Recently, LinkedIn networking expert Steven Burda shared some insights about the right and wrong things people and companies do when trying to build a network on LinkedIn.
Jim Neister: Hi Steven. A lot of people think that it will take a lot of time and energy to build up a decent network on LinkedIn. What are your thoughts on this perception?
Steven Burda: They’re 100% correct. The reality is, is that it takes one person at a time to build a good network, and even though I am the most connected person on LinkedIn, I still believe that quality of your connections is more important than quantity.
Some people might think, “That is a pretty critical statement being the most connected person,” but it’s very true. So it is a time intensive, time consuming effort to build your network, to cultivate your network and to develop your network.
Jim Neister: That’s really interesting. Is it really possible for a person or company who just joined LinkedIn to build a sizable network?
Steven Burda: Absolutely. Anytime you join and start networking, whether it’s online, offline…whether it’s through various groups online and offline; you can build a sizeable network. There’s no magic formula and there’s no magic number that says you have to achieve “X” number of connections to build a sizable network.
Some of the best networkers that I know don’t have thousands or hundreds of thousands of connections. They have a couple of hundred connections, but they are of good quality connections. Those individuals, those groups, those organizations who are thinking about joining LinkedIn, and thinking, “Hey, am I too late?” The answer is “No”; it’s never too late, it’s never too early to join LinkedIn and start building up your network.
Jim Neister: How can someone who has limited time to invest still be able to connect with potential prospects? What are some of the tricks of the trade?
Steven Burda: Right. It’s a very interesting question because it takes time. When people say, “I don’t have time to exercise” or “I don’t have time to eat healthy”; same goes for here…people have to find time. And then time, whether it’s 5 minutes a day, whether it’s 20 minutes a day, whether it’s an hour a day would dictate how much you can allocate, eventually, to build up a good, meaningful, sizable network.
So I would say to start out, spend a couple of minutes, doesn’t have to be hours, 1o-15 minutes a day, browse around, take a look at various groups, different interest groups that are there and make connections. So, with that said, connect originally with people you already know and trust, and then ask for introductions of their friends to make introductions to their friends. Starts slowly…don’t rush, and the fruits of your labor will pay off.
Jim Neister: What kind of technical skills does someone need to do this?
Steven Burda: You need a computer. If you know how to use a computer, you can do it. Now days teenagers are using the computers, my kids are using the computers, but anyone who is a professional can sign up, login to LinkedIn, follow the Terms and Conditions; you can use it.
It’s very user friendly…the platform itself is designed for a regular “Joe”; you don’t have to be tech savvy to use it, and just try it out. Many of the things you will see are simply a process of learning.
Jim Neister: You mentioned Terms of Service…that brings up a really interesting point because some people go in with the mind set of connecting with everyone as fast as possible, but it may actually hurt their efforts in the long run. What are some detrimental activities you would warn people not to do LinkedIn, and how can they affect the quality of their connections?
Steven Burda: Never spam. Never think with the mentality, “Wow, I have a product or service to sell, therefore, I’m going to go on LinkedIn and sell it to everyone.” You can do this. This is not a mass marketing campaign that you’re launching; you’re really building a network.
Cultivate your network, and build a relationship before you get to a point…so, one of the Terms of Service here; make sure and be careful of who you are inviting to your network. For privacy reasons and for safety reasons, and also don’t be a nuisance, don’t be a bother to other individuals, other professionals who are on LinkedIn, and are there for the purpose of networking, and not necessarily getting bombarded with the stuff that you want to sell them.
Jim Neister: Can you give an example of how people can engage prospects and still be within the LinkedIn TOS?
Steven Burda: Absolutely. So, let’s say you are in an industry for finance professionals or accounting professionals. The first thing is to try to make connections offline. So if you attend any seminars, speaking engagements, any workshops, approach individuals, introduce yourself, and after the handshake, ask them if they are on LinkedIn, and if it’s okay to connect with them, because this way, you already know that those individuals gave you permission to make that connection.
Being a social media guru, having the background MBA, many business people welcome connections, but not everyone is like that. So, if you’re a physician, you might be only limiting yourself to a certain group or a certain sector in a certain industry that you might not want everyone to be a part of this exclusive network.
Jim Neister: Great advice. What are some other tactics that are supposed to be successful about how to succeed on LinkedIn, but can actually hurt your chances of success?
Steven Burda: One of the things that people misunderstand is that LinkedIn is a platform. What you and other connections make out of it, is up to you. So LinkedIn is not a magic genie that connects people and finds you jobs or finds you candidates for positions you are looking for, but actually builds your connections.
Many people have the misconception that someone owes you something on LinkedIn, which as you know, is not necessarily so. You may ask politely someone to make an introduction or send someone an email, which is an invite for someone who is not part of your network, but you have to be very careful and you have to show them that you are looking for synergy. Build your network, cultivate your network, invest time in it and the fruits of your labor will definitely be rewarded.
Jim Neister: What about emailing and calling people, that’s a good way to do it, right?
Steven Burda: Absolutely. Now days with people spending so much time on their tablets, their smartphones, but the old fashion way; pick up the phone, call somebody and ask for a five minute introduction and say, “Hey, how have you been? How has the last quarter been for your business?”
Give some kind of personal touch to you online connection. If the person is local to you, ask them out to lunch to see what is going on and offer some of the synergies that you can maybe help them with, because it’s very important to offer help to other people. Offer your knowledge, your expertise or anything else you can to help that individual, so hopefully, the bond is there.
Jim Neister: That’s a really good strategy and it gives people several options. What is people’s biggest or most common problem?
Steven Burda: Well it depends. Again, many people don’t fully understand the purpose of LinkedIn. The goal is not just to connect to anyone and everyone and leave it at that, but to try to engage each of your connections.
Now, the biggest problem is not the size of your network, it’s the quality, like I mentioned earlier. It’s very important to cultivate it, and if you do that, everything else…the cards will fall where they fall, and the market efficiency and everything else will come into play.
Start slowly, invest your time and energy into this and the fruits of your labor will follow. I can’t stress it enough, people want to get to the end result right away; too quickly, too fast. Take your time, enjoy the ride so to speak and ultimately the opportunities will knock on your door.
Jim Neister: What are the 2 – 3 most common questions people ask you?
Steven Burda: (Laughs) That is the question: “How did you get to that number of connections where you are now?” and my response is, “One person at a time.” I started early, I was an early adapter. You have to be dedicated and understand that with LinkedIn, there is nothing in the world out there supplementing, and in a way, complimenting your world. And the other question is, “Well Steven, with such a huge network, you must be really well connected?” Well, I am connected in the sense that I have a lot of connections right? But I also do give the time to speaking with them, where people who have 20,000 or 30,000 or 10,000 connections don’t do that.
So being connected is a very unique terminology. What does it really mean to be connected? Is it just the number or actually knowing those individuals and seeing if you can call them up? If someone calls me up and says, “Hey Steven, I need a recruiter who is in finance in the Atlanta area, Philadelphia area, New York area, I can connect them to my network because over the last 8+ years that I’ve been on LinkedIn, I made the connections, and I recall that I had those contacts there.
I can go back to my spreadsheet where I keep all the contacts that I made and how I know them, from where, and what they specialize in, and the last time that I talked to them, and I can go and say, “Hey, I do have 2, 3, 4 individuals that I can recommend for you to reach out to. And this is not just because I have a random number of people, but because in my past, I made the connections.
Jim Neister: To wrap this up, why would working with a professional, like you greatly improve people’s chances for success?
Steven Burda: Well one of the things about me is I’ve been in it; I have the experience, I know the ins and outs, I know tips and tricks that the average person wouldn’t know. Working with me you would be able to understand what you can do with LinkedIn and what you can do without LinkedIn, and how those two will complement each another.
By speaking with me, by engaging with me, you will learn so much that many of the books out there will not show you, will not teach you and just asking smart intelligent questions, you will learn some of the things that you have been doing that were wrong, and you will re-confirm some of the things that you were doing that are right and will continue doing, so hopefully building a useful and engaging network. So reach out to me. I’m very open; I’m always 100% responsive to all the emails that I receive.
Jim Neister: That’s fantastic, I certainly appreciate the frankness about what needs to be done and what doesn’t need to be done and I know that’s why you have such a great reputation with your connections. I appreciate you sharing that with us today.
Steven Burda: It’s been a pleasure.
Steven Burda is a Senior Financial & Business Professional, Strategic Thinker and Entrepreneur.
Primarily working with his connections and contacts, Steven grew his LinkedIn network to one of the largest in the world. He attributes that success to his commitment and dedication to his connections’ success.
To learn more visit: http://www.linkedin.com/in/burda.