Are you on LinkedIn? If you are a professional, this tool is invaluable for keeping connected with others in your fields of interest.
I joined LI back in 2004. I remember being so excited to have a place to connect with others who I knew, and be able to maintain relationships (and correct contact information) no matter where my network would roam. It did take me quite some time to convince others that this wasn't a scam to get your personal information for malfeasance -- but rather, an open network that was going to change the way we would be able to connect.
It's been more than 10 years and I've watched my peers and mentors grow into their current positions. I love the game of "we knew each other when" as those experiences -- as interns, entry-level associates, first time managers and then directors and CEOS allow us to create bonds that can last a lifetime. LI lets me see their histories and share mine. It also lets me see how we are connected and if we have any connections in common.
As LinkedIn has grown to 200 million users -- it has changed the way we learn about the people we meet. As in real life, exaggerating your profile in LI is not the smartest thing to do. If you're connected to your former colleagues, your claims can easily be checked by anyone with an account.
Perhaps I'm old-school, but I believe in the strength of real relationships. This might sound funny coming from someone who has friends on every continent, many who she hasn't met! Truthfully, as an early adopter and technology lover, I have always participated in chats with people unknown to me in the traditional sense. But over the months and years of exchanging views in threads, boards, and through SKYPE and the telephone, I have come to know some of these friends much better than those people who I may have worked with 20 years ago. These are "real" connections, and I've earned them by engaging in honest conversations.
I love to meet new people. I also love to offer my assistance to those who reach out. But one of my biggest pet peeves is with those who are "biz card collectors." These are people who click without care, connecting to anyone without thinking about why a connection should be accepted. It's quite odd and rude in my opinion.
Would you walk up to anyone at a conference and without introducing yourself, demand their business card? I sincerely doubt it. But on LinkedIn, people forget their manners. They do that every day by sending the generic request "I'd like to add you to my professional network" to people who they fancy.
Yes, I know these tools are created to form connections to people you don't know. But just like an in person networking meeting, please don't forget your manners. Try to engage someone in a group conversation. "Like" and comment on his/her posts. Craft an invite that explains why you'd like to add them to your network.
"Hi Wendy. Saw your post in Group X and I think you're onto something. By the way, I'm also a marketer who loves social media. Perhaps we can connect and continue the chat?"
^ That's the way to do it.
How do you use LinkedIn? Are you an Open Networker or are you more selective? Do share your opinion, please!
PS - if you wish to connect with me, send me a note (!)
All of my social media links are in one place, XeeMe. http://www.xeeme.com/wendycobrda