Of my roughly 700 LinkedIn contacts, I have extensive interactions and dealings with ~10% of them, and substantial, but less frequent exchanges with perhaps another 10%. These relationships are characterized by mutual trust and respect, and these represent my “inner circle.” The interactions are typified by the things that close colleagues and good friends routinely do for one another (we all know what these are). A number of these contacts are long standing relationships whose inception preceded LinkedIn. The remaining 80% of my contacts are underdeveloped connections. This doesn’t mean that they lack shared value. These contacts primarily consist of occasional information sharing and enabling networking contacts. However, they will remain underdeveloped until either of us (or both of us) take the initiative to deepen the relationship.
I’ve noticed that a number of my LinkedIn network connections have a direct contact to President Barack Obama. Given this, I suspect it would be possible for me to also request a network connection to the Commander in Chief…and if I did, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to be accepted. However, even if we did connect, I don’t expect that he and I (or many of his Linkedin network contacts) will be inviting each other to networking meetings at Starbucks anytime soon. Why not? While we’d be connected, we still wouldn’t know each other!
Technology can enable and faciliate contacts, but can’t ever replace personal investment. That is a very necessary component…and is still the best way to create strong, enduring and productive networks (and friendships). These are the relationships that bring the greatest satisfaction and utlimately produce the greatest return for all parties. One gets out of these relationships what one invests in them. Are you investing wisely?
What are some of the tools and techniques (besides LinkedIn) that you are applying to strengthen your professional network (and not just amass contacts)?