So you have a great LinkedIn profile that supports your personal brand. You have a great photo, a keyword-packed descriptive Headline, and Summary and Experience sections that really sell your talents. You’re golden.
In this three-part series we will look at the components of a LinkedIn campaign that will brand you, which include:
Unfortunately, you only have 70 connections. This is not good because first, a paltry number of connections limits your reach and second, your small network is telling hiring authorities that you’re not embracing the purpose of LinkedIn.
In short, your low number of connections is harmful to your personal brand. You come across to others as a nonparticipant on LinkedIn. Equally important, your reach to other LinkedIn members is extremely limited. You’re essentially a nonentity.
In my workshops and during individual counseling sessions, many people ask me with whom they should connect, how they should connect with people they don’t know, and with how many people they should connect.
With Whom to Connect
When people ask this, I explain that they should look at their potential connections as a pyramid. The goal is to connect with as many second- and third-degree connections as you see fit—although third-degree connections should be the last ones with whom you connect.
On the bottom level—the most important tier of the pyramid—are people with whom you worked, e.g., former colleagues and supervisors. I say most important because they know you and are entrenched in the industry in which you’ve worked.
The second level contains people who share the same occupation and same industry. These people are like-minded and have similar aspirations to yours.
The third level is people who share the same occupation but in different industries. So, if you’re a marketing specialist, you want to look for other marketing specialists in industries outside of your own.
The fourth level is people in other occupations but the same industry. Connecting with these people will provide you with possible entries into your target companies. Connecting with an accountant, for instance, may give you access to the hiring manager of marketing at a desired company.
The fifth level includes people in other occupations and other industries. This may seem counter-intuitive to some, but consider that the V.P. of a manufacturing company that is on your target employers list may need an accountant. You’re not a V.P., and you don’t work in manufacturing, but you are an accountant.
The last level consists of your alumni, people who are likely to connect with you because you attended the same schools at some point.
How to Connect With LinkedIn Members
There are three ways to connect with LinkedIn members. The first, and simplest way, is to use the search field. Second, you can search companies with the Companies feature. And third, search by your alumni by typing in your alma mater as a company and selecting “See Alumni.”
1. Search by title. In my LinkedIn workshop, I tell my attendees that typing an occupation title in the search field is one step toward finding people. (For example, if you’re looking for marketing specialists, you type: “marketing specialists.”)
In “Filter people by” on the right, you can select second-degree connections; location; and other criteria, such as company. (See below.)
2. See who you have in common. These are people that are first degree connections of your desired connections. You’ll see their headshots below the people who show up on your search. Click on “(number) shared connections” to see who they are.
Select one of the share connections to either write an introduction for you or mention in a “cold” invite. Read 5 Steps to connecting with LinkedIn connections for more detail.
3. Use Filter people by. LinkedIn has added a great feature since I first wrote this post, called Connections of. In this field you type in a person who has shared connections with your desired occupation. This person is someone who you feel can best provide you with an introduction or a reference in a cold invite. (See below.)
Use See Alumni
Another way to look for valuable connections is by using the “See alumni‘ feature, which is a great way to connect with LinkedIn members who are more likely to accept your requests than mere strangers. After all, you attended the same university or high school.
Connect with people at companies
One the best way to connect with someone is by selecting a company that you’re targeting and finding an employee at said company. This is a great way to get your foot in the door for an open position – or, better yet, to start building your networks at target companies before jobs are even advertised.
(Search for 2nd degree employees at Tufts University below.)
Here’s where Connections of can come into play. If you have a trusted connection who is a first degree of someone with whom you’d like to connect, or send a message, you can rely on your trusted shared connection.
Note: When asking someone to connect with you, make sure your note is personal – not the default message that LinkedIn provides. That said, I’m not a fan of connecting with people by using your smartphone or trolling your email contacts and sending mass invites. I see this as lazy.
How Many People with Whom to Connect
The answer to the age-old question – quality or quantity? – comes down to personal preference.
I personally aim for a combination of both – that is, 300 or so quality connects with people who share your interests and or goals. If you look back at the “pyramid” above, you’ll see that focusing on connections in the first three levels is a good way to achieve the quality + quantity goal.
When you build connections in this way, you solidify your brand as someone who is focused on a specific audience. You have the chance to build a tight-knit network of individuals.
On the other hand, focusing too much on quality does limit your number of connections, which means you’re limiting your access to other LinkedIn users who could be of assistance.
If you focus on quantity, you’re less selective. You may come across as having little direction and less focus on an audience. In my mind, this is not the best way to brand oneself.
Quantity does have its benefits, though – particularly if you are a business owner and want to advertise your products or services.
Finally there is the extreme strategy: the LinkedIn Open Networker (LION) strategy. LIONs are LinkedIn members who are interested in collecting as many connections as possible. They believe that more people create opportunities.
Recruiters and hiring managers will take notice of your number of connections on LinkedIn, and they’ll look to see what kinds of people you connect with.
They may even go to your connections’ profiles and by chance notice some not-so-savory things. In other words, you could be found guilty by association. Let’s say, for example, one of your connections is affiliated with someone in a controversial group. This could look bad for you.
Because you are responsible for choosing connections that support your image, you must also consider how each and every connection may affect your personal brand.
Next in this three-part series is branding yourself by engaging with your connections. Stay tuned.