Once you build out your profile, you can start to connect with people by inviting them to accept you as a connection. You can do this one at a time, or upload an entire contact list and broadly send invitations.
I’ve found that different people feel differently about how well they should know someone before they connect with them. Because I’m letting them into my network and they will see my other connections, my rule is that I need to have personally met or connected with everyone on my list in some way. I don’t accept connections from people I don’t know, or especially from sales people who I have never met.
As you start to build out your connection list, it’s important to keep it current and organized. Every time I meet someone by phone or get their email address I send them an invitation with a personal note to remind them where we met. Whenever I meet someone and get a card I send them an invitation. A LinkedIn tool that makes this very easy is CardMuch. This is a mobile app that lets me take a picture of a business card, automatically verifies the information, and then invites them to connect on LinkedIn. By scanning and inviting people the same day that I meet them, a very high percentage of the people I invite connect with me.
Once I got several hundred LinkedIn connections, I found that it became very difficult to remember everyone on the list. A very useful tool in LinkedIn is categorizing people on your list. I create custom categories such as “friend”, “family”, “client”, prospect”, “employee”, “vendor”, “competitor”, “church”, etc. to keep my contacts organized. I even create custom names for associations or organizations that remind me where I met my contact. You can see that I use LinkedIn for both personal and business connections, since it’s a powerful way to stay in touch with everyone I know.
Since I’ve been using LinkedIn for years, I’ve found that there are people on my list who I met once and don’t remember well and may have no reason to contact again. Rather than disconnecting with them, I move them to a category I call “network”, so that I can still reach out to them in the future, but they don’t clutter my other lists.
By consistently adding new contacts and keeping them organized, I’m able to quickly reconnect with hundreds of people that I’ve met as needed. If you cultivate it well, this can be a powerful asset that will serve you well through your entire career.
Here’s a link to the full video from my LinkedIn Presentation. http://youtu.be/Vx8oBSW7YKo