I don’t always have lunch with someone I meet on LinkedIn, but when I do, it’s always the most interesting lunch in the world – or close to it! In fact, recently, the Cadient marketing team had the good fortune to break bread with Steven Burda – who, by all accounts, has more LinkedIn contacts than any other person on the planet.
A native of Ukraine, Steven moved to the Philadelphia area as a child. Growing up, his father often repeated the phrase, “100 friends are worth more than 100 rubles.” Clearly, Steven took this advice to heart and began building his social network long before social media platforms took off. When LinkedIn was launched in 2003, he was quick to see the potential of the platform and rapidly began making friend requests – both with people he met as well as strangers. His willingness to accept connections with people he doesn’t know makes him part of the “Open Network movement” on LinkedIn. Although not everyone agrees with this networking approach, Steven is quick to point out its benefits. As a senior financial analyst with an MBA from St. Joseph’s University, he sees networking as both a business-building skill as well as a source of personal enrichment. His vast experience and focus on social networking has made him an authority on how to build a valuable network.
Here are his 5 proven rules for supercharging your own LinkedIn network:
Pay It Forward
Due to the fact that his network is so large and diverse, each week, Steven is able to offer advice, send a useful link, or make an introduction on behalf of his contacts. This “Pay It Forward” mindset does not offer immediate payback, but over time, the people in his network tend to reciprocate and offer him invaluable assistance. For example, when looking for a job in the Washington, DC area, he was able to tap his connections and arrange for 8 interviews within a week. Whether you have 50 people in your network or 50,000, there is always a chance for you to offer help to your extended contacts.
Never Say “No” to a Valid Invitation
On account of his Open Network approach, Steven is open to invitations from people he has not met. “As long as they look like a legitimate person with a completed LinkedIn profile, I am happy to add them to my network,” he explains. This approach is based on the idea that it is impossible to predict when some future contact might be able to offer advice or help.
Always Be Networking
Whether he is in a business setting or at a party, Steven makes sure he reaches out and meets as many new people as possible. “The key to making new connections is to be genuine and be interested in other people,” he notes. “Because I am an extrovert, it is relatively easy for me to introduce myself to new people. Usually, they are glad that someone made the effort to strike up a conversation.”
Time Invested in Your Network Is Not Time Wasted
One of the topics that Steven is most animated about is the time it takes to maintain his network. “Some people have asked me: Why do you waste so much time building out your LinkedIn network? But, for me it’s not wasted time. I look at it as an investment. Also, I enjoy it!” Much like tending to a garden or working out, keeping your network “in shape” takes a consistent, steady investment of time and energy. Once you begin to experience the vast potential of your network, the ROI of time spent will become much clearer. “Start networking early,” Steven advises, “and harvest your network and your connections. Invest time to your network, one person at a time, and rewards will follow! The quality of your network depends on the time you put in.
Express Your Personality
Although the chronological profile structure of LinkedIn can make it seem like an electronic resume on steroids, people actually want to know they are connecting to another human being – not just reading a lengthy curriculum vitae. Steven’s own LinkedIn profile reflects his energetic, curious, and socially-focused personality: “I love my profession and the people I work with and enjoy helping people get the most of their lives as well – both on a professional and personal front. I read a lot and do contribute on a regular basis because this is how we learn, develop, and advance. With that, I hope you have a wonderful day; enjoy this site and the networking benefits it may offer us now or in the future. Connect to me directly, as you won’t regret it.”
Although it is difficult to put a direct monetary value on Steven’s network, clearly, he has accumulated many millions of rubles worth of social capital through his many thousands of friends. If you’d like to learn more about the most LinkedIn man in the world, be sure to visit his profile and website: www.linkedin.com/in/burda and www.sburda.com.
If you need 50,000 reasons why you should consider marketing on LinkedIn, read here.