How to Develop a LinkedIn Networking Strategy

linkedin networking

LinkedIn Networking

A powerful and compelling profile is extremely important on LinkedIn. However, the network you develop on the platform is every bit as important as your profile.

As any experienced networker will tell you, the power lies not just with a compelling LinkedIn profile and your immediate (or first degree) connections, but with your 2nd (the people your immediate connections know) and 3rd degree connections (the people your 2nd degree connections know).

The fact of the matter is, the more people you know, the more likely you are to have connections at companies you want to work for and be able to ask for referrals into those companies. Making connections is essential to your LinkedIn efforts in order to achieve your professional networking goals and objectives.

On LinkedIn, your connections are simply the people in your network. The more connections you have, the larger your professional network. You can easily find the number of your 1st degree connections and estimated total network size on your LinkedIn home page.

However, before you begin adding connections to your network, it is important to craft a personalized LinkedIn strategy that focuses on your LinkedIn goals, industry, and networking philosophy. How you choose to network and connect with others on the platform will impact your chances of reaching the goals you have set out to achieve on the platform.

LinkedIn warns against adding complete strangers to your network, or accepting an invitation from people you don’t have a trusted relationship with. In fact, if too many people click on the Report Spam button when you send them an invitation to connect, LinkedIn will penalize you and put restrictions on your account.

If you are new to LinkedIn, you may be tempted to turn down connection requests from people you don’t already know. However, the fact is that when you limit your LinkedIn network to only connections you know personally, you are restricting your overall networking potential. You’ll be missing out on some great opportunities that could come your way by virtue of being part of a large network of professionals. This will defeat the objective of having a professional network. The purpose of professional social networking is to find and be found.

Networking on LinkedIn

By actively networking on LinkedIn, you are building a huge database of professionals nationally, and across the globe. With a large enough network, you can develop the reach you need to search for and find the strategic connections you need to get your dream job.

However, before you begin adding connections to your network, it is important to craft a personalized LinkedIn strategy that focuses on your LinkedIn goals, industry, and networking philosophy. How you choose to network and connect with others on the platform will impact your chances of reaching the goals you have set out to achieve on the platform.

Why You Should Develop a LinkedIn Connections Strategy

Before you embark on developing your network on the platform, it is important to develop a connections strategy that aligns with your LinkedIn goals. In order to define your strategy, you must first understand how LinkedIn connections are classified.

People on LinkedIn follow one of four methods when developing their network on LinkedIn:

Connect only with people you know

LinkedIn members who follow this strategy connect only with family and friends, work colleagues, classmates, and close business associates they personally know or who their known connections recommend to them. Their networks tend to be highly selective. However, this type of approach does not take full advantage of the powerful networking capabilities that LinkedIn has to offer.

Open Networkers

Open networkers (also known as the LION group which stands for LinkedIn Open Networkers) are people who want to use the site for business development purposes, and will connect to just about anyone, including people they don’t know. They are only focused on growing their connections.

These type of members see opportunity increasing as the number of connections increase. They make special efforts to connect with thousands of people. If you are an open networker, your network will grow exponentially so you’re more visible on LinkedIn. If you have a large network, you are likely to have more people reaching out to you because you will be perceived as being highly influential.

Whilst there are a lot of significant benefits to being an open networker, it is important to note that if your network gets too large, a lot of LinkedIn features and secondary applications may not work. Furthermore, people with very large networks are often seen as spammers by some people, and those people will refuse to connect with you on that very basis, causing you to miss out on potentially lucrative opportunities.

Open networking is great for recruiters, job seekers, freelancers, people in sales and marketing, entrepreneurs, startups, and sometimes people in the nonprofit arena.

Strategic Networkers

LinkedIn members who follow this connection strategy connect with people they know and also seek out strategic connections who match their networking goals. People in this group also accept invitations from those that would be beneficial to be connected to. They are open networkers who use LinkedIn strategically.

However, their focus is on quality, rather than on quantity. They are open to growing their network, but only for strategic purposes. In other words, they strive to connect with people in their industry with whom they share common interests. Because these connections are strategic, there’s a chance they can help each other with their networking goals.

Benefits of being a strategic networker include the fact that your network remains small enough to be manageable, you are able to connect either directly or through an introduction to the people you need to, and you’re not viewed as a spammer, because your network is not too big. However, being a strategic networker also has its drawbacks. You might not be visible to the specific person you wish could see your profile.

Strategic networks are best for top executives, professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and the like who are not in sales and marketing, and people who simply do not want to be bothered with introductions on LinkedIn.

Understanding Your Connections

Your LinkedIn network is made up of your first, second and third degree connections. People who belong to the same LinkedIn groups that you belong to are also considered part of your overall LinkedIn network.

First Degree Connections

Your first degree connections are your closest level of connections. These are the people that are in your immediate network and are usually composed of people such as your family and friends, work colleagues, acquaintances, business partners and close business associates.

Second Degree Connections

In order to be in your second degree connections group the person must have a first degree connection to one of your first degree connections. These are people that are connected to your family, friends, co-workers, partners and close business associates. In other words, these are people who are one step removed from your immediate network.

The great thing about LinkedIn is that if you identify someone in your second degree network that you wish to network with, you simply need to ask your first degree connection to make an introduction between the two of you.

Third Degree Connections

These are people who know at least one of your second degree connections. These connections can be thought of as a friend of a friend. In order to network with these connections you need to ask your first degree connection to pass on an introduction to your second degree connection that in turn passes the introduction to the third degree connection.

LinkedIn Degrees of Separation

LinkedIn is the embodiment of the Six Degrees of Separation concept because in most cases, you can connect to any other person in the network regardless of whether you already know that person.

Let’s break this down so you can see just how powerful this concept is, and how you can use it to your benefit:

Say you are interested in a particular job at Virgin Media that you’ve seen advertised. You’ve identified the HR executive (Patrick) at Virgin as key to the hiring decision for that position. Lets say that Dre, who is in your first degree (immediate) network is connected to Plato, who knows Patrick. Plato is not in your first degree network.

This means that Plato is in your second degree network, and Patrick is in your third degree network. Instead of simply submitting a job application like everybody is doing, leverage your network to submit your application directly to Patrick. Do a search on LinkedIn, and you will see how connected you are to Patrick. Since Plato is connected to Patrick, ask Dre, who is in your immediate network for an introduction to Plato.

Once you are connected to Plato, you can then ask Plato for an introduction to Patrick. Not only will your application stand out, this will let Patrick know just how social you are. That is the essence of LinkedIn, and why it is so powerful.

As the circles of connections expand they become exponentially larger. So while your first degree connections might be a relatively small group of people, if people in your first degree and second degree connections have large networks of their own, then you can potentially know a very large group of people.