I had an opportunity to see Larry Bodine speak about LinkedIn yesterday at the MyLegal conference in Washington D.C. Larry is an expert who helps attorneys capture and nurture leads online. His best advice can be summed up in one phrase:

“All business comes in through in-person relationships.”

Wait a minute… What kind of advice is that from a guy who specializes in using LinkedIn? Actually, it’s great advice. His point is that LinkedIn should be used to connect with people that you will eventually meet and do business with in person.

It’s easy these days to build up a rolodex of online buddies around the globe, but what are the chances that you are going to meet face to face and do business with these random connections? Instead of focusing on the quantity of connections online, Larry recommends pinpointing contacts on LinkedIn that are close to your location, developing an initial relationship digitally, and meeting them in person at an event or appointment.

Here are a few things you can do to get started on making good connections on LinkedIn:

  • Search for groups that are in or around your location that relate to your industry, then join two or three.
  • Read through the discussions within these groups and make relevant comments where you can add value. This builds your reputation.
  • Start your own discussion thread by asking a thought-provoking question.

As you enter these communities and begin to interact, you will come across contacts that might make good partners or business prospects. Get to know these people online, and when you do meet them in person you will have a pre-existing relationship to build upon.

If you have any questions about LinkedIn (for example, “how do I join a group or how do I start a discussion?”), please don't hesitate to ask them in the comments area. I'd be glad to walk you through any of these steps.