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Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network: Leverage Connections

This is the sixth and final post in the series where I’ve shared influence secrets to expand your online network. This week we’ll look at leveraging your connections through social proof and liking.

As I’ve stressed throughout this series; be social and personalize your approach to people. It takes a little more effort but will pay big dividends.

Ask for introductions.

Imagine walking up to someone at a social event and introducing yourself. You see the nametag and say, “Hi Alice. I’m Sam.” Not a bad approach because most people will respond politely. But, there’s a better way.

Imagine a friend making the same introduction for you. “Alice, I’d like to introduce you to a friend and coworker, Sam.”

Which approach do you think will get a warmer reception? Sometimes it’s better to be introduced rather than asking to connect directly. That approach applies online just as much as in person.

If there’s someone you want to meet, ask a mutual connection to make an introduction for you. I benefited tremendously from this last year. I wanted to connect with Patrick Leddin, a leadership podcaster and professor at Vanderbilt. I turned to a former coworker who just happened to be a Vandy grad, to see if he would make an introduction to Patrick. He did so, we connected, and Patrick eventually invited me on his podcast. After hearing me on the podcast, Patrick’s wife, also a professor at Vanderbilt, reached out to ask if I would share a little about using influence in negotiations with her graduate level students. 

I share that story to show the power of good introductions and strong connections. You never know where they’ll lead!

Mention a mutual connection.

You don’t always have to ask for an introduction. Sometimes mentioning a mutual connection is enough to open up the other person. Using a personalized invite try something like this:

Patricia,

I see you and I are both connected to John Peterson. John and I worked together for many years. Anyone in John’s network is worth getting to know so I thought I’d reach out to connect.

This taps into liking – you both know John so it’s easier to connect because of that similarity. Of course, the stronger John’s relationship with Patricia the more likely she is to respond to your request.  

Harness multiple connections. 

When you see you have lots of connections in common harness the power of social proof. The more the better because when people see you’re connected to many people already in their network it’s assumed you too will be a good connection. Here’s another example:

Bob,

When I came across your profile, I noticed we have dozens of connections in common so I thought it would be good to connect with you.

You’ll get more bang for the buck if you mention the names of a few mutual connections who are significant to you. 

Tap Former Associates. 

When you’ve worked for an organization make sure you note that and give more detail whenever possible. I’ve had great success with messages like this:

Kim, 

I started my career at The Travelers right out of college. Fond memories because not only did I get great insurance training…I met my wife there on my first day. I like to stay connected with the company, so I thought I’d reach out.  

When you have lots of connections at the company note that in particular. This is an even tighter approach than just noting connections. This approach also taps into social proof because we’re likely to follow the lead of people most similar to us.

Pat, 

I’ve been in insurance for quite a long time and see that we have a number of connections in common at Westfield. I’m always looking to expand my network, so I hope you’re open to connecting. 

Conclusion

Don’t be lazy! Instead, be thoughtful and influential when you reach out to connect on LinkedIn. Personalizing your request to connect, leveraging liking and/or social proof, and tapping into mutual connections are great ways to up your odds of getting yes responses to your networking attempts. 

If you’d like to go back and review any of the articles in this series visit my website

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network: Romance Them

I’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth a deep dive. When you connect with someone do not try to sell them on anything. Think about dating and use a little romance.

Okay, I’m not talking about real romance but the concept of courting. You don’t meet somebody for the first time and immediately say, “I want to marry you!” In much the same way, as you build relationships online don’t look to get something from someone you’ve just connected with. There needs to be a courtship period where they get to know you and you get to know them. 

Far too many people have a negative view of salespeople because too often salespeople take a shotgun approach and push their product or service on everyone.  They do so without getting to know prospective clients and what their needs are. 

Unfortunately, the same thing happens in the online world. But here’s the reality; good salespeople take time to get to know the people that they interact with. Sometimes they have to say, “What I have to offer won’t benefit you.” Other times they need to modify what they offer to meet the specific needs of the client. But they can never really meet the needs of a prospective customer if they don’t understand the client and that takes time. So, what should you do? 

Spend time looking at someone’s profile.

So much is available right at your fingertips to help you understand the person you’ve connected with. Start with their LinkedIn profile. Find out where they’ve worked, the roles they’ve held, who they know, and people you both know. Check out where they went to college, find out what activities they are involved with, and places they volunteer. Each of these gives you insight into what’s important to that person. 

From there, check out other social media sites – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – to see what you can learn. And, don’t underestimate the power of Google because it might lead you to lots of information outside of traditional social media sites. 

Pay attention to their posts.

You can see someone’s activity right on their LinkedIn home page. When you click on “See all activity” you can check out what they’ve posted, what they’ve commented on, and what they’ve liked. Each of those gives you insight into that individual. 

If the person is someone who has the potential to become a client this is a great way to try to understand what’s important to them and what they value. It allows you to start thinking about who you are, what you offer, and how that combination might help a prospective client.

Take time to comment. 

When someone comments on your post, do your best to reply and acknowledge them. Reciprocity dictates if they took time to read your post and comment then you should do the same. This is a great step towards ongoing communication.

This approach often starts dialog and leads to relationship building. Your comments should not be offers. Look at them as opportunities to engage people in conversation and get to know them. 

When is it right to reach out? 

Only once you know someone can you begin to understand how you might help them. When you begin to get a sense of this then you might want to gently reach out. Maybe send a LinkedIn message like this:

“Sam, we’ve been connected for a while and I’ve noticed based on some of your posts and comments that it’s a high priority for you and your organization that people respect diversity and inclusion. I’m not sure how many of my posts you’ve seen but a good number have been on this topic. Because of that I thought I’d reach out to share a recent article I wrote on D&I. I hope you find it helpful.” 

At the end of the message put a link to the article. This still isn’t asking anything of them. You’re simply sharing content they might find useful. Remember early on in this series I said content was king. This is your opportunity to share something that gives insight into how you think and how you operate. When you start doing this routinely with the right people in a personalized way, it can be a great door opener for you. 

Conclusion

I’m tempted to say all of this is just common sense but it’s too easy to look around and see a lack of common sense. In reality, we’re taught common sense and each of us can learn a few new “dos” and “don’ts” to avoid pitfalls and grow a strong network of LinkedIn connections. 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network: Reach Out

Most things in life that you want, you need to proactively go after. Building your network falls into that category. Unless you have the luxury of being so well-known that your network grows simply by responding to connection requests then you’d better get busy. Start by reaching out. 

Reaching out was mentioned in last week’s post when I encouraged you to be social. Specifically, I said you should personalize your invite requests. This week let’s be a little more strategic about who you might want to reach out to and what you might say.

People You Can Learn From

LinkedIn isn’t just about connecting with people who might become customers in the future. LinkedIn offers a golden opportunity for you to learn from others. The opportunity in this form didn’t exist just two decades ago. In the past, to learn from other people you had to attend or purchase their courses, read their articles in magazines, or buy their books. Now you can read their posts, check out their online articles, and avail yourself to other content for free in most cases. 

When it comes to people you find interesting and can learn from, you can see their content by following them on LinkedIn. However, a better way is to connect with them and build your network. When you reach out to these people make sure you give them a reason. Here’s a sample message: 

“Sam, I’ve seen some of your articles online and read your most recent book. I’ve learned a lot from you and would love to connect so I can follow you more closely and learn more. Thank you for all you do, Brian”

This approach allows the other person to know exactly why you want to connect. By sharing a short message, they also know you’re not looking to get something from them other than learning opportunities. Outreaches like this tap into liking because it’s flattering to get a genuine compliment and I’ve found most people will connect. When they connect be sure to thank them with a short message.

“I appreciate you connecting with me. Have a terrific day! Brian”

People Who Might Become Customers

My niche is influence and most of my clients are in the insurance industry. If there’s an organization I hope to work with in the future, I lay the groundwork by reaching out to people at that company who are in roles I might work with and those who are decision makers.

I take this approach for a couple of reasons. First, I want people to see my profile and realize I might be able to help them. That’s tapping into authority. 

Second, as I start to build a following within the organization and people who work there see I’m connected to many of their peers they’re more likely to accept my request to connect. That’s using social proof. 

Of course, I send a personalized invite. It might go something like this: 

“Pat, I’ve been in the insurance industry for more than 30 years. I see we know many of the same people so I thought I’d reach out to connect. Thanks, Brian” 

When the connection is made, I send a thank you message just in case the person simply hit “accept” and didn’t see my personalized invite. My follow up may look like this:

“Pat, I appreciate the connection. Enjoy the rest of your day. Brian”

It’s short and sweet, and quite often this extra step becomes a conversation starter. A word of caution here, and for your initial invite – DO NOT try to sell anything! This is about growing your network and it starts with relationship building, not selling. You don’t look to get married on a first date so don’t try to sell at this time either. Proposals and sales come later, sometimes much later.

People You Can Help

Networking isn’t just about what you can get. It’s also about what you can give. In the second post in this series, I wrote about creating and sharing meaningful content. Good content will attract people to you. It can also be a door opener for you to reach out.

When you see someone who you’re not connected to comments on something you’ve shared, acknowledge the comment. Next, reach out to connect with them using a personal message.  

“Kim, I saw you commented on my most recent article. Because you liked it, I thought I’d reach out to connect. Thanks, Brian”

I know I sound like a broken record right about now but when Kim connects make sure you respond with a personal message. 

“Kim, thanks for accepting the connection request. I hope you find what I share interesting and valuable. Have a great day! Brian”

If Kim didn’t notice your personalized invite she’s more likely to see that when you do the follow up message. 

Conclusion

Having a good LinkedIn bio is a great start to growing your network because people need a reason to connect with you. However, don’t think your bio will be so good that people will be flocking to you. You have to be proactive if you want to connect with people that you can learn from, people who might be potential customers, and those whom you can help. I encourage you to start today. 

After you read this article, think about what you’ve learned then reach out to at least one person using one of the approaches I’ve outlined. Next, start being systematic in your approach and I think you’ll see these tips will pay big dividends. 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories.  

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

 

Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network: Be Social

The term “social media” goes back to the mid 90s. There doesn’t seem to be consensus on who actually coined the term but it’s safe to say it wasn’t popularized until around 2004, when Facebook came into existence. As more and more social platforms came into existence “social media” became a household term.

Today too much social media seems to be broadcast media. To be sure, you can broadcast and be social but far too much that I see is simply broadcasting. By that I mean, some people share but never socialize. When that’s all you do then it’s media, not social media. What follows are three simple things you can do to put the social back into social media and build a strong network.

Reach Out  

Whenever you reach out, make sure you personalize your request to connect. DO NOT use the default, “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn.” That’s seen as lazy and can come across as spammy because it’s so easy to do. That may not be your intention but nonetheless it might be what the recipient is thinking. 

And don’t use spammy messages like, “Hey, I just saw your profile. You’re amazing. I like to connect with like-minded people to help each other.” Yuck!

Use the person’s name and give a point of connection or pay a genuine compliment. I often get messages like these:

  • “I just finished one of your LinkedIn courses and thought I’d reach out to connect.”
  • “I read your book and would like to learn more, so I hope you’ll accept the connection request.”
  • “We have lots of connections in common. One person in particular is Joe D. He was a huge influence on me. Because of his influence and the mutual connection I thought I’d reach out to you.”

Adopt any of these approaches and your chances of making meaningful connections will go up immensely. 

Accept Connections

Even if someone sends me a default message, I don’t reject them, and you shouldn’t either. They might not know how to use LinkedIn or maybe they sent the request from their phone and didn’t realize they can personalize their message from the phone.

Here’s how you keep it social and build rapport; ask how they found you or why they reached out. 

  • “Pat, thanks for reaching out to connect. How did you come across my profile?”
  • “Chris, I appreciate you reaching out. How did you find me?”  

If someone does put a message in their connection request, acknowledge it!

  • “Sue, I really appreciate you letting me know why you wanted to connect. Most people don’t do that. Kudos!”
  • “Sam, I’m glad you enjoyed my [LinkedIn course, book, recent post]. Thanks for reaching out to connect. I hope you get a lot out of what I share.”

Each of the responses allow you to have authentic communication with people. Most will respond and that’s how you keep it social. 

Engage on Posts

When you post something and people comment, engage them by acknowledging what they had to say. They took time to comment and you should reciprocate by acknowledging them.

  • “Alan, thanks so much for the compliment.”
  • “Jean, I appreciate you taking time to comment.”
  • “Kim, I’m glad you got so much out of the article. Thanks for sharing it with your network.”

On the flip side, take time to share your thoughts on some of the posts your network shares. When you engage that way it’s likely they will engage in return. That’s how you build fans because they start to feel a connection with you.

Conclusion

Taking time to be social on social media is the way to meet great people and grow your network. By taking the approaches noted above I’ve connected with people from all over the world. I’ve also had the good fortune to meet many in person during my travels. The list includes Sean from Ireland, Dave from Scotland, Angela from England, Roger in Austin, Keelan from Chicago, Matt in Phoenix, and many more.  

If you’re not social on social media then you’re missing out on the best part of whatever your preferred platform happens to be.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.

Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network: Content is King

My LinkedIn followers are quickly approaching 10,000. Not bad for someone who isn’t famous. It’s taken a number of years and a lot of work but I’m carving out my niche. If I can do it, so can you. 

What am I doing to consistently build my followers and connections? I’d say the number one thing is content. I’ve shared A LOT of content over the years: blog posts, articles for periodicals, videos, podcasts I’ve been on, and more. As the old parable of the tortoise and the hare teaches; slow and steady wins the race. There are no shortcuts. I started small and continually added new ways to share.

Content is king because it’s your opportunity to tap into the principle of authority. Authority in a nutshell says two people can say the very same thing but the person who is perceived to be an expert is the one who will be listened to and followed. Content is your opportunity to share your expertise and build your online presence.

People will reach out to connect with you when they believe you have something to offer that is of interest or might help them. But it’s not likely they’ll know about your skills, knowledge or expertise unless you’re consistently sharing online. There are lots of avenues for doing this and I’ve listed a few below.

Writing

Writing is a great way to organize your thoughts and share your insights. This can actually help your speaking opportunities when they come about because writing forces you to organize your thoughts. There are many ways to approach writing. Starting a blog, guest blogging for others, or writing articles for different websites are great ways to get the ball rolling. 

Writing a book is an even bigger credibility factor. In fact, it’s huge! Writing a book has nothing to do with speaking but you’ll get more speaking engagements if you’ve published a book. Like a degree, a book is used in the selection process by many organizations looking for speakers. If you approach your writing opportunities in a thoughtful, systematic way you’ll be amazed at the content you’ll accumulate for your first book. 

Speaking

When people hear you articulate your thoughts that’s even more impactful than most writing opportunities. Two ways to get going here would be to start a podcast or connect with podcasters to get on their shows. 

Podcasting is a natural next step in content sharing and it removes the fear of public speaking that so many get when they know all eyes are on them. Most podcasts I’ve been on are very conversational in nature so they’re fun and easy.

Make sure you have something worthwhile to say then target the right podcasts and audiences to get the most bang for the buck.  

Presenting

Take every opportunity you can to get in front of groups to speak! If you don’t like this because you get nervous then join Toastmasters or some other public speaking group. I see this as one step up from podcasts because, in addition to hearing you, people get to see you and that can make you more memorable. There’s an immense credibility factor that comes when you speak and carry yourself with confidence.

Whenever possible, record your presentations because you’ll be able to pull clips to showcase your skills online and with prospective clients. If you can’t get on stage, create your own videos, share clips of online courses you may have done, and look to get on shows that will be recorded. 

Conclusion

A key to increasing your online network is to become a magnet for people. That means you have to be someone people want to reach out to. Your first step is to do whatever you can to showcase your expertise and content is tops in my book. 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories. 

Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.

 

Influence Secrets to Expand Your Online Network

Over the next several weeks I’m going to share influence secrets to help you expand your online network. Why now? As my old boss used to say, “When is the best time to plant a bamboo tree? 50 years ago, because that means it’s fully grown. But, if you didn’t do that then the next best time is today!” 

If you don’t have a strong online network already, then today is the day to start. That’s so because you never know when you’ll need to rely on your connections for help. Waiting until you need help might put you way behind the eight ball vs. having cultivated your network over time. 

Kudos if you already have a strong network. But don’t rest on your laurels. A big network is similar to compounding interest. It’s easier to make money when you already have money and it’s easier to grow a network that’s already large. I bet you’d enjoy having more money and I know you’ll reap the benefits of a larger network.

Large or small, here are a handful of reasons to start focusing on expanding your online network.

Personal Growth

Your network impacts you because you learn and grow from the people you associate with. According to Charlie “Tremendous” Jones, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” With so many people on LinkedIn and so many diverse skills you would have to try hard not to grow if you’re engaging your network.

Engage Reciprocity

It’s not just about what you can get but just as much what you can give. Zig Ziglar put it best, “You can get everything you want in life if you would just help enough other people get what they want.” Sharing your knowledge, skills and content to help people will make them far more likely to help you when you need it because you’ll have engaged reciprocity. 

Door Openers

Your network can open doors for you that might not open no matter how long or hard you knock. We live in the busiest time ever, working more days and longer hours. We need filters and buffers to protect our time. When a trusted connection vouches for you it acts as a filter of sorts, a signal to the other person that they should engage with you. I know I am far more willing to meet someone on the advice of a trusted friend or colleague than a simple cold call. 

Make Friends

There are so many good people to meet beyond what they can do for you. I’ve met many people on social media that I call friends. We may not have done business and we may never do business, but I enjoy them. I’m better off for knowing those people because they’ve enhanced my life. 

Enhanced Authority

I noted earlier that your network is like compounding interest. The larger your network the more social proof you tap into. All things being equal, who would you rather engage with, the person with 300 connections or 3,000? Most people would go with the larger because there’s a host of positive assumptions that come with a large following. 

This week I just wanted to prime you to start thinking about the importance of your network. Next week we’ll start looking at influence approaches to grow your network and online presence. 

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 100,000 people around the world.