Building up contacts quickly

I’m not sure that I will keep blogging only on LinkedIn much longer.  Not because I ‘m out of material, but simply because there’s a lot more to think about aside from just how to build up your LinkedIn contacts.  Since I believe that this tool can be of great assistance to building and maintaining a great network of contacts I wanted to share some quick advice on how to at least get started.  I have heard a lot of people lament not having built up their network until after they needed it (which is why I wrote “Dig The Well“).  I’ve also heard and seen a lot of other things I’d like to write about as I meet with other people who are networking.  So I will probably move on from just LinkedIn and mix it up a bit from here.

In the mean time, those of you who have been wanting to take LinkedIn a bit further are saying shut up and get on with it will ya?  OK, here goes…  So you should have set up your profile with all of your experience and companies listed.  And now you have gone in and searched for people you know who have worked at the same companies or gone to the same school.  But what about the contacts you already have in places like your Outlook contacts list as well as address books from Gmail or AOL/etc? 

Don’t discount the contacts you have and even some of those you have but don’t realize it.  (More on that later.)  The toolbar on the left side of LinkedIn has the “Add Connections” button in green at the bottom.  After clicking that you will come to the now familiar set of tabs to manage your connections.  Click on the “Import Contacts” tab and you will come to a screen that will let you scour all your best sources.  From here you can use LinkedIn to import contacts from any of your web-mail clients as well as Outlook. 

If you are an Outlook user with less than a few hundred contacts I would simply use the import on the feature on the far right that allows you to import directly from Outlook.  If you use Outlook and have more than a few hundred contacts it’s not unusual to have that feature timeout since it talks directly to Outlook.  Instead you can export your contacts from Outlook to a CSV file and then import them using the same screen but clicking on the “Other Address Book” button which allows you to import a CSV file.  So how do you make a CSV file from Outlook? 

Go into Outlook and bring up your contacts (i.e. your address book).  Then using the menus along the top select “file” then “import and export”.  That will bring up a separate screen and you should choose “export to a file” select “next” and then “Comma Separated Values (Windows)” and “next”.  You will be at a screen that asks you to select a folder to export from.  Select “Contacts” and “next”.  The last screen will ask where you want to save the file.  I would use the browse button and save the file to your desktop.  Once complete, you can import this CSV file directly into LinkedIn and it will find all your contacts that are already on LinkedIn and allow you to send them an invite.  It will also ask you to invite the contacts it found that do not have a LinkedIn account.  I will leave this to your discretion as to who you might want to invite or you can simply skip them all.

You will have also found the “Check Webmail” button under the “Import Contacts” tab.  When you click that you can specify which web mail client you use and then provide an email name and password.  It will not store the password but use it temporarily to log into your web-mail and extract your address book into LinkedIn.  Again a handy tool for getting your contacts into LinkedIn quickly.

LinkedIn also has some other tremendously useful tools you should explore rather than wait for me to tell you how.  🙂  At the bottom of each page in LinkedIn is a footer.  It has a list of links for the “Company”, “Tools” and “Premium”.  Look across from “tools” and you will see links for “Outlook tool bar” and “Browser tool bar”.  Both are excellent tools and I would suggest using them as another way for you to quickly capture contact information for use with LinkedIn.

Good luck and feel free to send me a note if you get confused or lost.  I’ll do what I can to help.

– Yeti