Last week I covered some tips to Optimize Your Profile which was the first part of the Three Basic Keys to LinkedIn. Today we cover the second Key…Building Your Network.
You can have the best profile on LinkedIn but if your network is not significant enough it won’t matter. You have to connect to others. If you’re more of an open networker, you’ll find it easier to build your network. If you’re more restrictive in whom you connect to then you’re going to have to get out and meet people.
Your Direct Network:
I’ve heard different numbers as far as how many direct connections you need to have…100, 250, 500, or more. I’m not sure that there is a definitive number, but what I do know is that 100 connections is probably better than 50 and 500 is probably better than 250. My thoughts are that if you get active in your community you should be able to build up at least 500 local connections.
I got lucky on LinkedIn. When I received my first referral from another member I only had 19 connections. That was enough to wake me up to the potential. The spigot didn’t start flowing immediately but as my network grew little by little so did the referrals.
Another benefit I noticed was that connecting on LinkedIn added another degree of depth to my relationships within my chamber. It gave me a point of reference and an immediate ice breaker the next time I saw the connection.
During the next year I grew my network by sending connection invitations to everyone that attended the networking events I attended. In the invitation I simply said, “Our paths crossed today at the Chamber meeting. We didn’t have an opportunity to meet but I am using LinkedIn to enhance my networking. I’d like to extend an invitation to connect”.
If I actually met them then I added a note about our conversation. Personalizing your invitations will increase the likelihood of it being accepted. Avoid using the canned LinkedIn invitation, it doesn’t say much about you or why you want to connect. It makes a difference.
I currently have about 2,800 direct connections and about 800 of these are local. Some of these connections I know some are simply part of a network. I’ve heard the arguments that connecting to those you don’t know devalues your network. I simply disagree.
Last week I introduced a connection I didn’t know to another connection I didn’t know. I was simply the hub in the process but the introduction was made. The value of that introduction remains to be seen but an opportunity has been created.
How you choose to connect is a decision you have to make. For me openly connecting has been a good decision.
Your Group Network
Most people are aware of their Direct network but don’t realize that they have a Group network as well. The people that belong to the same groups as you represent a network. I define a network on LinkedIn based on my ability to communicate a message. Groups allow you to do that.
If your primary reason for being on LinkedIn is to network then the only value in groups is their ability to help you find more people to connect to. If you’re on LinkedIn to make money, and you should be, then you’ll realize that the value of groups is that they extend your reach.
I may have 2,800 direct connections but the 50 groups I’m in now have over 800,000 people. Locally the groups I’m in extend my reach from 800 local professionals to over 30,000. That’s a healthy extension of my reach on LinkedIn.
The beauty of groups is that they are formed around a uniting factor. It could be a location such as Linked Georgia (have to be a resident of Georgia), a type of employment such as Self Employed Atlanta (be self employed and live in the Atlanta Metro), an alumni group such as Georgia southern University (graduated from the University), or even based on LinkedIn recommendations such as Top Recommended People (have 10 recommendations or more).
You simply need to identify the groups that your prospects belong to and join. Then begin interacting and communicating with them.
Your networks represent opportunity. Each person in your networks is a potential client, referral partner, business alliance, or simply a hub that could help you connect into an opportunity. They also provide a larger audience to provide value to. You determine the size and scope.
Next week we’ll talk about how to start leveraging LinkedIn to take advantage of your “killer” profile and the network you’re building. What’s your connection strategy?
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