image of linkedin logo buttons

I’ve been on LinkedIn for quite some time now and I always find it interesting to hear how useful others find it as a business network. Often I’ll hear negative responses as people aren’t always sure how best to use it. I’ve also heard that people feel overwhelmed by LinkedIn invites or feel that all the invites they’re getting are from spammers or complete strangers and they just don’t know what to do.

How best to use it is easily solved with a bit of advice: I really liked Thomas Oppong’s advice when it came out (even though I’m not normally a fan of ‘6/8/12 etc. things successful people do’ type articles) as it’s very simple and straightforward so it’s a good starter guide. Take a look for yourselves.

There’s also Carol Tice’s advice to writers on how to get freelance gigs from LinkedIn and the ever helpful Social Media Examiner’s metric ton of advice on getting the most out of LinkedIn.

But it seems to be the invites to connect that people can’t cope with: I’ve heard from people who say they just say yes to any and all invites but then can’t figure out why they never get any useful leads from the platform; and I’ve heard from people who are being so polite that they’ll sit on invites for weeks, worrying over whether they’ll appear rude if they hit the big X next to someone’s invite.

In the end, LinkedIn can work for you as long as you gain the confidence to keep your Connections meaningful to you and your business.

Think about what you want to use LinkedIn for:

  • Gaining new business
  • Reconnecting with previous colleagues or clients
  • Gaining a picture of the current market that your biz is in
  • Looking locally or thinking globally

Once you’ve figured out what you want to use the platform for, you can then create a little ditty that you can use on ALL of those connection invites that you’re worrying over or ignoring.

I use LinkedIn to make connections with potential new clients as well as staying connected with people I’ve worked with in the past or are currently working with. I then use Groups to keep up with current market news, gain peer support and advice, as well as keeping an eye on local and global matters that are meaningful to me and therefore my business (yes, my business is very much a part of me!).

To keep my Connections list meaningful, this is what I send out to any and all invites where I don’t know the person at all or just can’t quite remember them (I really need to start taking photos of people when they hand me their business card: a face to name memory dilemma that I’ve solved for other people by including a photo on my own card):

“Many thanks for your invite. I link with people I’ve networked with, done business with or who are looking to work on projects with me so please confirm how we know each other. Thanks!”

Yes, I know, it’s really not the prettiest of paragraphs but it does:

  • thank the person for taking the time to contact me – manners are a good thing!
  • states exactly who I’m willing to connect with
  • shows I’m open to working on new projects.

Since I started using this phrase a couple of years ago, my Connections list has stayed meaningful to me, stopped me worrying about appearing rude to people who genuinely want to link with me and has raised a few laughs when I’ve either been reminded that I do know someone (that face to name memory fail showing up!) or people realising they’ve had an app to email brain fail and hadn’t intended to invite me in the first place (fair enough!). I’ve also made some great connections along the way!

One more tip for journalists: do take Yumi Wilson’s LinkedIn for Journalists training webinar. It was incredibly useful for me and I gained a lot of great links through the year’s worth of free LinkedIn upgrade (you’ll need to check if this offer is still available but the training itself was great on its own).  I’ve just seen there’s also now LinkedIn training for corporate comms so do join that one if you’re more PR, content and marketing.

Comment here or find me on Twitter  and let me know how you deal with LinkedIn invites – does having a handy phrase help or are you still ignoring all those invites? Let me know

LinkedIn chocolates pic by Nan Palermo with Creative Commons