What’s the method to your madness?
Your LinkedIn connection madness, that is.
Everyone who builds a LinkedIn network starts the same way, accepting connections from people you know. But now you want to grow your network and reach that magical 500+ connections mile-marker. How do you do that without compromising your integrity?
How do you know when to say “yes” to a connection, or push the guilt-ridden “I don’t know this person” button?
There’s no “right way” to accept or deny connections on LinkedIn. Instead, your method should be a personal, albeit consistent, strategy.
Here are the methods that most people use to manage their connections on LinkedIn. Take a look at the pros and drawbacks of each, and decide which one (or ones) are right for your industry and network-building goals.
Rule 1: Do I Know You?
The first method is as easy as this: Do you know this individual in “real life”?
Have you done business with them, met them at a conference, had coffee?
Don’t connect with them.
Rule 1 is a common choice, especially for people who value quality of their network over size.
Pros: You build a highly curated, targeted group of connections, about whom you know more than what is presented on their LinkedIn page. This method is useful in industries where exclusivity matters or where privacy is a primary concern (if perhaps, your job includes security clearances or benefits from a discreet social media presence).
Drawbacks: The point of LinkedIn is to grow and nurture relationships, and there’s no way you already know everyone in the industry. It might sound good in theory, but Rule 1 ends up being more restrictive to the LinkedIn account owner than to his or her potential connections.
Rule 2: Status Matters
Consider this approach akin to a first gesture during a new business partnership: You check out their background before you shake hands on a deal. This method requires clicking on their profile and taking a closer look at their employment, the professional tilt of their profile, and their connections ratio.
Some things you should check:
- The quality of their profile.
- Have they completed all the sections?
- Do they have a professional headshot?
- Do they look real?
- Their current connections.
- Are they connected with people you want to connect with?
- Do they have 500+ connections, or are they just starting out?
- Are their connections working in industries and countries you’re interested in?
- Their current work experience.
- Do they work in your industry?
- Is their current title comparable to yours, or higher?
Pros: You maintain the quality of your network, even if you don’t yet have personal relationships with everyone.
Drawbacks: You’ll miss some people who could potentially be useful connections, especially if you will be in recruiting mode at some point.
Rule 3: Open Network
People who follow Rule 3 accept all connections – in LinkedIn terms, they are “open networkers” or LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers). Let’s face it: It’s an ego boost to see someone wants to connect with you, and you want to hit that 500+ mark as soon as you can to look cool, right?
Pros: You’ll get an extensive list of connections in no time flat.
Drawbacks: The list of downsides to this method is tremendous, so we’ll only name a couple:
- No targeting means no focus. If you connect with everyone, you’re getting individuals from all industries throwing messages at you at once. Talk about messaging overload. You need to choose your focus and then nurture connections with people who are similar or who can help you move forward in your career.
- One lousy connection apple can poison the entire barrel. In other words, you give new connections access to all of your other connections. A subpar connection could annoy your more valuable connections and that annoyance hurts your relationship, too.
Rule 4: Look for Value
Rule 4 involves assessing a connection’s future worth before cementing the relationship.
Take Rule 2 a step further and determine if the person looks like someone you might actually want to know. Do they look interesting? Could they be useful at some future point? Could their connections benefit you or your business? If yes, accept. If they hold no value other than increasing your connection count, do not connect.
Think of the connection like a bookmark – a way to find people later, when you might need them.
Pros: Rule 4 users build a large network strategically. Similar to initiating a banking relationship long before you need a loan, they are creating the foundation for relationships they can nurture over time.
Drawbacks: Like in romantic relationships; when you only think about yourself, you’re missing out on half of the equation. You won’t always be the novice, who needs support. Eventually, you’ll be the nurturer that helps someone build their career as they follow your footsteps. Don’t forget to pay it forward by supporting people who are coming up in your industry and trying to get their network started, too.
Which Rule is Best for You?
Here’s the magic formula behind creating a killer combo attack for connecting on LinkedIn:
You can use the best of each method to get a targeted, engaged, and useful network of connections on LinkedIn that helps promote your business and your personal goals.
What rule do you choose?
Do you hold your connections close and only approve a select few? Or do you believe in a free-for-all connect-a-thon? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.