What does a young marketer in London and a Silicon Valley Investment Banker have in common? LinkedIn — of course!

This morning in Hammersmith over a plate of egg and toast, I talked to “the best connected Irish man in Silicon Valley” David Smith who is the Managing Director and Head of the US operation for FirstCapital. Now when I say best connected I mean best connected. David has 32 thousand contacts in outlook and over 20 thousand on LinkedIn. Yes, I didn’t accidently add an extra zero to the end he actually does have 20 thousand LinkedIn connections.

I almost choked on my egg and toast too but as I listened to David of how he grows his network and nurtures it I realised all the techniques he uses are very straightforward, it just takes time and dedication to get to where he is.

What David taught the young marketer

I didn’t know David before LinkedIn and if I hadn’t of connected with him I wouldn’t have learned so many good tips from him about networking. He wasn’t afraid to connect with me and it just boils down to ‘what’s the worst that can happen.’ He said, “either people will connect with you, they’ll ignore you, or you might get the odd person who will reply telling you that you are spam.” I have often seen really interesting profiles on LinkedIn of other marketers, particularly who I have wanted to connect with but have been too shy to do so. If someone as well connected and experienced like David thinks I’m good enough to connect with, then I won’t think twice about requesting to connect with someone more senior than myself.

Common connections

We’ve all heard of the seven degrees of separation theory and David made a great point about people you want to get to know. With every person you don’t know by looking at their LinkedIn profile you are bound to have some link in common. For me and David, it is that we are both from the Emerald Isle. It could be a similar university, country link, hobby or volunteering interest in common or even a shared connection. The point David was trying to make was that this common link is your conversation starter. It’s a bit more interesting to talk to someone about something they have in interested. Even if they hated the University you both went to it still gets them talking!

How do I know you again?

An excellent way David opens conversation starters with people is noting down where and when they met. So in 10 years’ time if he emails me and says, remember that November morning we met for egg and toast, I’ll be impressed by his memory skills and flattered that he remembered me. I’m actually not that impressive as in reality David will have noted this down in his outlook contacts against my name. I used to write on the back of business cards where I met people but David is obviously much more high tech and quite frankly has a much more efficient way of doing it.

The lesson is, I’ll be more likely to reply to a personalised email about where we met rather than a generic message from someone I half remember. So I will be recording how and where I met people from now on!

Keep in touch with Eileen and don’t be afraid to connect on LinkedIn