Now that you have your LinkedIn profile set up and ready to impress, you will need to start making connections to grow your LinkedIn network. In this second article Kristi Hines shows you how to do that.
Now that you have your LinkedIn profile set up and ready to impress, you will need to start making connections to grow your LinkedIn network.
How connections work
LinkedIn classifies people within your network as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd connections.
- 1st connections are people you are directly connected to through invitation.
- 2nd connections are people who you share mutual connections with ie, you and John Smith are both 1st connections with Jane Smith.
- 3rd connections are people with whom you share extended network connections.
Unlike other networks like Twitter where you can simply start following regardless of whether you know them personally, LinkedIn encourages that you only directly connect with people you know in the real world. They make it easy for members to deny requests and mark them as people they do not know. If you try to connect with too many people who mark you as someone they do not know, then you will be temporarily restricted from connecting with others unless you know their email address.
How a bigger network helps
So what is the point of connecting with a lot of people on LinkedIn? If someone were to search for a particular keyword on LinkedIn such as a photographer, the results would show 1st, 2nd, and 3rd connections above people outside of your network. This means that the more people are connected to you, the greater number of people whose related keyword search results will show you at the top of the list.
Having a strong network also means that you will be more likely to get recommendations. Recommendations are simply public testimonials on your LinkedIn profile that allow your connections to tell people who visit your profile how you have helped them. If someone is searching for a person with a particular skillset and they have two people to choose from, they are likely to go with the person with the most recommendations.
How to find connections
To start building your network of connections, go under the Contacts menu and select 'Add Connections'. Here, you will have four ways to connect with people. First, you can enter your email address, import your desktop email application contacts, or enter a list of email addresses.
This will bring up everyone on LinkedIn whose email addresses you have in your address book. You can select everyone in the list or only the people you want to add to your network and add them as connections.
Next, you can select the Colleagues tab. This will search LinkedIn for members who work at the same companies you have listed on your profile.
You can go through the list, check people that you want to connect with, enter a personal note, and send your invitations to connect.
You can also find university classmates by going to the 'Alumni' tab and selecting a school that you have listed on your profile. This will show you other LinkedIn members who have also attended the same school during the same time period. What is interesting about the results of this search is that you can see a graphical breakdown of where people live now, where they work, and what they do.
You can then click on specific locations, companies, and occupations to narrow down classmates and then invite them to connect.
Last but not least, you can select the 'People You May Know' tab. This will give you a list of suggestions based on your current connections. As with the above options, be sure to only request people who you know will recognize you and will want to connect.
Connecting with people outside of your network
When you request to connect with someone you do not have any common affiliations with (companies, schools, or mutual connections) then you will have to specify how you know them.
Essentially, you will have to select that you’ve done business with them at one of your current or past jobs or attended school with them. Otherwise, you will have to know their email address to connect.
If you are connecting with someone that you don’t know very well, make sure that you include a personal note as to why you want to connect with them. This could be anything from “I enjoyed your presentation at last year’s SES conference” to “I just finished reading your book and would love to give you a recommendation for it!”
Using Groups to connect
LinkedIn Groups are a great resource to use for gaining exposure, building authority, and attracting traffic for your website. They are also a great way to connect with others in your industry. When you join groups in your industry, you are likely to interact with others who you may want to add to your professional network. If you do choose to connect with someone in a group, then you will get an added option in the connection request form that lets you specify that you know them through a group, bypassing the need for an email address or company/school in common.
Again, be sure to also include a personal note as to why you want to connect with someone with your request.
Become an Open Networker
If you’re desperate to build up a large network fast and you aren’t too particular about whether you know your connections personally, you could join one of the many LinkedIn Open Networkers (LION) groups. Just do a search for open networkers in LinkedIn groups using the search box on the main LinkedIn menu bar.
Then look at the results and join some of the groups listed (407 results at time of writing - the largest group has 120,000+ members). Once you’ve been accepted as a member in these groups, you can browse through the member list to find people in your industry to connect with.
Alternatively, you can use the group filter in the people search. First, search for a keyword in the search box. Then select the Groups filter. This is considered a premium filter, but you might get access to a few of your groups with a free account.
If you need access to more groups for this filter, then you can sign up for a premium account which starts at $19.95USD per month. Once you have your Open Networker's Groups available as a filter, you can start inviting people to connect with you in your industry and use the groups as a common connection point. Again, be sure to use the personal note option to let people know why you want to connect with them.
If this approach isn’t aggressive enough for you, you can also try services like TopLinked. You can have yourself added to a huge email list of open networkers for $9.95USD per month. You can also download the list and request to connect with everyone on it by copying and pasting the emails into the Add Connections form.
As you build your network, you will want to consider which members of your network would be most likely to recommend your work. Typically this will be colleagues or customers who you are connected with. You have two options to build your recommendations. The first is to go to your Profile menu and select Recommendations. Here, you will be able to see a list of all of the job positions listed on your profile.
When you click on the 'Ask to be endorsed' link, you will be able to send a message to up to 200 recipients asking them to recommend you for the job position you selected. I would suggest only inviting one person at a time so you can customize the message to that person. The best part of recommendations is that people typically don’t write them if they are not positive. Even if they were to write something unflattering, you could always choose not to show it on your profile.
The other way to build recommendations is to give recommendations. For example, you could give a recommendation to all of your colleagues at your current or former places of employment. When they accept the recommendation on their profile, LinkedIn will give them the option to return the favor by recommending you.
While not everyone will do this, many will. Just be sure not to recommend people that you don’t truly recommend purely for the hope of reciprocation.
Other articles in this series
How to set up a LinkedIn professional profile
How to create a company page on LinkedIn
How to gain traffic and exposure using LinkedIn Groups and Answers
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