Many of us who are involved in hospitality and travel are members of LinkedIn, have joined and are active in various industry-related groups, and connect with other like-minded individuals in oder to expand our professional network.

So after you’ve asked someone to join your professional network and they have accepted your invitation, what happens next?

Are you allowing your LinkedIn connections to collect dust or are you looking for ways to add value to those who are a part of your network? After all isn’t that a function of networking?

Starting with your LinkedIn outreach message do you take the time to create a meaningful note why you would like to connect and the mutual benefits of your eventual connection or do you use the boilerplate “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”?  What value does the latter present?  None whatsoever.

Networking for mutual benefit is not a sales or a numbers game.  It’s a relationship game.

Have a plan.  Don’s sell – serve.  Help others to get what they want.

Liz Ryan, author of  ’Ten Tips: LinkedIn Etiquette‘ writes “As in physical-world networking, valuing people for their intrinsic worth over the business transactions they enable is key…LinkedIn is a fabulous tool that enables connectors and influencers to help other people and achieve their own goals too – and it’s great when we keep those priorities in balance.”

Susan Ruhl, founder of OI Partners-Denver suggests “First and foremost, it’s (networking) about establishing a give and take relationship.”

As you go forth building your LinkedIn network, keep in mind that it is as much about how you can help as it is about how you can be helped.

Reach out to one of your connections today and let them know that you would welcome the opportunity to provide them with your support.

You’ll be glad you did!

Social Networks such as LinkedIn are just one of the areas addressed in my new workshop for hotel Sales Managers – ‘Mapping the Course‘.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and travel verticals.  Connect with him on LinkedInTwitter, and Google+, or contact him byemail.  Request a complimentary copy of his new book “Prepare for Liftoff.