I have taken both the quality and quantity approaches to networking. Fellow-networkers who lean toward the quantity approach tend to reply positively to quantity-based networking requests. For example if I “discovered” someone who had a large number of connections and is not connected to me and we also do not have many people common in our networks, I write to them saying something to the effect of “I have a network, you have a network, lets connect and share”.

And this request is not sent on the spur of the moment – I tend to take a good look at their profile and find out whether they would be open to such a request. I “never” use the boiler-plate template.

I have had two “success” stories on LinkedIn [the two which are the most evident and which would probably be regarded as “success” – that can be a subject for discussion on another forum!] One was when I had just joined LinkedIn – I had no idea how to approach the “networking”, who to write to and what to write to them. Overriding thought was “Who’d want to connect with me!?” I was just starting out in the innovation arena so naturally I wanted to connect with experts in that area. That’s how I got in touch with Joyce Wycoff of InnovationNetwork [ www.thinksmart.com ] and we eventually worked together for a year where I assisted her with the design and innovation marketing needs of the InnovationNetwork website. So yes, I got paid, I got international exposure and I got to hone my innovation skills learning from some of the best people in the field.

The second is the most recent: David Wittenberg [ Director, Innovation WorkGroup of Optimus Solutions www.optimusltd.com ] was looking to tap the Indian market for clients who might have innovation requirements. He is the alumni of Garvin School of Management [ Thunderbird ] and I had been a judge on the 2004 Innovation Challenge and had exchanged a couple of e-mails with Anil Rathi [ www.ideacrossing.com ] who was the organizer of the competition. Anil knew David and suggested my name and told him that I was on LinkedIn too. David visited my profile, checked out my blogs/website [ using links on my profile ] and promptly called me up. I am now the Director, Indian Operations for Optimus Solutions, USA for the Innovation, Marketing and Lead Generation WorkGroups. I connected with David on LinkedIn too – after I got the job.

The above were completely “quality” links but I probably would never have come across them if I did not have quantity connections because these people were connected to someone in my “quantity” list and the people in the “quantity” list are the ones who forwarded my requests.
I have also had a handful of enquiries regarding my design services [ www.aside.in ] and one even for transcription services – but none of them have developed into anything – they’ve stayed at the enquiry level and “might” turn into an engagement later on.

So yes, I made some money.
How much: Hard to quantify because there are so many indirect benefits apart from the “monetary” ones.
Networking Philosophy: I try to customize each and every request that I send.
Initially, when I started out networking, I would have connected with anyone who sent a reasonable, decent and well-worded request. Now I take my time and prefer to exchange at least a couple of e-mails before connecting networks.

Some of the criteria I use are: how many connections does the person have and who are the common people connecting us. For example if there are too many common people – it’s best to connect directly. Is the person also a member of the LinkedIn YahooGroups? [if he/she is, they probably know who they are connecting with and would remember me better [ some people remember me best as the 25 year old “hard-hat” wearing designer from India – check my website main-page top-left photograph www.aside.in ] I do not connect with people who don’t check their spellings – especially the ones that misspell my name. Rest of it is just “thin-slicing”.

I want to be “found” on LinkedIn when someone searches for “graphic design India” or “innovation India” and I want to give them the freedom to get in touch with me whichever way it suits them – not necessarily via InMail [why will a client pay to get in touch with a service provider?] There is no way that I can do a targeted search for companies/people who might need my services. But I don’t think that ever was LinkedIn’s purpose. [That’s why I tend to wax eloquent about how openBC has given me more than six “success”-stories. – It just suits my business better.] My way of going around that issue on LinkedIn is to be connected to everyone – quite literally so – so I want to connect with as many people as possible.

For me, networking is about increasing visibility. Period.

Quality approach [ customized request/e-mail, some knowledge about the person you are writing to, clarity of intent ] always work best. If I wanted to connect with someone because they have a lot of connections AND I told them that’s the reason I want to connect with them – I have had a 20% success rate with that. I did an experiment sometime back [ detailed blog post here: http://biznetworking.blogspot.com/2005/07/being-diplomatic.html ] 80% of the people did not like the “intent” of connecting only because of the numbers. These were people who have made their e-mails id’s freely available on LinkedIn and mentioned on their profile that they are accepting connection requests.

Again, for me, having my e-mail id on my profile or my name on the InMail search results only serves my purpose of being found. Doesn’t mean I will necessarily connect with anyone who sends me a connection invitation.