Though I will be discussing LinkedIn specifically this connection management concept is definitely applicable for any networking you do.
LinkedIn unfortunately doesn’t provide a good way to manage your connections, so I’m going to give you some ideas on how to do it off-line. This will in turn provide a backup of your connections list just in case something happens to your account.
Because of the way this operates you should still regularly back up your LinkedIn connection’s list to your system unless you are manually adding each of your new connections as you get them. This is necessary since there is no way to synchronize the new additions to your original downloaded list.
Step #1 – Download your connections from LinkedIn
This is very simple to do.
Click on the “Connections” link under “Contacts” in the right hand menu.
Now scroll to the bottom of this page and look in the white border for the link “Export connections.” Click that link.
Now chose the file type from the drop down menu – I would chose the “Microsoft Outlook (.CSV)” file unless you are using one of the other products.
Now type in the security code and “Export.”
This will save the file to your hard drive where you can open it with Excel or import it to your database program.
Step #2 – Clean up the file
Open your connections file in Excel – you can use Excel as your management tool if you want. Excel provides a simple inexpensive way to manage your contacts and will work just fine for this purpose. Better of course would be use a contact management system like ACT or Maximizer. If you’re going to import the file into the program of the file type you chose to download, you may skip the rest of this step. If you wish to just use Execl, continue.
Double click on the lines between the column letters to make the data fit the columns for each of the columns containing data. That will probably be; First Name, Last Name, E-mail Address, Company, and Job Title. You may have to scroll to the right to see some of these columns.
Now find the columns without any data and right click on the letter box at the top and delete them. If there are multiple columns in a row with no data you can drag your cursor across the column letters at the top with the mouse button down to select multiple columns and delete them all in one shot.
Unfortunately, since there is no way to synchronize LinkedIn with your own system you will be forced to put the new contacts in as you get them. If you wish to simplify this task, you can simply add only those new connections on which you get more data.
Step #3 – Tracking
You will be sending people your thank you for connecting message and then you may have some other messages you send out such as an invitation to engage. You may want to add a column (of field if you’re using a database of some sort) where you can indicate what you have sent and when.
You may also wish to keep a note as to the original connection date and add a field that distinguishes the engaged contacts for the ones you haven’t engaged. That way you can sort them out when needed.
Step #4 – Networking Data
I would call this column, or name this field, “About.” You will use this column to enter any data you discover about your connections, such as their wants, needs, or interests.
Once you have done this and saved the file, you will have a place to put key information about your connections that will help you in your networking. Excel and the database programs will all let you search for specific terms thus finding what you need easily.
If as you engage your connections, you find out what their wants needs and interests are you can use this data to help you provide value to them in any number of ways. With this information you will be able to determine what resources might be of value to them and who you might be able to connect them with in your network.
When you meet or connect with people on LinkedIn you’ll now have a way to take the information they give you about their needs and wants and make it useful to your networking effort.
You can obviously get more sophisticated that I’ve described here, but I just wanted to provide you a simple method and guidelines that will let you manage your contacts as LinkedIn provides no such apparatus and probably never will.