In one of the first conversations I had with the Editorial Director of a major publishing house about my book, she asked if I did any kind of social networking or blogging to help self-promote myself. This was back in December of 2009 and at that time I had to say, “No.” My entire social networking experience up to that point was a single LinkedIn account with an unfinished profile and 255 personal contacts made over the course of my professional life. In January I decided to “test the waters” of social networking to see how successful I could be in “building my network.”
The first thing I did was finish my LinkedIn profile and began joining groups. I created a blog on WordPress, opened a facebook account and joined the opennetworker.com website. Actually, I have three more blogs that are identical to the WordPress blog. WordPress is my main blog site and the statistics I’ll be reporting are all from that site alone. The other sites either don’t track stats or don’t make them available.
Opennetworker.com is an incredibly useful resource. Let me quote from the opennetwork.com website:
OpenNetworker.com is THE secret of how to build larger, more diverse, and more valuable networks on the world's top social networking sites.
People who are part of OpenNetworker.com are people like you - people who know the incredible value of being open to new opportunities and new connections.
They are the most helpful and connected people on any social networking site.
By enrolling in the opennetworker service you place you name on invitation lists to any of the major social networking sites you choose. Before you sign up for a social networking site, make sure you are actually a member of that site first. When I signed up, I used the open networker list for LinkedIn to send out my first 1,500 invitations. In one week, I jumped from my 255 connections to over 2,000! Almost everyone accepted although I did have a very small number of bounced invitations because of bad email addresses. About 200 people didn’t respond at all. Opennetworker.com is not free. There is a small, highly affordable annual charge to use the resource.
You may not be aware of this, but LinkedIn has a cap on the number of invitations you are allowed to send out. The limit is 3,000. The real secret to becoming a LION, which is an acronym for LinkedIn Open Networker, is to attract people to you! Three thousand invitations run out rather quickly. After you run out, LinkedIn will increase the number in increments of 500, but getting them to do so is as easy as extracting teeth without anesthetic. As of today, I have 4,756 LinkedIn contacts which gives me a network with over 1.3 million at the second level. Sixteen percent of these contacts are in the IT industry. for someone who has just written an IT book, this is a huge potential market of over 200,000 people!
You may be asking, “How did he build such a huge network in a few short months?” Here’s how I did it. During the month of January I wrote 25 blog posts on an eclectic variety of topics. That month I had 625 readers with 80 recorded on the highest day. I didn’t write any blog posts from the end of January until May 14th. This is when I was writing my book. Even so, I had 186 readers during the quiet months. Since May I’ve had 908 readers to date. This is a total of 1,719 readers since starting my blog. Since I have no way of knowing the numbers the other sites produce, this metric may be significantly higher. For an author this is most encouraging!
Every time I write a blog article, I post a link to it on LinkedIn, Facebook (714 friends) and tweet it on Twitter (236 followers). I also post in various LinkedIn groups if the topic is appropriate to the groups’ posting rules. Always obey group posting rules. I generally see a spike in the number of readers on posting days, sometimes reaching 50 or more. Besides the blog posts, I also answer as many expert questions as I can on LinkedIn and participate in as many group discussions as possible. A polite introduction of yourself is welcome in most groups. Using this strategy I get more than 100 invites per week and build my overall network by over 20,000 per week. I estimate I’ll go over the 5,000 contacts mark by the end of September.
I’ve heard a lot of people stand up at networking groups in the Raleigh area to introduce themselves and mention they only accept LinkedIn invitations from people they’ve met personally. While I understand this is their preference, I believe its not a forward thinking preference. These folks generally fear they’ll be inundated with spam. There certainly is a small percentage of spam that reaches you, but from my experience, the percentage really is miniscule.
Open networking has allowed me to meet people, make new friends and has led to diverse opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Since I became an open networker, I’ve received invitations to speak, have met some very interesting and successful people over breakfast, coffee or lunch and have had doors open for me that I didn’t know existed. The one common characteristic that I’ve observed of all open networkers that I’ve met is their willingness to help others succeed. If an open networker can open a door for you, he/she will. And so will I.