LinkedIn network prompts – a great tool but don’t miss the real opportunity!

LinkedIn has some great tools for providing us with instant ways to communicate with our network.  Their “stay up to date” box at the top right of the home page (or at the top of your connections page) makes suggestions as to people we might want to congratulate on an anniversary, new position or birthday, making it easy to find reasons to contact people in our network and keep up to date, which I’m all in support of.  BE WARNED however that what should be a fantastic opportunity to re-establish old connections, or reinforce current relationships, can easily be wasted by using their auto generated text.

I’ve been lucky to start a new career working alongside Consortium Business Solutions in recent weeks and was keen to update my profile to tell my network the good news.  I was thrilled to receive numerous messages congratulating me on this change – but when looking through my inbox I couldn’t help but think how many people had missed a chance to make themselves stand out and generate an opportunity for conversation.  The majority of people had obviously pressed “send congrats” and allowed LinkedIn to formulate the text without changing a thing.  Whilst still a very kind thing to do, and these messages made me smile, with so many messages saying the exact same thing not one of them prompted me to reply with anything other than a “thanks so much”. Those who did stand out didn’t necessarily have to write an essay on my change of career – just adding my name, a message of “good luck” or a smiley face (whatever you might think of the new “emoticon” language) – they just had to show they were making an effort over and above pressing a button.  I was quick to respond to these people in detail and entered a number of discussions, some of which are now leading us to reinvigorate relationships offline which may lead to business being passed.

So although it’s a huge plus that LinkedIn is providing us with easy ways of keeping in touch with our network without having to delve through our (ever more cluttered) timelines, make sure that you don’t miss the greater opportunity of using this tool to establish real conversations. It needn’t take long – 30 seconds is all it takes to personalise your message – and you never know when that investment of seconds could lead to great opportunities to warm up relationships and expand your business.

And don’t get me started on people just clicking “Connect” on the “People you might know” page and sending an auto-generated message to them asking them to LinkIn…..okay do but let’s speak about that another time?