Previously we looked at the components of a strong LinkedIn profile, the first step for a successful LinkedIn campaign. Now we’ll look at connecting with other LinkedIn members.
As I sit with a customer to critique her profile, I think the work she’s done is a good start. Though her profile looks like a rehash of her résumé, at least she has all the sections filled in. Then my eyes drift to the right in her Snapshot area and I see how many connections she has, 10.
I ask her why she has so few connections, to which she replies that she has only 10 “friends” she could think of inviting to her network. Further, when she’s invited to someone’s network, she declines because she doesn’t know the people.
This leads me to lecture her on how it’s important to invite more people and accept invitations from people she doesn’t know, as long as there’s a purpose behind connecting with said people. But I see it doesn’t register with her. Connect with strangers? Her face says no.
Her concern isn’t unusual, especially for people first starting out on LinkedIn. This raises three questions: who do you connect with, how do you connect with other LinkedIn members, and how many people do you connect with? These have been the questions LinkedIn members have been wrestling with since its inception. Let’s look at these questions.
Who do you connect with?
In my LinkedIn workshop I explain to the attendees that they should look at people with whom they connect as a pyramid. The goal is to connect with as many second degree connections as you see fit.
- On the lowest level are the people with whom you worked, e.g., former colleagues and supervisors. These 2nd degree connections will get you started on your LinkedIn campaign. You are limiting yourself, however, if you stay with this small group of people.
- The next level are people who share the same occupation and in the same industry. These people are like-minded with similar aspirations. They are willing to engage in online conversations and most likely will be in groups you will join.
- The level above are people who share the same occupation but in a different industry. If you’re a marketing specialist, look for other marketing specialists in industries into which you can transition. Your switch from manufacturing to construction is a likely move, as well as education to social services.
- Next investigate people in other occupations but in the same industry. This will provide possible opportunities at your target companies. For example, if you’re an engineer who’s worked in DOD, you may reach out to marketers, sales people, and quality assurance professionals at your dream companies, such as Raytheon, BAE, Mitre, etc.
- The fifth level includes people in other occupations in other industries. This seems counter intuitive to some but if you think about the possibilities, you may adjust your thinking. A quality assurance professional in DOD might consider connecting with teachers, career advisors, and marketers who are privy to opportunities in his desired industry.
- The last level consists of people who can directly affect your chances of getting a job. Now shoot higher and reach out to the, hiring managers, VPs, directors, etc. This is the level some people are afraid to approach but shouldn’t. If an introduction is in order, you’ll now have 1st degree connections at your level who can make the introduction.
How do you connect with other LinkedIn members?
There are a number of ways to connect with LinkedIn members. This article I wrote goes into greater detail of five ways you can connect with someone on LinkedIn. However, I want to talk about how you search for people with whom to connect. In my LinkedIn workshop I tell my attendees that typing in an occupation is one step toward finding people.
From there, you select 2nd degree connections. Most likely your first degrees will appear at the top, but you can’t connect to them, as you’re already connected. Read through the profiles of your second degrees to see if they’re anyone you’d like to have in your network. You could choose program managers in telemarketing, for example, and confine your search to the Denver area.
Another way to look for valuable connections is using the Find Alumni feature, which is relatively new and a great way to connect with LinkedIn members who are more likely to connect with you than mere strangers.
Note: when asking someone to connect with you make sure your note is personal and not the default message that LinkedIn provides in an effort to make connecting quick and easy. That said, I’m not a fan of connecting with people by using your smart phone or trolling your e-mail list of contacts and sending a mass invite. I see this as lazy.
Tip: You can troll your groups and connect directly to people because you have something in common, you’re in the same group. Being in the same group/s is how I justify connecting with people I don’t know. Just go to the Member tab in your group/s and type in keywords that will pull up people of common interest.
How many people do you connect with?
The growing debate is whether to strive for quality or quantity. I personally aim for a combination of both. With quality–300 or so–you’re connected with people who share the same interests and goals. The first three levels of the pyramid would be an easy way to understand this. But this is limited.
Those who connect with many people are sometimes referred to LinkedIn Open Networkers (LIONS). While they appear to be concerned about collecting connections, people who aim for numbers create more, yet uncertain, opportunities. One example I give in my workshop is the business owner who increases his marketing by appearing on more people’s homepages. Free advertisement.
Next we’ll look at the third of three components necessary for a successful LinkedIn campaign, being active on LinkedIn.