How to network on LinkedIn (without coming across like a d**k)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
The famous first sentence of Charles Dickens classic 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities - that was set before and during the French Revolution - doesn’t feel all that out of place when used to describe the times we live in today.
There is less blood, obviously. But, platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn come with both beautiful opportunity and a tremendous amount of bullshit.
They’ve opened the doors to the masses; allowing anyone and everyone to make bucket-loads of money, doing whatever their hearts desire. But, along with this opportunity, these platforms have birthed a widespread practice we’ve all grown to despise — networking.
Just the other day, I was the victim of a networking vampire. I was scrolling through LinkedIn, minding my own business, when out of nowhere a greasy internet marketer slid into my DMs uninvited; pounding his chest and pitching to me on how he could grow my business, Honey Copy, to levels I had never dreamed of.
Whilst I wanted to message him back a punchy “fuck off”, I held my tongue (or my fingers rather), and instead removed my connection with him.
Two, maybe three days went by, and to my surprise the same internet marketer had requested to connect with me again - attaching yet another poorly-written sales message.
I don’t remember it verbatim, but it was something along the lines of…
“So, you obviously aren’t interested in growing your business, but can I at the very least tell you three ways you can get new leads in case you decide to work with me in the future?”
On this second attempt, I had to double hold my tongue (or fingers rather) and instead of writing a nasty response, I blocked him.
While I’m sure this internet marketer’s intentions weren’t malevolent, they left a bad taste in my mouth. He made me feel - not like a living, breathing human being - but rather like a bag of money he couldn’t wait to sink his claws into.
I was both disappointed and annoyed, but I withheld from saying anything hateful to him. In part because it wouldn’t have helped the situation… but also because I’ve been in his shoes before. I’ve been the new kid on the block fighting tooth and nail to build my business. And, like him, I’ve been the greasy internet marketer firing off DMs.
How to network on LinkedIn thoughtfully and effectively
In this article, I want to discuss how to network on LinkedIn and other social media platforms without coming across as a self-centred douche bag (i.e. like the guy in the story above).
The lessons I’m about to share are pulled from my own experiences on both sides of the LinkedIn inbox — the person being the networker, and the person being networked ‘at’.
Approach LinkedIn networking like dating
If a girl or guy came up to you in a busy cafe and said “let’s go to the bathroom and have sex”, you’d either call security or dart.
Why? Because you don’t know them. Hell, they didn’t even ask you your name.
A lot of networking that happens on LinkedIn is like asking for sex before dinner. Folks are rudely barging into one another’s inboxes completely uninvited and making a pitch before they even get to know the person.
In my eyes, good LinkedIn networking begins as a conversation without expectations. It starts with a simple hello and continues with a thoughtful building of rapport.
Just like you’d never go up to a random person and ask them if they want to have sex, you should never barge into random people’s inboxes asking if they want to buy from you.
When LinkedIn networking, give the person something (don’t ask to give them something)
Do you recall the earlier experience I shared about the slimy networking vampire that flapped his slimy wings into my inbox, and proceeded to ask me if he could ‘give’ me something?
Well, it didn’t feel like a gift; it felt like a passive aggressive nudge to do business with him.
When we ask to give someone something, especially in a setting like LinkedIn, it feels conditional.
“Yeah, I’ll give you these fancy shmancy tips… but only under the condition that you maybe give me money down the road.”
It feels gross.
Instead of asking, just give.
For example, let’s say there is someone in your LinkedIn network that heads up marketing at a small SaaS startup. An effective way to connect with this individual would be to direct message them something like…
“What’s up Doug, I’ve been following your startup since we first got connected, and I am a big fan of the cool stuff you’re doing in marketing. I read this really interesting article today on how some SaaS startups are leveraging Facebook messenger to drive sales. Thought you might find it useful. Cheers!”
A direct message like this leaves the recipient feeling valued - and rightfully so. The networker isn’t promoting their own work, nor are they passive aggressively trying to get the recipient to do business with them.
Instead, the networker is just passing along information that might be useful. Which, bring us to my next point… be useful.
When networking on LinkedIn, be a fountain, not a drain
The entire marketing strategy behind my business, Honey Copy, is to give more than I take. I’ve written nearly 100,000 words on my blog about marketing, copywriting and selling, and I ‘give these blogs away’ free of charge.
This year, nearly 100,000 people will land on my site, and out of these people, a select few will reach out to me about writing and consulting for them.
I’m fortunate to be in a position where this select few pay me handsomely for what I do. But, that has only come after months of giving away more than I have ever taken.
Too many people, both on LinkedIn and other social platforms, are selfish. They’re not fountains. They’re drains. They don’t seek to be of use to others. Instead, they only care about taking, taking and taking some more.
If you’re truly interested in successfully networking on LinkedIn, I’d recommend creating value and giving it away for free . This can be in the form of videos, posts or articles.
If you don’t have the time to create useful content, reach out to one person each week and ask them how you can help them for free.
The point here is to give, give and give. Be a fountain, not a drain.
Treat your LinkedIn profile like your website
Most LinkedIn profiles are shit. The summaries read like a bad autobiography, and the job descriptions sound like something straight out of a computer manual.
Folks who take the time to create a stunning LinkedIn will reap the benefits down the road. Get a professional photographer to take your headshot. Ask a copywriter to write your summary. Come up with a weekly content plan, and publish useful, valuable articles that resonate with your industry.
Treat your LinkedIn profile like your website, because in many ways, it is.
NetworkING with folks on LinkedIn in your city versus miles away
While certainly not in all cases, most of the time you’re better off networking with people in your own city or in a neighbouring city.
For example, I’m based in Nashville, Tennessee. As much as it would be nice to network with other entrepreneurs and freelancers who live in Silicon Valley, I don’t believe that’s the best use of my time.
We’ve been sold this idea that the internet makes everyone ‘our neighbours’ and that’s bullshit. It is much easier to get connected with someone you can meet in person.
Where it concerns LinkedIn networking, I recommend spending the majority of your time building rapport with people you can grab coffee with tomorrow.
I would say if I were to sum up everything we covered today in one sentence, it would be this:
Effectively networking on LinkedIn comes down to being a good, thoughtful human being that puts others before themselves.