When does it become beneficial to connect with people I do not know? It’s a simple question, yet one that elicits different opinions based on one’s situation.
From a business development viewpoint, it’s important and will always work to your advantage to expand your connections. Besides, what benefit do you gain if you have built a network that’s limited to only people you know?
Connecting with people you do not know allows you to meet prospects, create new clients and expand your business. You increase your visibility, opportunity and marketability. You also extend your reach exponentially when searching for information on a particular subject.
I have a list of developed connections who I have personally known over the years. They are of great importance to me because I can trust them with my business undertakings. However, I also have a large list of connections of people I do not know. I consider them a big window of opportunity and a pathway to new avenues of business.
Having said that, I personally connect with 90-95% of the people I am invited to connect. I become selective when an invitation does not include a profile picture and/or carry a description about them. This means they are not serious about using LinkedIn as a professional business networking platform. In these cases I choose not to connect with them — or ignore the invitation. In reviewing those with a photo and description, I base my “yes” decision on what I see on their profile. The risk is not great. Even after I have connected with an individual, yet later on deem they do not fit my preferences, I have the option to disconnect.
There is little downside to connecting with people you do not know, and there’s potentially a lot of upside. I have stories where my initially unknown connections have been an incredible help to me and others in my network. Since I started on LinkedIn I have practiced and lived by this philosophy, and I can attest I have gained much from it.
Here are two examples that exemplify the win-win of connecting with so-called strangers:
One of my colleagues had a client who was writing a children’s book and needed help in various aspects of the project. She asked me if I knew people who might be able to help. I sent a request to my LinkedIn network, and I received 13 responses Seven responses were from people whom I had never met or known before we connected on LinkedIn. Of the seven, two ended up being exactly who the person was looking for needed. This would have never happened had we not been connected.
Another example was when I was first approached to speak on the power of LinkedIn to BNI organizations in India. I needed to get a travel visa in a hurry. Once again, I turned to my LinkedIn network and one of my unknown connections responded with invaluable information. PLUS, as another great bonus extra, they ended up arranging for a couple of additional presentations for me while I was in India.
I’ll leave you with this thought: If a stranger approaches you at a networking event, would you chat with them? If you would, then how is that different with connecting with a stranger on LinkedIn?
Rick Itzkowich, “Rick I The LinkedIn Guy,” is a genuine people connector. He bridges the two worlds of face-to-face networking and online networking. He understands and practices networking like few others do. As a successful entrepreneur, Rick creates turnkey products that meet today’s demand for tools to increase your business. Learn more about Rick at www.rickitzkowich.com
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