If you, like me, remember Viscount biscuits, clackers and pencil rubbers that smelt like grape, you probably remember the Readers’ Digest prize draw*. You’d receive a personal invitation through the post from someone called Tom Champagne (seriously…I’ve checked it out and he was a real person) inviting you to take part in the draw to be their next big winner; but you knew that, apart from the fact it had your name at the top, there was nothing personal about this invitation – you were one of thousands receiving the same letter.
So what did you do with this impersonal invitation?
Apart from the first time I got one (when I dutifully sent back the slips and in return got nothing more than more bumpf from Readers Digest) they promptly went into the recycling. Because I’d quickly learnt that the invitations that deliver the most value, that are worth replying “Yes” to, are the ones that come with a personal relationship attached. Which brings me to LinkedIn…
There are two schools of thought when it comes to LinkedIn:
School 1: It’s about quantity not quality ie LinkedIn is a tool to connect you to as many people as possible, whether you know them or not, as the more people who you’re connected to the more opportunities can come your way.
School 2: It’s about quality not quantity** - LinkedIn is a tool to connect you to a select group of people, who you have met or would like to meet, with a view to forming a relationship which may mean more opportunities come your way, plus you can send more opportunities others’ way.
I’m firmly in the second camp, believing that gaining a connection without having any sort of relationship with them makes that person simply a number in your network. And as The Prisoner made clear, no-one likes being a number. So whichever road you take, I strongly believe the personal touch matters - especially when it comes to the invitation you send.
Instead of sending a message with the standard wording, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” you should see the invitation as an opportunity not only to connect with someone, but to get across something about your personal brand (not least that you believe in being personal).
So when you’re next sending an invitation, here’s 5 tips to make it personal:
#1 – Include a salutation
preferably one that’s chatty and matches your personal brand
#2 – Explain where you got their name from
(if you don’t already know them) eg “I saw you give a presentation at the Tech Conference last week.”
#3 – Explain why you’re getting in touch
eg “I’ve checked out your profile and notice we work with the same group of people.”
#4 – Suggest a further action
usually a way for you to build the relationship further and make it more valuable for both of you eg “I’m in your neck of the woods next Thursday and wondered if you’re free for a quick coffee.”
#5 – Include some insight into your personal brand
subtly giving clues to what makes you tick eg “I get a buzz out of connecting people so if you’re coming to the next Tech Conference and would like to meet my CEO, just let me know.”
It may take more time to type a personalised message than simply hitting the send button, but I believe the value of forming a relationship and not just a connection will ultimately deliver; you’ll have someone who has bought into your personal brand and that’s worth more than just being a number.
If you’d like to read more blogs about using LinkedIn, here they are. And let me know how you feel about personalised or standardised invitations – I could be on my own on this one!!!
*It may still be going but I no longer get the letters – man, I could be missing out on millions!
**At a recent New Media Breakfast I spoke at in Edinburgh, I asked for a show of hands and 95% of people were in the second camp: quality not quantity.