I wrote this for the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce Emphasis blog after presenting at this year’s Chamber Social Media Summit. Have you taken a close look at your connections lately?
One of my favorite things about LinkedIn is the degree to which it serves as an inventory of each user’s professional relationships. In one location, at a glance, we can see who we’re connected to and evaluate the strength of that connection. This allows us to do something incredibly simple while also incredibly powerful: we can “audit” our professional relationships to see whether there may be an opportunity to strengthen a connection. This is something I try to do every few months, and it usually reveals opportunities I may have missed otherwise.
What are the keys to making this audit worthwhile? Here are a few tips:
- Put it on your calendar, giving yourself at least an hour. A LinkedIn relationship audit could easily fall into the “when I get around to it” pile if you don’t make it a priority. Putting it on your calendar serves as a commitment of sorts, making it more likely it will happen. It’s also important to allot enough time to the task. An hour may be adequate depending on how many connections you have, but you may need even more time.
- Focus on the task at hand. Closely study each connection’s profile to understand what opportunities may exist for you to strengthen your relationships. Don’t skip anyone; some of what you discover may surprise you. Has a connection changed jobs? Have they joined any groups that might reveal a shared interest? Have they posted any status updates that open the door to a conversation? Approach this effort like an archeologist would approach a dig site, meticulously looking for artifacts of value.
- Use “tags” to identify actions to take in the future. LinkedIn allows you to “tag” your connections in a way that makes them sortable beyond the search feature. Use this to categorize contacts based on actions you want to take in the future. For example, let’s say you want to have lunch with some of the connections with whom you’ve lost touch. You’ll only be able to schedule so many lunches immediately, of course, but you can always plan ahead. Apply a “lunch” tag to those contacts you want to meet up with and revisit it every couple weeks and you’ll continue benefitting from your audit long after it’s completed.
- Keep score. To get the most out of your audit, make sure you measure success. How many of your connections did you reach out to? How many responded? Most importantly, what opportunities did you realize that may not have otherwise emerged? Evaluating the outcome will help you make this effort even more worthwhile in the future.
Conducting a LinkedIn audit may seem daunting when you consider everything else already on your to-do list. Look at it this way, however: nothing in your professional life is more important than relationships. Why not take the time, then, to make them a little stronger?