Overcome Weakness in Your LinkedIn Chain: Invest in Others When You Don’t `Need To’

“You’re only as strong as the weakest link in your chain.”

That adage came about well before the arrival of social media, obviously. For many, when it comes to LinkedIn, for example, the formula is something like this:

1. Accumulate as many contacts as possible by sending an impersonal, automated request to Link-In.

2. Proceed to ignore aforementioned contacts for weeks, months or even years. (If you’re especially ambitious, write one or two recommendations.)

3. If and when you lose a job, or have a decline in business, send impersonal, mass notes to LinkedIn contacts announcing that you’d appreciate their steering leads your way.

4. When you come up dry on Step 3, grumble about LinkedIn’s uselessness.

Referring back to the introductory line–and boiling down these four steps in one word: weak.

If you’ve read any of my prior social media tips and observations, you know that Inside Edge PR has derived significant benefit from LinkedIn and other social media: new clients, stronger relationships, media coverage, and the development of social-media workshops that have led to more work.

And here’s the biggest reason why: I’ve sought to help as many of my links as possible–I have written over 60 recommendations, for example–without seeking anything in return.

That’s not bragging, and that’s not charity–it’s straight-up common sense about human nature. Think of it this way: when is the best time to buy a car or sell a house?

When you don’t need to.

That way, you’re not desperate or otherwise painted into a corner. You can take the deal or leave it.

The same principle goes for LinkedIn, Facebook or any other personal or professional transaction, online or offline–the best time to nurture a relationship is when you don’t “need to.”

The truth be told, if you don’t want to do this, for the sheer enjoyment of maintaining and strengthening connections with other human beings, you ought to consult the closest mirror.

Even failing that basic test, you should consider exercising some self-discipline, consistency and long-term thinking. Drop a note to five or 10 people at a time, simply saying “hello” or offering some words of encouragement, an insight that may benefit them, or a story that you think they may find enlightening or amusing.

In “The Professional’s Platform,” Seth Godin eloquently makes much the same point. An excerpt: “We remember what you did when you didn’t need us so urgently…It means investing, perhaps overinvesting, in relationships long before it’s in your interest to do so.”

Related Posts:
Social Media Motivation: Let it Be Excellence, Not Mere Check-the-Box Expectations
Best Buy’s Big Social Media Blunder

Social Media Pruning: Is It About Time That You Trimmed `Deadwood’?

At first, it seemed strange. Then, it happened so often that it started to seem, if not normal, at least not so out of whack. And eventually it became almost commonplace.

I’m referring to the experience of someone I’ve never met asking to connect with me on social media sites, specifically LinkedIn and Facebook.

Usually, I’ve declined the invitations. But not always—and as a result, more than a dozen names have crept onto my accounts without my really understanding why.

So I recently went through the process of pruning these tenuous connections. I call it “pruning” because it’s not about subtracting names (and the individuals and their spheres of influence that flow from those names). More importantly, it’s about elevating the value of those with whom I choose to remain connected.

As the Wikipedia definition states, in part, “pruning is a horticultural practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant…Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health (and) reducing risk.”

A little reflection on some of those keywords is instructive in thinking about the “how” and “why” of our social media activities:

Selective: When we say “yes” to too many, including people whom we don’t know (or at least couldn’t pick out of a crowd), we are diluting the quality of affirmations we’ve given to people we trust, respect and, in some cases, actually love.

Especially on LinkedIn, it’s important to have your connectedness mean something beyond a list of names or glorified business cards.

Deadwood removal: How many of our contacts and connections resemble “deadwood,” insofar as our social (think Facebook) and professional (think LinkedIn) lives are concerned?

Now, I don’t doubt that, for the most part, these are good people who play a vital and positive role in the lives of any number of people. But to me, they are like “deadwood.” Lest I seem harsh, I should add that I have no illusions about my own speck-on-the-map status with these very same individuals.

Yes, I am sure that I too must resemble deadwood in some circles.

But until and unless they (and I) take the time to alter matters, then I’ll be the proactive one and say it’s time for me to let them go (and vice versa).

This can be a bit scary—I’ve played out vague scenarios in which, at some magical future juncture, Joe Linkedin suddenly emerges as a significant connection to have, and now I’m kicking myself for cutting him or her loose.

Then, after reflecting on the years of my own personal and professional history on LinkedIn and Facebook, I’ve come to a conclusion: such a scenario simply hasn’t played out yet.

Besides, if and when an opportunity arises with Joe Linkedin (or Jane Facebook), then that’s a great reason to kick-start a re-connection with him or her.

Related Posts:
Time to De-Link A Non-Responsive Contact?
Social Media Motivation: Let it Be Excellence, Not Check-the-Box

Best Buy’s Big Social Media Blunder: When Common Sense `Ceases and Desists’

Someone needs to send Best Buy an historic bit of writing known as 1 Samuel 17.

That’s the chapter in the Old Testament that relates the story of David and Goliath. For those who may not have heard (spoiler alert!), wee David cuts off giant Goliath’s head thanks to his faith in God and one amazing demonstration of accurate sling-shotting.

In modern parlance, that’s known as a big “W” for the underdog.

Speaking of modern times, just recently Best Buy (aka “Goliath,” at least for this post’s purposes) made the foolish decision to overreact to a rival company’s commercial parodying Best Buy’s notoriously, ahem, subpar technology know-how.

Whereupon, Best Buy’s crack legal team (or maybe it’s “cracked”?) dashed off a cease-and-desist letter that was sure to spur on far more coverage of the parody–and awareness of that competitor, NewEgg.com,(aka David in this example).

Oh, that reminds me: check out the 30-second commercial here:

Adam Singer, in his Future Buzz blog, offers a great take on the blunder.

As I related to Singer, someone should send a C & D letter to Best Buy’s legal counsel. Is there a Department of Common Sense over there? The David versus Goliath analogy is so obvious, as is the inanity of Best Buy’s response.

I can’t help but chuckle, too, at Best Buy’s repeated use of “slovenly” in the C & D letter to describe the blue-shirted employee. That word belongs somewhere in the early-1970s, methinks.

As Singer articulates so well at Future Buzz, the episode clearly reflects Best Buy’s lack of social media awareness–how else to explain its clunky attempt to shush a company with a hugely loyal and tech-savvy following?

Related Posts:
David vs. Goliath, From Gladwell’s Book to Cultivating Main Street PR Prospects
Stop Talking About All Your Cool Gizmos

Social Media Backlash is Natural: Steps You Can Take Without Having it Take Over Your Life

Anyone else notice an increased level of backlash against social media in general and Facebook specifically?

Yesterday, it was Garry Meier of WGN Radio, who wasn’t so much as trashing it as he was questioning how and why it fits into our media-saturated lives.

This is all a natural (and recurring) response to anything that takes an increasingly prominent place (some might say “invades”) in our lives. And it’s especially prone to happen when we didn’t really see it coming–it just sort of happened incrementally.

We’ve all heard (or are) the stories of people who scoffed at Facebook, checked it out once to see what the fuss was all about…and got hooked within minutes.

Whether you are born again in social media or a social media sourpuss, the below slideshow, which I first created in March 2009, may be a helpful reminder of the simple step-by-step process that you can take in this realm–without having it take over your life.

(Note: this presentation was geared toward an Oak Park, Ill. audience, so the “Pope” you see with the red ticket is David Pope, our village president. A little inside joke there.)

One last thing: it’s still lawful to become a fan of Inside Edge PR.

Face(book) It: Go Where the Puck Will Be

Whenever I advise people to jump into the social media fray–often in relation to promoting their business or cause–there’s always that look I get in return.

It’s not a deer-in-headlights look, mind you.

No, it’s much more dire than that: this is the patented deer-that’s-already-been-run-over-by-a-Mack Truck-look.

It’s the look of someone who is on the brink of declaring haplessly, “How on Earth do you think I’m ever going to find the time to fit this into my already-overcrowded schedule.”

My response: anyone who is successful, or in the earnest pursuit of success, is full of to-do’s on their list. Cry me a river. I didn’t create Facebook, so don’t blame me for this historic development. Oh, and the train has left the station–do you want to get onboard or not?

The question I then pose is this: do you want to go where the puck increasingly is going to be in the weeks, months and years to come? (That’s an allusion to Wayne Gretzky’s oft-quoted tip on his unparalleled success as a hockey player–he didn’t focus on where the puck was, but on where it was going to be.)

If your target audience, present or future, is spending significant time on Facebook, then it only makes sense to meet them there. Unless, of course, you want to surrender all of that ground to your competitors. That is entirely within your rights, though it’s hardly good for business.

Another tip I share to these Mack-trucked deer: if you’re so leery of losing the best years and decades of your life to Facebook, then set a time limit on your forays.

You can get a ton done in five or 10 minutes, if you stay focused and don’t get sucked into the whirlpool of links and trivia that lie in wait.

(Psst, a little secret between me and you: I’m one of those nefarious types that trains people to provide links and trivia designed to suck in others.)

More social-media pointers in a later post, but for now, here’s a look back at an Inside Edge PR post about the “Five Stages of Facebook Grief.”

Did you know you could become a Facebook fan of Inside Edge PR?

If you allocate five minutes to Facebook today, becoming a fan will leave you with 4 minutes, 56 seconds to spare.