Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My LinkedIn Experiment

During the past several weeks, I've read many articles on how to grow my LinkedIn network, and most suggest crafting and sending a custom message to those you invite to join, instead of sending the default message.


Having been a LinkedIn member for several years, I have over 3,000 contacts, and most of them are in related industries since it's never been my intention to connect with people outside my areas of interest. Of course there are probably a couple hundred who are in unrelated fields, but at least 90% of my contacts are in industries that I am—or have been—involved with.

I would estimate I spend anywhere from 1 to 2 hours a day checking and updating my social media channels, but the bulk of that time I spend on LinkedIn.

Out of all the social channels I participate in, I've found that I get the most activity and interaction out of LinkedIn and that, certainly, keeps me interested in participating.

But back to the subject matter of this post...

Inviting people to join your network is easy, and all you have to do is start clicking away on the "People You May Know" page. Of course how many suggestions are presented to you will be in direct proportion to the number of connections you have established, so if you're just getting started, you will have to establish a few connections with friends, co-workers, and other LinkedIn members you know or do business with, and this will activate the "suggestion algorithm" which will ultimately give you ideas as to who to invite.

My respectful suggestion is to be picky when developing your contact network. Adding anyone and everyone is not a good idea, in my opinion. Stick to your industry and areas of interest, and—most important—allow your network to grow organically. As you add more contacts, your profile will start popping up in other people's suggestion pages, and you will also start receiving invitations.

So how do you invite people to join your network?

Simply click the "People You May Know" link and start reading profiles. Once you find someone you'd be interested in connecting with, you have the option to send the default "canned" message or a personalized invitation. I have to admit that for the most part I've used the default message, and that prompted this 24-hour "experiment."

To send the default invitation all you have to do is click the "Connect" button and that will take care of the rest. As a matter of fact, you don't even have to bother with reading the person's profile (I think LinkedIn should change that). Once you click the "Connect" button the default "Join my network on LinkedIn" message is sent and you can move on to the next person.


However, if you actually know the intended recipient, you may want to write a personal note, and to do that you have to click the little "paper and pen" icon next to the "Connect" button.


When you do that, a text field opens, and you can write a custom message. You can add your text to the default blurb already there, but I prefer to write a fresh, new message.



Even though you can write whatever you want in this field, you will be limited by the number of characters the field allows, but you can still craft a nice custom message. After you're done writing, click the "Send Invitation" button and you're done.


Again, after reading many articles about LinkedIn, the common theme was that custom messages are the way to go, and that prompted me to conduct my own test.

Before I share my results let me clarify that this was done in an arbitrary manner, as I have little idea on determining how to establish a target audience that would provide results that would make statistical sense. But having said that, I am sure the same rules apply to most everyone who claims that one way of inviting others to connect is better than the other.

Another "variable" is the fact that not every LinkedIn member I chose to invite (for this test), may have been online during the 24-hour window, and that can have a huge effect on the results. If past experience has taught me anything, I learned long ago that some people you invite can take weeks (if not months) to finally join my network. I assume that this is due to people not using LinkedIn as frequently as they use other social media networks.

So here are the details as to how many people I invited as part of this experiment. I want to make it clear that those I chose would've been invited regardless since they all would be valuable additions to my network.

I divided potential contacts into nine groups of five members each. All invitations were sent between 9:30-11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. The groups and metrics were divided as follows:

GROUP ONE
  • I did not read the profile. Just made sure it was the right industry from the tagline.
  • Members and I shared from 1 to 24 connections in varied industries.
  • I sent the default message.
GROUP TWO
  • I did not read the profile. Just made sure it was the right industry from the tagline.
  • Members and I shared from 25 to 50 connections in varied industries.
  • I sent the default message.
GROUP THREE
  • I did not read the profile. Just made sure it was the right industry from the tagline.
  • Members and I shared from 51 to 100+ connections in varied industries.
  • I sent the default message.
=====

GROUP FOUR
  • I read each profile and made sure it was the right industry and/or areas of shared interests.
  • Members and I shared from 1 to 24 connections in varied industries.
  • I sent the default message.
GROUP FIVE
  • I read each profile and made sure it was the right industry and/or areas of shared interests.
  • Members and I shared from 25 to 50 connections in varied industries.
  • I sent the default message.
GROUP SIX
  • I read each profile and made sure it was the right industry and/or areas of shared interests.
  • Members and I shared from 51 to 100+ connections in varied industries.
  • I sent the default message.
=====

GROUP SEVEN
  • I read each profile and made sure it was the right industry and/or areas of shared interests.
  • Members and I shared from 1 to 24 connections in varied industries.
  • I sent a personalized message.
GROUP EIGHT
  • I read each profile and made sure it was the right industry and/or areas of shared interests.
  • Members and I shared from 25 to 50 connections in varied industries.
  • I sent a personalized message.
GROUP NINE
  • I read each profile and made sure it was the right industry and/or areas of shared interests.
  • Members and I shared from 51 to 100+ connections in varied industries.
  • I sent a personalized message.

The personalized message I usually utilize is as follows:

Hi (I use the person's first name),
I came across your profile here on LinkedIn and see that we share a few things in common, so I thought I'd drop you a line to say hello and invite you to look at my profile and maybe add each other to our professional networks.
Thanks,
Luis Hernandez, Jr.

I know I am not going to win a Pulitzer for that one, but it gets to the point and within the allotted number of characters. And it certainly tells the recipients that it was crafted for them since I use their first name.


THE RESULTS

So here's what happened after 24 hours. Again, these numbers are bound to change in the coming days and weeks, but these are the results I've extracted out of my little experiment, so far:
Group One: One member accepted my invitation.
Group Two: No connections.
Group Three:  No connections.
Group Four: One member accepted my invitation.
Group Five: Two members accepted my invitation.
Group Six: No connections.
Group Seven: Two members accepted my invitation.
Group Eight: Three members accepted my invite.
Group Nine: One member accepted my invitation.
So, apparently, reading the profiles has little or no bearing as to whether a member will or won't accept your invitation to connect. This was the case with Groups One, Two, and Three (I did not read the profiles), versus Groups Four, Five, and Six (I did read the profiles).

The reason I used this as a variable, was to see if people actually look through their own records, to see if the person asking to join their network has taken the time to read their profile. When comparing the two groups, the score is 3 to 1, where Groups Four, Five, and Six scored higher than Groups One, Two, and Three.

I'd love to be able to tell you without a shadow of a doubt that looking at each profile helps with the acceptance of the invitation, but I am unable to do so. And, although Groups One through Three show that out of a grand total of fifteen invitations sent only ONE person actually joined my network, versus Groups Four through Six, which generated THREE new connections out of the same number of invites, one can only assume that looking at a profile may actually help.

Moving on to the last three groups, the ones that were sent the personalized messages, out of fifteen invitations sent, SEVEN people accepted my invitation to join my network within the same period of time, which clearly shows that writing a custom note does make a difference.

But one last variable or factor that must be considered is the current "popularity" of your target. By that I mean that from looking at the data I collected for this test, LinkedIn members with less than 500 members in their own networks were more likely to accept my invitation to connect, where members with 500-plus member networks were not as likely.



Again, time may have an effect on the results, but it is reasonable to assume that current members with fewer members may be more open to adding you to their networks.

So there you have it. I hope this little experiment will give you a few ideas on what the best approach may be for you to grow your LinkedIn network. But it is clear that taking the time to write short, personalized messages, does work.