Most of us have signed up for LinkedIn, a business-oriented social network, and many of us use it occasionally, but we haven’t really figured out how to get the most of it. So I asked a longtime friend and former colleague, Jeff Taylor, to share his advice. Jeff, a Senior Vice President at Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations in Washington, DC, has had more success with the service than anyone else I know.
“In the early going I had no luck whatsoever,” Jeff Taylor told me of his experience with LinkedIn, likening it to his golf awakening. “For many years I didn’t play golf very well, then one day I hit the ball straight and I hit it 280 yards.”
And one day he received a lead from his LinkedIn connections that ended up netting his employer at the time, a law firm, a $500,000 account. He quickly became a believer.
Whereas many of us use LinkedIn rather passively, Jeff has jumped in with both feet. He says he currently has more than 4200 connections. He advises people looking to get the most of the service to use things like LinkedIn Answers to build better relationships with your network. By answering other people’s questions, you show expertise and generosity. By posing questions, you can gather valuable intelligence.
Early on, Jeff found that he needed to spend a lot of time cultivating connections, but now he is in maintenance mode and gets an estimated 20-30 connection requests each day.
Jeff notes that there are two schools of thought on how to build your network. Some (like me) choose to connect only with people who they actually know. Others (like Jeff) are much less discriminating in an effort to build a larger network for potential business use.
In addition to the passive results he gets, Jeff also uses LinkedIn proactively to find contacts at companies he is trying to pitch. He has even been able to rekindle old friendships in the process.