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Digital Footprints, LinkedIn Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My


Written by Simon Geraghty.

We were recently asked the questions “Who or what pray tell is a user on LinkedIn with LION in his or her title?”

A LION is a LinkedIn Open Networker, these are users who are quite open about their willingness to connect to anyone, even people they haven’t met before.

So if one type of a LinkedIn member is a LION then I was going to spend some time inventing a new acronym for someone who is fiercely protective of their network, and if I could make it fit into the word Tiger all the better, it shouldn’t be a Cheetah despite their impressive speeds. How about a Bear?

But then I stopped, and thought with the time invested in that rather futile exercise I could finish an entire article on the subject of business networking instead. So we’re left with an accompanying image of a lion tiger and bear, long after their usefulness to this tale has passed us by.

Reflections on Digital Footprints

I started lecturing at the Digital Skills Academy in August 2012, one of the exercises I set the participants was to develop their personal brand, or their Digital Footprint as I term it on the course.

Anyone who expresses an interest in digital marketing should at a minimum have a LinkedIn profile that is well presented, and 100% complete, as well as a presence on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. In the case of the latter, if you’ve decided to maintain it as a purely personal network, as opposed to a professional one, you should actively lock down your privacy settings to keep it as a private circle of friends. A potential employer, client or supplier should not be able to see your snaps of last Saturday’s 21st bash, 30th party, 40th or stag/hen delete as appropriate by Googling your name.

If they can they would have to question your tact at a minimum.

I also recently wrote about my musings on my first year in business which set me thinking about what has been working well, what needs a tweak and what should I stop doing. As part of my stock taking exercise I realised that the lion’s share of my business was driven by my LinkedIn network, LinkedIn connections if nurtured and treated with respect can sustain your business.

The realisation that my livelihood depends to a large degree on this network, in a way that Facebook, Twitter and Google+ do not come close, made me focus on how I treat this group of individuals in a much more considered fashion. My LinkedIn network contains friends, family, colleagues and social connections from a variety of industries over the course of my life.

If your network on LinkedIn is a valuable source of business for you then it is essential you act as a vigilant gate keeper.

Ask yourself who is linking in with you and why? Are they sales professionals, recruiters, nutters who could potentially spam you and your connections?

I had already developed a policy of Linking to few if any recruiters, other than those I’ve met myself over the years. More often than not I believe a recruiter is looking to access my network for their own reasons (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

LinkedIn displays your connections up to the figure of 500 and presents any figure above that as 500+. It also limits the number of invitations you can send out, to my mind the site itself would rather networks high quality personal connections rather than a random network similar to Twitter for example.

Approaches to business networking

I’ll often link with connection s from Facebook and Twitter. My network on Facebook is made up of people I have met face to face, often they are blood relatives or friends of mine since childhood. My Twitter or Google+ connections are a much more random bunch, a collection of largely anonymous individuals, international bloggers, however it is only those I’ve formed a more solid connection with, for example an online conversation which increasingly has turned into offline meetings and introductions whether at any number of business networking events or opportunities that have presented themselves, formal or informal.

Back to our assignment to encourage the participants in the DSA courses to focus minds on the importance of self branding start to self brand a little more  as a result I’m now invited to connect with 80 plus individuals that I don’t really know anything about, other than what they show me in their profile.  My previous class was a group of 20 evening students of whom 15 typically showed up, but over the course of a 12 week term I got to know this group reasonably well, but only within the classroom situation.

The larger group is a different matter, I’m faced with a sea of faces for two hours, some of whom come over for a chat after the lecture. But it dawned on me I don’t actually know any of these people.

Treat Your Connections With Respect and Care

Successful networkers are those who nurture quality connections, in an article written for PearUp (who recently rebranded as RZERV) Alex compared the Irish style networking to that of his US counterparts. The differences boiled down to a style of swift swapping of cards, introductions and elevator pitches versus quality time and genuine conversation with individuals.

Horses for courses, different styles are needed in different situations and depending on what you are selling. Networking at a high footfall trade-show, or where your product or service sells in high volumes, should be about generating a large number of leads or referrals, while smaller networking opportunities should be more measured affairs.

At DotDash, in our current set up we prefer quality over quantity.

(We found this interesting article on the subject over on bitrebels worth reading on the subject of networking at trade shows).

As a result of all of this prolonged reflection I’ll be pruning my LinkedIn network, our paths may cross again, I’ve made some invaluable connections in my working life and I want these to maintain their value.

What are you thoughts on the subject?