Business’ Dirty Little Word 

Everyone wants to do it. Everyone wants to be it. And, so everyone uses it. Ad nauseum. They place it in front of other words to make what they do or sell, or how they think, sound smarter. They get confused or defensive when someone else uses it in a different context or in a different discipline. There are any number of levels to play it. From the executive suites to the people on the front lines.

The word is “strategy” or “strategic”.

So, let’s assume that everyone is.

How do you think, what do you do or what do you make that sets you apart?

Cold Calling on LinkedIn? Offer Up A Strong Handshake


How would you feel if you walked into a meeting, and the person introducing himself for the first time offered you a floppy handshake? Maybe he doesn’t even look you in the eyes…That’s how I feel when someone that I don’t know sends me the default LinkedIn invite. I feel even more irritated when someone I don’t know sends me a default invite on a more personal social network like Facebook or Foursquare – networks where I share pictures of my family and my physical location.Yes, social networks have increased the size and efficiency of our personal and professional networks. But, don’t be mistaken: they haven’t changed the best practices of networking. In the end, you’re still building and managing relationships with real people. Effort and attention still mean a lot; there’s no room for laziness in social media. So, here is a quick guide to introducing yourself on LinkedIn.

Get InMail

First of all, instead of asking someone to join your network without them knowing anything about you or having had any experience with which to judge you (and, they are judging), send them an InMail. InMail is LinkedIn’s in-network email. It allows you to send messages to people you are not connected with. This will give you more characters to write a more complete introduction.

Grab Their Attention

Subject line matters. Identify the 1-3 main points you want to make and write them in the subject line (limit to about 50 characters). If you’re selling a product/service, I suggest including the name of your company as one of the points in the subject line.

Make It Short and Sweet

People are busy. They have a short attention spans. So, get to the point and make it easy for them to understand what you want and whether or not they’re interested. I like to limit my introductory emails/InMails to 3 paragraphs and under 10 sentences.

  • 1st Paragraph – Introduce yourself. Who are you? From what company? (don’t assume people will look at your profile to figure it out)
  • 2nd Paragraph – Why are you contacting them? Would you like to discuss a potential partnership? Have a product/service that they might find useful? Interested in their career and would like a 10 min call for advice?
  • 3rd Paragraph – End with a “yes”/”no” question (i.e. a call to action).

I love emails where all I have to answer is “yes” or “no”. Unfortunately, I rarely get them, but I do try my best to write them.

If You’re Using a A Basic LinkedIn Account and Don’t Want to Pay for InMail

Then, you have 300 characters (or about 3 sentences) to make your introduction. I suggest following an abbreviated version of the outline above.

  • 1st sentence – Introduce yourself
  • 2nd sentence – Why are you contacting them?
  • 3rd Sentence – Ask to add them to your network on LinkedIn

If they accept, then you can follow up directly with an email or call.

Have you received or made cold calls on LinkedIn? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Practice Social RECIPROCITY, not Social MEDIA

As Gary Vaynerchuk so astutely pointed out in this video, “social media” is a misnomer. The word “media” makes brands think that they can still push out their messages and advertisements like they have for decades through traditional media, but now they’ll earn some kind of positive, “viral” reaction just for doing so through social media. Not the case – not by a long shot.

Here’s what traditional advertisers and brands don’t seem to understand: social media isn’t about pushing out messages or distributing amazing branded content or even about innovation in technology. It’s about human behavior. It’s about creating efficiencies in, and scaling, basic human behavior. Or, as Ted Rubin so aptly says, “Please, please remember… Social media is NOT about tools or technology, but about PEOPLE.”

To paraphrase “The Thank You Economy”, it’s a big world out there, but social media makes it a small town. And, you better mind your manners.

I named my blog “Reciprocity Theory” because it keeps me focused on the human intuition that powers social media: RECIPROCITY.

People inherently want to do business with people (and companies) that they enjoy doing business with. If you’re going to spend the vast majority of your time at work, don’t you want to spend that time with people you connect with? Same goes for consumers. They want to buy products and services from companies that they connect with – companies that value their customers and show it. Social media empowers brands to connect with their customers in a scalable, yet personal way.

Zappos is the pinnacle of reciprocity. They have built a billion dollar company by developing a culture focused on delivering happiness. They deliver happiness to their customers, sure. But, they deliver happiness to their employees and partners first. Every year, every employee and vendor gives their honest assessment of the company, and all those perspectives – good and bad – get published publicly in their culture book. The company truly listens to, and cares about, its people and partners, and that culture of caring – of delivering happiness – trickles down to Zappos’ customers. It’s a reciprocal effect of epic proportions. (Side note: if every business and marketing professional read Tony Hsieh‘s book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose”, the world would be a better place…honestly).

I always say that small to mid-size companies are better structured than large companies to take full advantage of social media’s power. That’s because social is a real-time medium, and practicing social reciprocity means trusting and empowering your team to make decisions in the customers’ best interests, in real-time. That starts in the c-suite. It starts with the company’s visionary. Only s/he can decide to reinvent the company’s culture and make customer caring and innovation a priority, and hold his/her team accountable for developing that culture. That’s easier to do for the owner of a local coffee shop or president of a privately owned, boutique hotel group than it is for the CEO of a publicly owned, Fortune 500 company. But, that shouldn’t stop the latter from trying! Because the effects of social reciprocity are well worth the efforts.

I discussed the ROI and opportunities presented by participating in social media here. Ultimately it comes down to what Ted Rubin likes to call ROR (“Return on Relationship”). “Relationships ARE the new currency”, says Rubin – “honor them, invest in them, & reap the benefits!”

Social media isn’t so much an investment in money, as it is in time and relationships. Care about your customers. Develop a corporate culture that cares about its customers. Then, use social media to practice social reciprocity.