Saturday, April 26, 2014

Handling LinkedIn Invitations From Strangers

Do you go to a conference, social party, or a popular local eatery and walk around the place handing out business cards to everyone?

My guess is that you don't.

But when it comes to the online world, social graces tend to get ignored more often than not, so it's hard not to get a bit irked about having to sift through invitations to connect from total strangers, especially when—after taking the time to look through their profiles—I realize that we have nothing in common, both professionally and as far as personal interests are concerned.


These types of invitations lead me to believe that the only reason they sent me the default "canned" invitation, was so they could grow their contacts list, and if by scanning the profile I confirm those suspicions, I simply ignore the message and (usually) click the "I do not know so-and-so" option.

However, if there are some professional or personal interest similarities, in those cases I may send a short message asking for more information, without accepting the invitation, yet.

The message I usually send reads something like this:

Hi (I use the person's first name),
And thank you for reaching out to me on LinkedIn.
I'm curious to know how people find me. Did you hear about me through a mutual connection or a search, and how do you think we can help each other?
Thanks again, and have a great day!
Luis Hernandez, Jr.

The best (and easiest) way to do this is to use LinkedIn's messaging system. But as great as the system is, to many it can be a little confusing. It took me a little while to figure out how to send a message without first adding the person who invited me.

To open the message inbox, click the little envelope at the top of the page, or the "Invitations" link.


Next, click the down-arrow next to the "Accept" button, and this shows you the option to reply directly to the sender, but without adding him or her to your contacts list.


When replying, you can send a personalized message.


I believe that if the person who sent the invite to connect takes the time to respond to my email, and does so in a professional manner, then they have given me the information and opportunity to make an educated final decision.

As far as my example above is concerned, Mike Shattuck did take the time to reply, so I accepted his invitation.


Note: Since I am a gearhead, I usually accept invitations to connect from people in the automotive industry, without necessarily going through the exercise outlined above. And since Mike works on Porsches and Maseratis for a living—according to his LinkedIn profile—I would've added him to my contacts list regardless.

The same applies to folks involved with e-commerce, the Internet, and marketing, to name a few. Defining your own set of standards is important.


BUT I WANT MORE CONTACTS!

If you are just getting started with LinkedIn, you may be tempted to accept all invitations that come your way. That's not a good idea, in my opinion. The best thing is to allow your network to grow organically over the years, and to remember that having thousands of contacts on LinkedIn is not a popularity indicator.

When I first joined LinkedIn in 2010, I really did not grasp the concept, so I invited a lot of my friends to connect. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, but at one point I started to realize that some of the comments to my posts resembled those on Facebook, so I spent a lot of time deleting inappropriate junk and sending messages to my friends, so they would not be offended. Thankfully, everyone understood.

But as LinkedIn continues to grow and differentiate itself from other social media channels by becoming more of the true professional network it is, you must ensure your contacts—and the resulting network—truly reflects your industry and who you are.

So when it comes to adding contacts to your LinkedIn network, develop a set of standards, and be picky.


Special thanks to Mike Shattuck for granting me permission to use his name, contact info, and screen shots for this article.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Cars I Love: 1948 Buick Streamliner Concept

I found this photo of this rolling piece of artwork, posted on LinkedIn.

The 1948 Buick Streamliner Concept.


Cars I Love are photos of automobiles I find and collect during my journeys around the Interwebs. Whenever possible, I try to credit the source. —Luis

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.

Web Wisdom | April 23, 2014


"Man who say it cannot be done,
should not interrupt man doing it."

Please share if you agree.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Budget Car Collecting

We've all seen TV shows and read magazine articles about beautiful car collections. And if you are a car aficionado, I am sure you wish you could afford to own something like that.

Join the club, my friend.


But lacking the necessary financial resources to own a car collection costing millions of dollars, does not mean that all is lost.

Scale models—from die-cast to plastic to tin metal—are an affordable alternative for the car lover, and all you need to start your collection are just a few bucks.

The toy industry keeps producing affordable toys, and that includes all sorts of vehicles. All you have to do is visit your local Toys R Us, Target, or Walmart, to see the great variety of scale models available.

The least expensive are 1:64-scale models. Prices range from 89 cents to a couple of dollars. Of course the older and rarer the model is, its value can easily reach $100 and beyond.

Here are a three 1:64 scale 3rd generation F-bodies on my desk that keep me company while I work.


1:24 scale is another popular size. However, depending on the manufacturer—as well as age and desirability—prices can vary considerably. I've seen some of the rarer Franklin Mint models sell for hundreds of dollars, while others can be had for reasonable prices.

I just picked up three Franklin Mint Corvettes for around $26 each (including shipping charges). And even though they did not come in the original boxes, they were in almost perfect condition and had the original labels. By the way, those models originally retailed for around $100 each, so I did pretty well with my purchase.



1:18 scale models are another popular size. Bburago and Maisto are two of the most popular manufacturers of "one-eighteen" scale models, but others, such as Greenlight Collectibles also offer many high-quality models, sometimes as limited editions.

I picked up this 1954 Mercedes 300 SL by Bburago at a local swap meet. It was very dirty since it had obviously been used as a toy. But other than the dirt and two missing chrome side-scoops, for $20 it was a no-brainer, so I bought it. After a thorough cleaning and light polishing with a car wax, it looks great on my bookshelf.


The 1989 Turbo Trans Am 20th Anniversary 1:18 scale model by Greenlight, was—much like the real thing—a limited edition. Therefore, prices have gone up significantly over the years. This model originally retailed for $49.95. Nowadays (if you can find one), expect to pay at least 3 times the original amount.

I had to bite the bullet several months ago and buy the one below from a fellow in Canada, since I happen to have the 1:1 model parked in my garage. That's the only reason I bought one. But the attention to detail is quite impressive, so this is not a toy but, rather, a true collectible.


PLASTIC SCALE MODELS

Scale model vehicles are not limited to die-cast metal, of course, although die-casts tend to be of better quality and usually far more detailed than their plastic and tin cousins.

Still, there are plenty of great-looking plastic and tin metal models available, but don't expect cheaper materials to translate into cheap prices. Maybe originally that was the case, especially if they were intended as toys. But toys, although usually produced in large quantities, tend to get destroyed after a while by the small hands that play with them, which means the surviving few will start commanding values far greater than expected.

Scale sizes tend to be different than that of die-casts, at least that's been my experience.

Pictured below are two 1:25 scale plastic models of the 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. These were made by New Bright in Hong Kong. And even though they took a few creative liberties with the body style and decals, they actually are very well made, good looking scale models of the original, with prices ranging from $10 for rough copies to $40 and beyond for never-played-with, new-in-box models.


One thing worth noting is the fact that you can also purchase the kind of plastic scale models you have to assemble, and even though I have several of those, they have remained in their boxes waiting for the day when I will have the time to glue them together.

TIN METAL SCALE MODELS

Like plastic models, tin metal toy vehicles are not as detailed as die-cast collectibles.

Since I happen to love 3rd generation Pontiac Firebirds, I started collecting some of the 1:16 scale models by Ertl a while ago. Prices for these models range from $25 to $40 for models in good to excellent condition without the box, to $100 and above, for NIB models.



Recently during the Spring Turkey Run in Daytona Beach, I spotted an Ertl Fall Guy pickup truck, in the original box (The Fall Guy was a 1980s TV series, starring Lee Majors and Heather Thomas).

Even though the truck and box were not in mint condition, I made a $20 offer to the seller, which he accepted (he was asking $25). This was during the last day of the 3-day event.

The funny thing is that during the morning of the first day, I had stopped by his booth and spotted the model. When I inquired about the price, he told me that he would take $75. I mentioned that someone had scribbled $14 on the box at some point, and he laughed and said that it probably was the price someone wanted 20 years ago.

I did not make an offer at that time, even though I happen to have the Fall Guy Firebird (no box). But on the last day of the show, his price had come down considerably, so he just accepted my $20 offer and I was able to add this cool piece to my growing scale-model collection.



So there you have it. Scale models are a very affordable way to stay connected to the car hobby and—if you are a smart shopper—you can start your own "garage" without breaking the bank or going into debt.

And even though I only mentioned 1:64, 1:25, 1:24, and 1:16 scale models, there are other scale sizes available, all the way to the huge 1:10 scale. I happen to favor the ones I mentioned, but you may want to devote your attention to a particular size.

Die-cast scale models can be found online and at major retail stores, but the best deals are usually hiding in plain sight at car swap meets or garage sales. I've even found a few interesting pieces for my collection at the Goodwill Store.

Of course we all dream of one day owning a 4,000 square-foot garage that will house our full-size collector car collections, and I hope that one day you will attain that dream. But in the meantime, give these "little guys" a chance. Besides, you will need them to decorate your dream shop.

Web Wisdom | April 21, 2014


10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion.
90% are due to wrong tone of voice.

Please share if you agree.