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In a digital world, we no longer need to meet people in person to establish a relationship. It’s made possible thanks to the Internet and social media, and could take place in any format. But how do you overcome the lack of personal experience and leverage the power of social network sites, such as LinkedIn, to establish rapport with people you don’t know? And how do you use those relationships to boost your career?
Part 1: The Approach
1. Define Your Goal and Expectations
What do you expect to get out from this experience? Is the person you are contacting a potential lead for your dream company? Does he or she have a job you’ve dreamed of, or work in the industry you want to break into? Does he or she know someone you are dying to know, or currently hiring? You want to establish this rapport for a reason, and clearly defining your goal helps you stay on the course and maximize the outcome. Are you requesting an informational interview, asking to be put in touch with someone, or do you think this person an ideal candidate to speak at your school club? Be specific about how they can help you, and never leave it open to let them figure out, because chances are they won’t – they’ll just pass.
2. Find Something You Have In Common
When you meet a stranger, wouldn’t it be a huge ice breaker if you find out you are from the same town? One effective way to establish virtual rapport with strangers is to find something you have in common, or something you can relate them to. Did you go to schools in the same city? Do you have mutual connections? It will be easy if you do: ask to get introduced! (A sweet note here: Given an intro message on LinkedIn could only be either forwarded or declined, you may want to message this mutual connection first). What if you just can’t discover anything you have in common? Well, research their company. Did they hit the news headlines recently? Do they work with some clients that you consider super cool? Just anything that demonstrates you’ve done thorough research before you reach out.
3. Keep It Short and Sweet
People are busy, and tend to have short attention span online. So in your initial message, cut to the chase and be concise (assuming you’ve already passed the request-to-connect stage). Also, offer the times and means that work best for you to continue the talk. You always want to make it as easy as possible for them.
If you get a reply, awesome! But it shouldn’t end here. It’s now time to think about next steps and nurture this relationship. Here are several things you can do.
Part 2: The Follow Up
1. Follow Up to Thank Them for Their Time
A thank you note is a must. They spent their time helping you and it deserves appreciation. Follow-through shows your reliability, professionalism, and consistency. You don’t want to be on the block list, after all.
2. Follow and Interact with Them on Social Media
Tweet them about things they’d be interested in, favorite their tweets, and comment their posts on LinkedIn. This will help you increase your visibility and let them remember you.
3. Keep Them Posted
Did you eventually get the job they passed your resume for? Have your changed positions since you last talked? Keep them posted! If you want to keep a lot of professional connections posted, consider sending them newsletters. It’s creative and personal. A great tool to produce and send pretty newsletters is MailChimp.
4. Ask If They Could Put You in Touch With Other People
You never know if the next conversation is going to open a door for you, so don’t be afraid of making it happen. You’ll get there!
What did you do to establish rapport with people on LinkedIn? Share with us in comments below!