You won't be surprised if I tell you that this is the most common question I get about LinkedIn and probably the most important one.
There's a saying that "your network" is "your fortune", a bit cheesy, but there's a lot of truth to it. On LinkedIn, the size and shape of your network directly and indirectly determine how many leads you generate. Let's start by looking at the size.
What is better quality or quantity?
Is it better to have a larger network or a smaller and more focused network? Is there an ideal number of connections?
Almost everyone's knee-jerk response is that quality beats quantity, but in my experience, most people fail to achieve their goals on LinkedIn. There are three basic connection strategies:
LinkedIn LION.Written in capital letters, LION stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. The word LION appears prominently in the person's profile. Their goal is to build the widest possible network and they will accept invites from everyone. Many recruiters use this strategy.
Meet first.On the other hand, some people only connect with people they've met or done business with. I call this the "Get to Know First" strategy. The need for a pre-existing relationship means that person's network is usually quite small.
Wide and narrow.This strategy aims to create a broad connection, but within or close to the individual target audience. Therefore, someone who sells to retailers might also want to contact wholesalers, as they also have useful connections with retailers.
My recommendation is to go for the last option, wide and narrow.The simple mathematical truth is that the larger your network, the more opportunities you will discover and find. It's the law of probability in action. There comes a point, however, when too many connections start to make you awkward on your network.
I suggest that the ideal size for a LinkedIn network is between 500 and 5,000 connections, depending on your role and company
The maximum number of connections you can have is 30,000. You can send a maximum of 5,000 invitations.
now we come to itFormof the network, d. H. with whom you connect.
Who should I network with and why?
Why start? Why are you here (on LinkedIn it doesn't exist!):
- get a job?
- to find business partners
- find potential suppliers
- promote your professional identity?
- establish thought leadership?
- to sharpen the company profile?
- Expand your reach?
- generate sales leads?
As the focus of my work is business development, I will focus on who can support the goals in italics. These are the people you can contact:
- existing customers🇧🇷 It's important not only to connect with the primary sales contact, but also to network more widely across customer accounts because (a) your contact may leave (b) when the people you're connected with leave, they often open a vacancy for your next business .
- Potential customers.You must have a very clear definition of which companies and people you want to work for, for example. Sector, size, sector, location, job title. As long as your criteria are well defined, these people can be found using LinkedIn's advanced search.
- Colleagues.The people you work with are a good and valid source of endorsements and recommendations that validate the skills you indicate in your profile. Only first-degree contacts can support or recommend someone.
Who else can support your business development goals? Now it's time to think a little wider. Here are some suggestions
- people and companiesyou know and some of your potential customers do.These are people whose own business may not be relevant to you, but whom you can introduce or recommend to potential clients.
- People and organizations that are connectors🇧🇷 An example of this would be the local Chamber of Commerce, whose staff are in regular contact with companies that have a constant need for a wide range of products and services. Another example could be an industry association or trade organization. I would also include people in your niche who are particularly well connected in this category.
Making yourself known to these individuals and organizations means your name will be front and center when a need arises.
- people you know.Meeting in person, even a brief encounter at a networking breakfast or at an expo or seminar, means that person will remember you - for at least 24 hours. Most of these people will be relevant to your network (why else were you at the event), it only takes a few minutes to receive a LinkedIn invite the next day.
- People who interact with your posts🇧🇷 Every time someone likes, comments on, or shares one of your posts, you and your business are introduced to a larger audience. It's definitely worth connecting with anyone whoregularlyinteracts with your posts unless we have a good reason not to. This person is promoting you for free.
I would also put anyone in this category who has taken the time to send me a personalized invitation message explaining why they want to connect with me.
Who should I think twice about?
Remember, when you connect with someone they can see all your connections and your posts will be added to their newsfeed. So think carefully before connecting with:
- direct competitors
- People who really have no value to connect with
- People without a photo or incredibly beautiful with few connections
The last category can be a fake profile. Unfortunately, there are scammers out there trying to connect with you. If in doubt, do not connect.
Should I connect with people I don't know?
LinkedIn used to be just about connecting with someone you'd recommend, but things have relaxed a bit since then. You can send an invite to anyone you have an email address for, and the mobile app even lets you send a personalized invite to anyone without an email address.
LinkedIn still encourages people to only connect with people they know, but the reality is that to use the platform effectively, you need to connect with people you don't know. Give them a good reason to connect.
And if I make a mistake, should I disconnect?
It is possible that you occasionally date someone who turns out to have little mutual value. That person will just sit in your LinkedIn network and not add value, but not do harm either. If you decide to disconnect with someone, it's very easy, just go to their profile page, the third option in the drop-down menu is "Disconnect". You will not be notified. 🇧🇷Tip: you might want to switch to incognito mode before visiting their website].
It's easy to remove a connection, the person is not notified
In conclusion, therefore, I recommend a broad and narrow connection strategy. A network between 500 and 5,000 is probably ideal for effective networking. Make sure you are well connected with your customers and build a strong network of potential customers. Remember, when you're connected with someone, they'll see your posts in their home feed and vice versa. This is a great way to build trust and credibility with potential customers.
Think creatively about which other companies you should partner with. For example, an office furniture company might find it useful to affiliate with companies that offer commercial landscaping to the same target group.
Don't be afraid to connect with people you don't know, as long as there's a good reason for it.
Do you agree with my suggestions? If you have a different approach, please add your thoughts in the comments below.
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Greg Cooper is an independent LinkedIn consultant and trainer based in Bristol, UK. He is a member of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing. For over twenty years, Greg has managed an award-winning direct marketing agency working with leading technology companies such as IBM, SAP and Siemens.
Today he works with SMEs and divisions of larger companies. He conducts public and internal courses for business owners, managers and salespeople, including courses in social selling and employee advocacy.
For a personalized discussion of your company's needs, call +44 (0)7917 360222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Greg atTwitter