LinkedIn is a fairly harmonious place. People tend to act professional and when there are opposing opinions they typically become a case where people “agree to disagree”. Things change though when you began discussing LIONS. Suddenly the conversation isn’t so rosy.
LION’s, for those who don’t know are open networkers. They connect to just about anyone. They see opportunity increasing as the number of connections increases. Those who disagree see LIONS as simply driving their ego’s by counting the connections, as if the purpose of LinkedIn is to proudly claim to have 1,000’s of connections.
For the record I don’t consider myself a LION, yet I’m an open networker. When writing my first LinkedIn book I identified three LinkedIn connection strategies. This year I added a fourth to define how I now connect.
How you choose to connect will impact how you use LinkedIn and in the end your chances of finding success.
Before we look at the four connection strategies I want to make one point. How you choose to connect on LinkedIn should be of no concern to anyone else. It’s your network and your strategy. As long as it works for you thats all that matters.
The Four LinkedIn Connection Strategies:
As stated above LIONS are completely open connectors. They seek to increase their connections through actively sending out and accepting connection invitations. While I’m sure there are a few who take pride in touting the specific number, the majority simply believe that large networks lead to more opportunity.
Steve Burda is a LION with over 30,000 connections. I don’t know Steve but I’ve seen countless references to his taking time to help others. So yes he has a large network, but no its not about the number. Its about having the opportunity to help a significant number of people. If this leads to new business for him, more power to him.
Turtles are the opposite of LIONS. Turtles primarily only connect to those they know well. They see value in having a tight network made up of individuals that they completely trust. Their networks tend to be highly selective and can be counted on to pass on introductions, much like a private networking group.
I don’t know many Turtles but the ones I do know are like Steve interested in being a productive resource for those they choose to connect to. LinkedIn is a way to enhance their offline networking making their existing relationships a little more connected.
The Hound Dog
When I first joined LinkedIn I was only aware of LIONS. I knew right away that LinkedIn added an additional layer of connectivity to those I knew. I also realized that it could help me meet other local business professionals that I did not know.
At each Chamber meeting they would pass out copies of everyone’s business cards. After each meeting I would see who was on LinkedIn and then invite them to connect. At the next Chamber meeting the connection provided a great ice breaker. It also established connections with those people who only attended a single meeting.
I also used LinkedIn to seek out people I would like to connect with. Doing this allowed me to establish connections with other business professionals who might help my clients, become a referral partner, and some who were prospects. This ability to hunt for specific people led me to define the strategy as a Hound Dog.
A Hound Dog is someone who uses LinkedIn to connect to those they know, to connect to those they would like to know, and accepts invitations from those that would be beneficial to be connected to.
For the first year that I was serious about using LinkedIn I followed this strategy. Then one day I had a thought, “How do I know whether or not a connection I know could benefit from a connection that I didn’t know?” The answer was that I didn’t know.
It was that at this point that I changed my strategy for connecting on LinkedIn.
The Alley Cat
I still only send invitations to people I know or people that I have a specific reason for connecting to. What changed is that I now accept invitations from just about anyone. There is value in knowing your connections but there are also unexpected opportunities that develop from establishing new connections, known and unknown.
This connection strategy supports my overall LinkedIn strategy which is this: I seek to provide value to and help as many people as possible. Much of that value is provided through the Social Media Sonar blog, sharing tips and strategies with others on how to more effectively utilize LinkedIn and social media/networking. Sometimes its through being the hub to connect two people. At other times its through conducting workshops, writing LinkedIn books and guides, etc. The more people I am connected to the more people that I can share with.
I believe that to create opportunity you have to first be willing to help others. Then, by consistently sharing value over time, you allow people to move through the Process of Familiarity. A process that has to happen before someone will choose to do business with you.
What I call the Process of Familiarity likely has been called many things by other people. The three components are:
1. People need to Know You or at a Minimum Know Of You: Often connecting or engaging in conversations will accomplish this.
2. People Must Like You or Have a Positive Opinion: How you interact with others and the value of the content you share will help here. If people like your content they will like you.
3. People Must Trust You: Building trust is dependent upon engaging on conversations or sharing value consistently over time. As people see you on an ongoing basis and are exposed to the value you share the “Like” will grow into “Trust”.
Through this process here’s what I’ve seen happen. Each week I write one or two blog posts that show people how to utilize LinkedIn. I then use the tools LinkedIn provides to communicate that there is a new blog post. People visit the blog for the first time or as a repeat visitor. At some point they check out my profile and learn what it is that I do and see how I can help them.
If they like the content they begin to have a positive impression of me and this eventually moves to a sense of trust. At this point if they ever have a need for my services I am top of mind and they will contact me.
Something else happens as well. People like to share content on other Social Media sites so at some point they become my social media amplification system. This introduces my blog to people outside of the communities I’ve built.
The connection strategy you choose will depend upon how you want to use LinkedIn. There is no right or wrong choice as long as your connection strategy supports the goals you have determined. For me the change to an Alley Cat has helped generate 3 to 5 contacts per week about my services.
Which strategy are you using and why? If you agree or disagree with the post please leave a comment. Your perspective is as important as mine, so share it with everyone.
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