What is your hit rate for connecting with people on LinkedIn? Are you making quality connections for your business and professional life? If not, maybe it has something to do with how you are approaching people to be in your inner circle.

When LinkedIn initially became the go to place for professional networking, the approach was to ask people who you knew well to be a part of your network.  They might have been previous colleagues, current colleagues, professional organization contacts or friends.

As the site evolved, the notion of six degrees of separation took hold and the possibility of connecting with someone outside your immediate circle of influence became appealing to the site users.

It sounds like a great idea! The more people I am connected to, the more likely I will be to find that job, person or contact that can help me!

Interestingly enough, three degrees of separation might be more meaningful.

Here is the conflict.

If you connect with people who do not know you, how can they help you and vice-versa?

A possible scenario is John is browsing your contact list and he wants an introduction to Sally. That may sound fine, but what do you do when Paul wants to know something about Sally before he contacts her and she was someone you openly agreed to link in together.

“Well, John, I really do not know Sally, we just have a connection through LinkedIn. I can forward a request for you to connect with her.”

What do you think are the chances that John and Sally will connect any time soon?

Types of Networkers

Depending on your approach to networking, you may have lots of contacts or very few. Do you think the number of contacts really matter if they are simply placeholders in your profile or database or do you actively engage with them on a regular basis?

To understand why someone has more or less contacts, it is important to realize there are different approaches to who connects with whom.

Someone who is considered an open networker on LinkedIn connects with anyone who sends a request to be a part of his or her network. There are no criteria for inclusion or exclusion.

Conversely, someone who is a selective networker establishes their own guidelines for accepting invitations or requesting to be included in someone else’s network.

The rule of thumb is to avoid assuming that everyone operates the same way you do and it might be very different depending on the circumstances.

For example, on Twitter, I connect with anyone who wants to connect; you can connect with me here.

On Facebook, I have two pages, one that is personal and includes people I socialize with or knew way back when and another one for fans of Elephants at Work.

The fan page for Elephants at Work provides a different way for people to connect with a shared community of learning, specifically on how to manage our career and boss more effectively. You can become a fan here.

My LinkedIn account is for people who I know and trust in my professional and personal life. I will share more with you on that in Part 2: Examples of how to and how not to grow your professional network.

Types of Introductions

How are you going to help your two contacts make it work smoothly? The art of making a cold, warm or hot introduction is no different on the phone, in person or online with LinkedIn. Does one approach feel like it might be more successful?

A cold introduction is one where the parties do not know one another and someone takes the initiative to reach out.

A warm introduction occurs when you receive someone’s name from a trusted friend or colleague and the say it is OK to use his or her name when you call the person.

In a hot introduction, your contact facilitates the introduction by either calling or writing the person a personal note to share why they believe it would be beneficial for the two of you to meet.

When someone plays the intermediary role to connect two people, I have found that if you put a comment in about the person (who you know), there is a higher likelihood that someone will take the request seriously.

Let us say you want to connect with someone you do not know. Are there some approaches that fall flat and other approaches that may prove to be more successful?

The answer to this question will be in our next post. It might be entertaining to read what people have to say, you will see some real responses I have received over the years.