my LinkedIn contacts every day in order to start building personal connections out of what are, in many cases, very tenuous virtual connections.
I immediately ran into difficulties. Or maybe it would be better to say that in some cases it goes very smoothly but in other cases it seems almost impossible. The easy cases involve people who I already have a personal connection with. Old school friends, people I work(ed) with, people with whom I share a common interest. It is time-consuming but relatively easy to send a note which references that existing relationship.
Difficulties arise, however, when I am trying to develop a relationship from scratch. After just a brief perusal of my contact list, I can state that there are a large number of people who I don't know, can't remember connecting with, and, in some cases, can't even begin to guess what common ground brought us together in the virtual world. It seems a bit callow to send a note saying, "Hello, who are you?"
That's easy though, compared to people who I'm certain I should remember - but don't. For example, after almost two decades of teaching I have over 3000 former students. I have extreme difficulty remembering names, linking them to faces, and then linking them to the particular circumstances from our time spent in the classroom together.
Which leads me to the title of this post. I would be much better off today if I had been serious about developing my network from the very beginning. If, in my LinkedIn youth, I had kept track of the circumstances which brought me to connect with each of my contacts. Even though I've largely kept to my self-promise not to make connections indiscriminately (well, not completely indiscriminately), I still have a bevy of contacts who I am not personally connected to.
If I had to do it all over again, this is what I would do with each connection made:
- If I request the connection, put the reason for connecting in my message.
- If they request the connection, follow up immediately with a LinkedIn email.
- Use the LinkedIn 'Relationship' feature on their profile to keep notes about our relationship.
I have to always keep in mind that I am building my network for the mutual benefit of all concerned. If I can't keep track of the who, what, where, when, why, and how of my relationships, this network will be of no use to anyone.