In part three of this series, Enhance Your Networking with LinkedIn, I talked about how LinkedIn could be used as a way to support your offline networking efforts. Today I continue the conversation discussing how LinkedIn can expand your reach.
Your end goal on LinkedIn should be to drive new business or to monetize LinkedIn. Your ability to communicate your message to a larger number of people, expand your reach, is critical if you hope to move from “connecting” to “collecting”.
When you’re at networking events and collecting business cards you’ve got a great opportunity to take this activity and convert it into new LinkedIn connections. This is a way to grow your direct connections. Your Direct Connections, though, are not your only network on LinkedIn.
I’ve identified three networks that everyone has access to on LinkedIn:
- Your Direct Network: These are the people who are 1st degree connections.
- Your Group Network: The people that are in the same groups as you are.
- The LinkedIn Network: Everyone who is a member of LinkedIn.
What makes the member of each of these a network is your ability to communicate your message to them. There are specific ways to communicate to each and we’ll touch on many of these later in the series. First we need to expand out reach.
One of the ways I begin to expand my reach was to change my attitude about connecting. When I originally joined LinkedIn I focused on connecting to those I knew. I searched LinkedIn to find fellow chamber members, former coworkers, and friends. After that I relied on meeting new people in the chamber.
Towards the end of 2008 I had a “attitude changing thought”. I simply asked the question “how do I know whether or not someone in my network that I knew would benefit from someone in my network that I did not know?” The answer was that I didn’t, which then led to me asking “by limiting those who I connect to, to people I know, am I limiting potential opportunities to those in my network?”
Once I asked these questions my attitude changed. I decided that my role was to be the Hub in my network to connect as many people that I could. The more people that I was connected to the more opportunity I would have to connect others.
Now some people will say that, by passing on an introduction requests from someone that I don’t know, that I’m putting the recipient, who I may know, at risk. I disagree. All that I am doing is passing on a message. The recipient is an adult and can make their own determination on whether or not they should accept the request.
The second objection I encounter is that I’m placing my network at risk by exposing them to unknown individuals. Once again I disagree. The unknown person may be a direct connection to me but they’re 2nd degree connections to the other people that I am connected to. As a 2nd degree connection they can only see the information that each person chooses to display publicly.
The third objection I encounter is that by adding unknown people to your network it weakens or devalues your network. Another point that I disagree with. I’ll use simple math to explain why this is false.
Assigning point value to connections will help. Think of a network where a person has 100 connections that they know. If you assign each connection a point value of 10, then this network would have a value of 1,000 points.
Now let’s say that each unknown connection is only worth 1 point. If you add 900 unknown connections then you’re adding 900 points to the value of your network. 1900 > 1,000.
The value of your network hasn’t decreased its increased. The value of your original 100 well known connections hasn’t changed. You still know them just as well as before you expanded your connections.
Having changed to an open networker I’ve seen a significant increase in the number of opportunities that have presented themselves to me.
The second way that I expanded my reach was through LinkedIn groups. Currently I have about 3,700 direct connections that I can communicate with, so my direct reach is 3,700 people. In the groups I belong to there are over 1.3 million people that I can communicate to, expanding my reach to over 1.3 million people.
Your goal is to find up to 50 groups that are relevant for you to join. By relevant I mean groups that consist of potential prospects and referral partners. The groups you join should be dependent upon your LinkedIn strategy.
I have two goals for the groups I belong to. The first is that I want to belong to the top groups in Georgia to connect and communicate with local prospects. The second goal is to communicate to as many people about my blog. These groups can be national or international.
The local groups I belong to have over 40,000 people in them. These groups include some:
- location based groups (Linked Georgia, Self Employed Atlanta, and Georgia Open Networkers)
- industry groups (IT Atlanta, Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association)
- Alumni groups (Georgia Southern Alumni, Georgia State Networkers)
- Chamber related groups (GNFCC, and North Fulton Business Expo).
You just need to identify those local groups that will be of value.
I’ve also created four local groups to help me connect. These groups currently have a little over 2,000 people in them. As the owner of the groups these are my villages and I’m the mayor of each village. You ever notice that in a city that the mayor is one of the most well known individuals. These groups allow me to keep my name top of mind with over 2,000 local business professionals.
Having an international focus on the blog allows me to tap into some of the larger groups on LinkedIn. The top five groups in terms of size on LinkedIn are:
- Linked HR (187,000)
- eMarketing Association (165,000)
- Executive Suite (160,000)
- OnStartUps (100,000)
- Consultants Network (92,000)
These five groups allow me to reach 704,000 people.
That’s pretty impressive. Your end goal on LinkedIn should be to make money. To do that you need to be able to communicate your message to as many people as possible. Building your direct connections and joining groups will help you do that. Later we’ll talk about some ways to communicate your message. For now, get to work expanding your reach.
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