Looking for Business in All the Right Places: LinkedIn Rules

My last post was about finding that delicate balance between friends and foes on your Facebook page.  Today I want to address my personal rules for who I connect to on LinkedIn.  Again, these are my rules, feel free to create your own or leave (nice) comments on mine.

The Business of LinkedIn

I consider LinkedIn my online business persona and as such, I am a little more careful about what I say and do there.  Following one of my mentor’s pieces of advice about dinner parties, I generally avoid discussing any of the “Big Three” topics on LinkedIn:  Politics, Religion & Medical Procedures (especially Autopsies, you’d be surprised how often that comes up at our house). While I am certainly not opposed to sharing my views on any of these items, they a) just seem very personal and b) are a good way to turn a prospect off.  I figure that my professional competency should stand on its own and not be cluttered by my personal views which, while they may be flawed, are my own.

In terms of who I will connect to, I take a little broader based approach than I do on Facebook. I’m willing to connect to you if I have personally met you and if I trust you and your business. By being linked to someone in the business world, you are borrowing a little bit of their credibility and vice versa, so you want to be confident that they are someone who you can see doing business with. I have, on occasion, un-linked myself from someone who I discovered had business practices I could not support.  But in general, I will always default to assuming that people are being ethical businesspeople until proven otherwise.

I certainly know people who will connect with anyone, and that is a choice many people make.  While I think it can dilute the quality of their referrals and connections, I can understand why someone in the public eye (best-selling authors, top-level speakers and other highly visible folks) would adopt an “all-in” approach. Not only does it make sense from a time management perspective, it also allows them far greater reach.

It also helps to get over the “I need to have a certain number of friends/connections/links to be important” mentality. We are all a little vain and I certainly went through a phase where I thought I had to have a certain number of online contacts to be successful, but I think admitting it was probably the most important step to getting past it.

On the other hand, I will tell you that in business, from a quantifiable results perspective, I do think you need to have about 250 folks that you know, like and trust in order to keep the business fires burning.  That doesn’t always translate into online links or friends, but someone doesn’t have to embrace social media to be a valuable referral partner. If you have a lot more links than that, it’s fine, but it is hard to keep up close contact with many more than that, so you may have to prioritize.

Next week we’ll talk about my alter ego on Twitter and how I manage that medium.

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