I was one of the first users of LinkedIn. My rolodex had grown to over 1,000 executives, so I signed up for LinkedIn (I think it was still in BETA) and started a monthly newsletter to keep in touch with friends, clients and business partners.

If 200 connections are good, 2,000 connections are great, right? Wrong! There is a huge difference between “networking” and “connecting.” I was immediately besieged by people asking for free hotel rooms, free show tickets, introductions and investments. My favorite is, “Can you introduce me to Tony Hsieh, the CEO at Zappos.” Bahahahaha! And from the private wealth guys, “Let me invest your money.” What? Do people really give their money to people they just met?

Networking is when you focus on what people can DO FOR YOU. Connecting is when you focus on what you can DO FOR THEM. Big difference. My favorite question is, “How can I help you?” The correct way to use LinkedIn is to ADD VALUE. And let me explain that.

Everyone has a UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION. Mine is getting people jobs (I’m a Headhunter), my monthly client newsletter, client events, introductions/referrals and charity work. Jobs is pretty obvious, but let me tell you a secret about Recruiters: The wrong time to meet a Recruiter is when you are unemployed. Yes, it’s what we do, but calling once every five to ten years to ask for a job is not a good career strategy.

Jobs: I get 20 to 50 cold calls a day. And pretty much all of them have an agenda. They want a job, they want to sell me something, they want me to introduce them to my clients. And I get it! I’m in sales too. I’m not offended! But I only represent executives I know personally or that are referred to me. It is far too risky to represent people I don’t know and have never met. Don’t misunderstand me. Totally have compassion for their situation. In many cases I give them pro bono career advice. My reputation is attached to every single candidate I submit, so I can only represent executives I know personally. No disrespect intended.

Client Newsletter: “C” level executives thrive on 411. The higher executives are in the corporate food chain, the more they want to know what’s going on with their peers and the industry. Only 50% of Directors read the newsletter, but 85% of “C” level executives do. It’s only available to my clients, and most of the information is not publicly available.

Client Events: I host quarterly clients events in Las Vegas and San Francisco. we have one purpose – for my friends, clients and business partners to meet each other. We have one rule – no soliciting. Unfortunately, some people wait until they are unemployed to get their head out of the sand. Those that attend my mixers will probably meet their next boss there.

Introductions/Referrals: Let’s talk about introductions and referrals. I am happy to make introductions PROVIDED there is a strong value proposition on both sides of the introduction. I’m not going to introduce hardware sales guys to all the CIOs I placed. I’m not going to introduce people raising money to my friends. Again, happy to make referrals provided it’s a win-win for both parties, but there literally has to be a very strong value proposition on both sides. Can’t count the number of Board Members I have rounded up for charities. Or the Moms, Dad, Kids, Sisters I have provided jobs for as a favor to client or friend.

And I don’t believe in LIONs. People with massive networks of executives they have never met. They constantly cold call me to place their friends or ask for introductions. Always remember this: Time is the great equalizer. You have the same 24 hours as Bill Gates. The #1 fear of high level executives is people that waste their time. We all have far more to do…than time to do it. I don’t reach to people unless I have something of value to offer.

So why did I just delete 1,000 connections? They were not adding value. They don’t stay in touch, and most of them only reach out to ask for favors. That is not a RELATIONSHIP, it’s a TRANSACTION. Again, I’m not judging or criticizing, however I’m only interested executives that believe in reciprocal relationships. I’m there for them; they are there for me. You are lucky to find 5 true friends in life. Mostly people are just acquaintances. Personally I would rather have a strong network with 2,000 members than a weak one with 20,000.