“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.”