“Who should I connect to on LinkedIn and why should I bother?”

It’s one of the most frequent questions people ask me about LinkedIn.

My answer is that it depends on what they want to achieve. But I do suggest that they don’t take a too restricted view of who to connect with.

I come across some people who proudly proclaim that they would never, ever connect to someone they haven’t met in person. They go on about how the quality of the connections is so much more important than the number and take pride in purging their connections frequently to, as they see it, keep the quality up and the number down.

Now, they do have a point. Quality of connection is vital, and we should all be trying to build a network of connections on that principle, rather than simply collecting contacts. We all need connections that are mutually beneficial and ongoing. So, I would never advocate the approach of some people who simply want to have the largest number of connections possible.

In the end it is not actually about the number of connections we have, it is about what we do to engage with them. So just going for quantity really is a no/no.

Having said that though there are several important reasons why I think a more open approach to who you connect to pays dividends.

It’s all about networking isn’t it!

LinkedIn is not simply another social media channel, it is a professional networking site. So why not treat connecting on there as you would a normal face to face networking meeting.

Would you ever go to a live networking meeting that only ever had the same people there? Never having the chance to meet new members or guests, no new blood, no new business.

I doubt it.

Yet that is what people who only connect to people they already know are doing on LinkedIn. They are closing the door on expanding their network and that’s a real shame.

What you want from a live networking meeting are interactions with new people, you want to start some conversations, find out what are the issues they have, find area of mutual benefit and see how you can help each other. You do this by talking to new people.

Shouldn’t you do that on LinkedIn as well?

Reinforce your credibility

Having a low number of connections, and by that I mean under 500, can lead to a serious credibility problem to at least some potential clients who view your profile. Now that may just be their misunderstanding of how things are, but why give them the opportunity to think it. Above 500 connections the actual number is no longer visible on the profile. I generally tell my clients to aim to get above 500 meaningful connections as soon as possible.

Increase your audience

Each connection to your network extends your reach, and any articles you publish, any status update you write can been seen by more people making it more likely to be read, interacted with and liked. 

Also, if you are linking your website content to your LinkedIn profile and articles as you should be, then you are potentially driving more traffic direct to your website as well.

Helps you find your key customers more easily

LinkedIn (indeed all social networking) works on the principle of “Six degrees of separation”. This is the idea that any 2 people on the planet are no more than 6 “steps” apart. LinkedIn only goes out to 3 degrees of separation but it still means that the number of people you can reach grows hugely for each connection you make.

Let’s assume the average number of first degree connections on LinkedIn is around 800. Let’s also assume that 20% of the connections overlap. If you have 500 connections the number of second degree connections is therefore around a third of a million (640×500), and that is without counting the number of 3rd degree connections you have added. When you get into larger number say 1500, the connection potential is nearly a million.

This means that when you are searching for that important business connection it is far more likely that you will be able to find useful potential contacts if you have a reasonable number of connections.

Allows you to be found more easily

You will find that as you increase the number of connections you begin to show up in search results more frequently (because you have connections in common with the searcher). You’ll begin to receive more profile views and more invites to connect because your new connections are commenting and liking your articles and updates. It literally is like a snowball rolling down the hill picking up speed and mass as it goes.

Try asking

If you really aren’t sure about a potential connection request, try asking them why they want to connect. A simple message along the lines of “Hi, thanks for the connection request. I normally only connect with people I know. I was wondering if there was a specific reason for you wanting to connect and how I might be able to help.” You’ll know from their response whether they are serious or not.

They may be a client!

A final thought – if someone has gone to the bother of contacting you and asking to connect, don’t you think it is worthwhile to just give them the benefit of the doubt and at least start a conversation with them. Who knows they may want to actually buy what you are providing – wouldn’t that be nice!

You can always say goodbye anyway…

What if you have connected to someone and you realise you have made a mistake?

It isn’t an issue, it is simple to connect with people and just as simple to disconnect. Simply go to their profile page, click on the 3 dot icon, press remove connection below their picture and they are history!

They won’t even get a message that you have removed the connection.

This post was first published on LinkedIn (November 10, 2017): https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/who-should-i-connect-linkedin-why-bother-steve-doyle/