You wouldn’t approach a prospective connection in person as informally as you do online, would you? If you were meeting prospective clients at a networking happy hour, you wouldn’t approach them with an automated greeting, would you? If you were pursuing a business lead and met them for lunch, you wouldn’t spit out automated messages throughout your meal, would you?

It’s the same online. You would start with a warm greeting and build on valuable conversations that manufacture personability and importance. Through LinkedIn’s personal messaging, you can find a much greater return through an increase in network connections, the possibility to create new business relationships and increase sales.

If you are connecting with someone, there should be an obvious rhyme or reason, such as a shared industry, shared connections, or shared location. Sharing something simply means you have something in common, and if you have something in common, then you have something to write about in your personal message.

Personal messages don’t take a lot of time to create, but the return is huge in comparison. To save time, compile a bank of personalized scripted messages that can be used for different scenarios. That way you can use a specific message for someone when you want to connect. Create, build and manage your social network connections in the same fashion you do your offline connections.

Sign up for The Lead and get a new tip in your inbox every day! More tips:

Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and president of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached through her website at www.financialsocialmedia.com and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.