Once you commit to building a social network around a business or a cause, you will find that your network can be an essential tool in a variety of areas. For example, you can use it to:
1. Build a base of potential prospects and partners to grow your business/cause
2. Identify experts and colleagues that can remove roadblocks and add value
3. Find qualified future team members and/or employees
4. Create idea flow and innovation in your business, cause and life
5. Build confidence in your access to opportunities and ideas
Getting full functionality from your network does require that you spend time each day priming the pump in each specific area. For example, here are just a few things you can do with specific aspects of your network:
1. Prospect and partners
When you land on an interesting profile, save it in an appropriate folder*. One good way to find profiles of interest is to review the connections that your network makes twice a day. You then can save the profiles of the most interesting connections that the people in your network are making. (Hint: You can click to see more updates and review the list of connections on the right side of screen.)
When you face a challenge, use your network to search for experts in that area. One way to do that is to label one of your folders Partners and then add experts to that file on a regular basis. When you run into a problem, combine people search tools with a review of your Partners file to find specific advisers and problem solvers.
3. Finding team members and employees
Similar to the guidance offered in the Expert section above, create a Talent file and then populate it as you encounter people who might be of interest to you in the future. This is what good recruiters do, so why not do the same yourself? You will need to decide on how you will qualify candidates. For example I use a geographic filter and only save contacts who are in cities and countries where I am doing business. In this economic environment I also recommend that you pay special attention to people who are underemployed. These people could be in a position to help you grow your enterprise or cause by initially working on a part time basis and then going full time as the venture expands.
Coming in a future blog: Some examples for categories 4 and 5 listed above.
*Many of the activities I have described here are significantly easier to manage if you become a basic subscriber to LinkedIn. At that rate you are provided with 5 folders for saving individual profiles. If you are not a subscriber, these recommendations require a few more steps but they are of course still feasible.