Let’s face it. Most of us are not using LinkedIn properly. We mostly let it lie fallow and probably don’t know how to use it to gain power and influence. In this article, I will show you what you should be doing on LinkedIn that you’re probably not doing right now. If you use LinkedIn correctly (and consistently), you will see your power, influence and authority increase over a period of time.
Before I delve into LinkedIn, I’ll show you one of the basic rules of power and influence from Robert Cialdini’s classic book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion:
The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us…. By virtue of the reciprocity rule, then, we are obligated to the future repayment of favours, gifts, invitations, and the like.
The effects of this rule are very powerful. As Robert Cialdini wrote,
The rule for reciprocity was so strong that it simply overwhelmed the influence of a factor-liking for the requester- that normally affects the decision to comply.
In other words, when this rule is used on us, it has the power to alter our behaviour in ways that we don’t expect (e.g. even when we dislike someone). Robert Cialdini illustrated this rule perfectly in the arena of politics:
Political analysts were amazed at Lyndon Johnson’s ability to get so many of his programs through Congress during his early administration. Even members of Congress who were thought to be strongly opposed to the proposals were voting for them. Close examination by political scientists has found the cause to be not so much Johnson’s political savvy as the large score of favours he had been able to provide to other legislators during his many years of power in the House and Senate. As President, he was able to produce a truly remarkable amount of legislation in a short time by calling in those favours.
It is interesting that this same process may account for the problems Jimmy Carter had in getting his programs through Congress during his early administration, despite heavy Democratic majorities in both House and Senate. Carter came to the presidency from outside the Capitol Hill establishment. He campaigned on his outside-Washington identity, saying that he was indebted to no one there. Much of his legislative difficulty upon arriving may be traced to the fact that no one there was indebted to him.
Now, let’s go back to LinkedIn.
Most professionals use LinkedIn as some kind of social media broadcast medium like Twitter and Facebook. They also see it like notches on the bedposts with how many connections they can ‘score’. Unfortunately, this way of using LinkedIn pretty much makes it useless. What is the secret of using LinkedIn correctly?
We all know that LinkedIn is used for “networking”. We all see “networking” as some kind of general activity that we should always do. But do we really know what is “networking”?
To put it simply, “networking” is a means for us to accumulate our favour ‘bank’. Networking is about getting to know who we can be helpful to and who can be helpful to us. (Unfortunately, as mercenary and unethical as this may sound, this is how the world works. In this article however, I’ll leave the application of ethics for you to work out).
Therefore, the value of your LinkedIn network depends on how accurately it reflects whom you want to help and who you find helpful. To make LinkedIn useful for you, you have to think in terms of who you know well enough to bestow and obtain favours. That means you don’t make connections indiscriminately with strangers in order bulk up the number of your connections so that you can show off your ‘networking skills’ and ‘influence’. LinkedIn is for you to build up your network of individuals whom you can call in favours at a later date.