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The LinkedIn networking challenge

June 4, 2010

[See results from the Linkedin networking challenge in 2011.]

Everyone knows LinkedIn is a serious, business-oriented social network. And yet, people are baffled by it.

“I have a profile, but I don’t do anything on LinkedIn.”

“What is LinkedIn good for?”

In March, I began a daily challenge to find out. The LinkedIn networking challenge.

The process, part 1: I would contact three connections in LinkedIn every day. To simplify the process, I exported my 500-plus connections into a spreadsheet, adding two more columns. The first column lists the date I contacted that person. The second column has a check mark if that person ever responded.

The letter: So what do I say when I contact three people each day? I look at their profiles (of course!) and see what they’ve been up to. Not surprisingly, many profiles are thin, little more than a few recent job titles. LinkedIn users may have signed in once or twice, threw together a profile then … let it go.  Even worse, they’ve changed jobs and still show their previous job as current. Or leave a primary e-mail address that no longer works.


I ask them the same things I would ask them in person or by phone:

  • How are you?
  • What’s new at work? At home?

That’s it, basic networking. No sales pitch. Really, nothing about me. (Heck, my super-snazzy multimedia LinkedIn profile will tell them what they need to know. Literally.)

The process, part 2: Some responded through LinkedIn. Some responded via e-mail. Some never responded. But I followed up with every single person who replied. (I also marked that they replied in my spreadsheet.)

Many politely asked about me: How’s work? What do I do? How am I doing? Naturally, I talked about my job, my projects and my busy, busy life. Again, no sales pitch needed. It’s important that I share what I do and how much I love it. It’s also important for me to offer ideas, tips and questions to see if their business needs help.

I’m here to learn. I’m here to listen. And I’m here to help.

The results: I thought maybe a third might respond to my LinkedIn e-mails. I was wrong.

More than 61 percent have replied, usually within a day or two (though some let those e-mails sit around for up to 2 months).

It has not resulted in new work. Yet. But I have learned a lot about my friends on LinkedIn. New jobs, new duties, new cities, new babies. Perhaps the most shocking was learning about a friend whose wife is about to have an operation to remove a brain tumor. He detailed the strain it has put on his family, yet maintained a positive outlook in the tone of his message.

How grateful I am that he shared his update with me. He could’ve skipped the reply: Certainly, he has far more important things to tend to. Or he could’ve replied with the pleasant exchanges we do so well in the South.

And yet, he went above and beyond. It has been an eye-opening conversation.

• The lessons so far: By spending about 20 minutes a day writing and replying to LinkedIn contacts, I am deepening my connections with my friends. (And I don’t let any strangers into my LinkedIn network. If we haven’t met in person, you can’t come in.) I wouldn’t try to have strictly business conversations through my Facebook profile. But I’ll gladly start the ball rolling in LinkedIn.

And as I’ve made a habit of checking in on LinkedIn each day, I add more trusted friends to my network. By the time I’m done with my first round of LinkedIn e-mails (sometime in the  fall), I’ll have added at least a couple hundred more connections. So I’ll start from the beginning of the list and e-mail again, focusing on those who replied and those who are new.

By figuring out where my network is most responsive, I can concentrate future efforts on that core group. No one gets dropped as a connection because they don’t respond to me, but now I can spend time working with those folks who want to discuss business challenges and solutions.

By spending time each day reconnecting with people on LinkedIn, I’m planting the seeds today for future opportunities.

That is deliberate, personal, business-oriented, serious, hands-on networking.

How are you using LinkedIn to build your business?

Photos by smi23le.

• • •

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. Monica E permalink
    June 8, 2010 12:49 pm

    Thank you for your kind words, thoughtfulness and dinner. The world needs more kind people like you.

  2. DavidS permalink
    June 10, 2010 3:37 pm

    Following your example here has led to a couple of good conversations with folks I haven’t seen or heard from in ages. Thanks for the simple but powerful tip.

  3. June 12, 2010 5:30 pm

    Great overview, Wade. I have not even ever ventured onto Linked In, but have been curious about it. It’s good to hear how it works (basically a Facebook for business, I gather?), and it sounds like you’re really investing some quality time into it.

    I’m not sure it would benefit me at my stage of life (working for my husband’s company and blogging and trying to cut back on all of my outside commitments due to my growing (literally) home commitments), but you made me want to check it out at some point anyway.

    • June 13, 2010 9:02 pm

      Rachel: I wouldn’t liken LinkedIn to Facebook, even with recent changes to make it more “Facebook-ish.”

      There’s no need to add one more social network to your pile. Yes, it’s free. Yes, it can be fun or good for business. LinkedIn is littered with inactive accounts (like any other network). It’ll be around for awhile, so try it, but don’t feel like you have to jump on board right away.

  4. Louisinagirl91 permalink
    September 30, 2010 4:30 am

    Hey thanks for the insight. I’m glad to know that I wasn’t too far off track with some of my activity on LinkedIn. If I really gave it some thought about my activity on Linkein, I’d have to say that I’ve spent most of my time giving advice to folks about revamping their resumes to move into a career in athletics.

    I’ve always seen Facebook as a ‘fun, keep up with my real friends’ kind of place, compared to LinkedIn where I see it as a more ‘business type’ interaction. I think based on your research I’m going to do one of my own and compare my friends on LinkedIn to those on Facebook. I’m interested to see the real reason for the connection and how often I connect with them on either site. I will say that I’m one of those people who send emails to friends to check on them anyway, so LinkedIn just gives me one more reason to check in…especially when their profile shows a new job title or change. So I suppose I was already a social networker long before these sites came along. I’m fairly new to Facebook (two years, maybe?) and even newer to Twitter, just this past April. LinkedIn is somewhere in between.

    I will certainly agree that I’m one of those who don’t really ‘update’ LinkedIn. I update Facebook first, but I’ve rarely updated anything on my LinkedIn profile. Instead, I’ve used it to interact and make it more about others than about myself. I suppose I need to do a better job of ‘promoting’ my ‘business self’ on LinkedIn. Thanks for the thought-provoking article.

    • September 30, 2010 10:52 pm

      Glad to see you testing out LinkedIn. It’s not about when you entered a social network — it’s about what you do with it.

      Thanks for your comments!

  5. December 11, 2011 3:07 am

    I have just recently gotten a start on Linkedin and it can easily be a daunting task.
    Thank you for your clear and concise “Guide to LinkedIn.”
    I intend to implement my own networking challenge in short order.


    280 PC


  1. What does it mean to be influential in social media? « Birmingham Blogging Academy
  2. The LinkedIn networking challenge: results « Birmingham Blogging Academy
  3. The personal touch on LinkedIn | Birmingham Blogging Academy
  4. LinkedIn for smarties, a five-step program | Birmingham Blogging Academy

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