I find LinkedIn to be a very useful and impressive tool. I use it all the time to find experts to help startups understand their markets, to find people to talk to in the customer discovery process, or to find people at specific companies. I recommend that all entrepreneurs use it as a tool to build their network. It is a great way to find out that your buddy Joe knows the venture capitalist you would like to meet. If Joe introduces your executive summary to the VC…it just might get a longer look (or even reviewed.)
Some in the entrepreneurial community have called me a connector. I personally have, what I consider, a relatively large network. I help the University of Michigan to find people who can help speed U-M technology to market. This includes mentors, industry experts, consultants, and management for U-M startups. As you may guess, I get a lot of request to joining someone professional network on LinkedIn. I also don’t pawn myself off as a LinkedIn expert, but here are some of my thoughts on using LinkedIn.
Breath vs. Depth
It is simple network effect. You can find (or are connected to) more people when you have a lot of people in your network. However, if your network is filled with people you do not know, they have no incentive to connect you to people you would like to meet or people who would like to meet you. You have to find the sweet spot.
My rule for adding people:
- someone I have met, preferably more than once.
- someone that adds value to my network
- the usual friends from college or grad school.
Asking for a connection
When asking for a connection, unless that person knows who you are, by name only, give them more information. Don’t expect people to dig into your profile to figure out who you are. I receive lots of request from people I might know, I just have no clue who they are. Give me some context. Tell me how or where we met. This is sort of a funny but true example.
I did “met” this guy in the bathroom at Google HQ in Mountain View. I did remember my comments about how Google spent a lot money on technology to be more green but missed some obvious and cheap ways to conserve. But the person gave me context. I remember the trip, the comments, and now him. (Now I have to decide I should add him.) Note: My memory seems to remember startup idea>location>your startups name>your name. In that order.
Be timely. If we met at an event, after I sat on a panel, lectured your class, you came to my office hours, etc., make an introduction quickly before I forget you and your idea.
What do I say?
It is best if you say something like “it was great to meet you at the A2NewTech Meetup. I talked to you about my idea for (whatever) and would like the opportunity to talk some more. Please join my network on LinkedIn.”
There are tons of site that help you build an effective profile and how to manage your profile, build your reputation, etc. Check them out. My view is from being the recipient of many request and what works for me.