LinkedIn is all about making connections, from individuals you know personally to individuals you wish you knew. With the platform now topping half a billion users in more than 200 countries, it's the clear leader among social media for connecting with B2B prospects, potential hires and business partners.
Even as the outright leader among social media channels when it comes to professional networking, LinkedIn is still intimidating for many users. The most frequent question for a new LinkedIn user is: "Who should be in my network? Who shouldn't I connect with?" And, unfortunately, that hesitation can make the process of gaining new connections a bit slow.
You'd think out of 500 million users, it wouldn't be that difficult to find 500+ connections to get to a "super user" status faster. But after you've exhausted your own contacts list, it can be a challenge, especially when you want to make sure those connections are relevant and add value to your network. Follow these 9 tips to grow your network in an appropriate, useful way.
1. Personalize Your Connection Requests
When scrolling through LinkedIn's list of "people you may know," don't simply click the "connect" button. If you do, a generic request will be sent. Instead, go to the person's profile page and click the "connect" button there. Doing so will bring up the box shown below and allow you to add a personal note with your connection request, such as "Good to meet you last week while traveling to Chicago. Let's keep in touch." If you're interested in connecting with someone you don't know, such as a person who works in a similar role at another company, add relevancy by letting them know why you’re messaging them. For example, "I've seen your posts and noticed some of your work. I really appreciate your perspectives and would love to connect."
2. Follow Up
Believe it or not, networking can still happen the good-old-fashioned way by actually meeting people face-to-face. Shocking, I know. Did you meet someone at a trade show or conference? Volunteer or serve on a committee for a charity event? How about the business owner at your favorite coffee shop, your healthcare provider, yoga instructor, classmates...you get the idea. It's easy to overlook connections you come in contact with every day, so reach out.
3. Set Monthly Growth Goals
Getting from 100 connections to 500+ seems like an impossible feat. However, if you divide that number over many weeks or months, it doesn’t seem so insurmountable. For example, instead of setting a goal of going from 100 connections to 500+, try setting your goal to 175 connections within two weeks; then repeat. Remember, the key to setting goals is to make them realistic.
Exercise some caution, however. It’s still important to maintain proper LinkedIn etiquette and refrain from spamming people you don’t know. Quality matters more than quantity.
Additionally, don't expect all your connection requests to accept your invitation. They may have a personal LinkedIn philosophy similar to mine where I first ask the following questions to determine whether I'll connect:
1. Do I know you?
2. Do I know someone who knows you?
3. Do I know your company?
4. Do you share industry insights I care about?
5. Are you in a geographic market where I do business?
If I can't answer "yes" to one or more of these questions, chances are I won't accept your invitation to connect.
4. Post Often
This one is self explanatory. When a connection likes, shares or comments on your status update, all of their connections are more likely to see your original post in their feed. If your content seems relevant, those “2nd degree connections” may take the step to send an invitation to connect with you.
Posting more often creates additional opportunities for engagement, thus syndicating your content across home page feeds everywhere. Don’t be concerned about annoying people by posting every day. LinkedIn’s algorithms are tricky, and your network isn’t likely to see every post unless you publish an article natively with LinkedIn’s article tool (more on that later), which does notify your network.
5. Use Images
Using images on social posts can significantly increase engagement with people in your existing network and exposure to potential connections. How much? Research shows that using visual content will increase views by 11 times. So mix it up. Don’t always just share links, but include actual photos.
6. Engage With Existing Connections
Engaging with existing connections puts your profile directly in front of their networks; and all it takes is a "like" or comment on their posts. A simple, "Great thoughts" or "Thanks for sharing" can help expand your reach and, quite honestly, it’s simply the considerate thing to do when someone’s thoughts or content resonate with you. Commenting with your personal insights or questions will increase engagement and exposure even more.
7. Promote Your LinkedIn URL on Other Social Channels
Chances are, whatever social media platform you use most often gives you space for a bio. Using that bio to its fullest potential could be a connection-driving machine when you encourage viewers to connect on LinkedIn, especially if you have a significant following on that platform.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to promote your LinkedIn profile by posting the link in a status update, tweet, pin, video, photo, etc. This is another great way to take advantage of your presence on other platforms. Just be sure to claim your vanity url. Also, while not a social channel, don't forget the simplicity of adding your LinkedIn profile link to your email signature.
8. Leverage Keywords in Your Profile
Similar to optimizing your website or copy for SEO, LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to attract profile visitors based on the words you choose. Therefore, every single word counts. Use common variations of your job title and duties to ensure you’re not invisible because of semantics. For example, is your job title "Content Manager?" You likely have many roles including copywriter, website editor, creative writer, communications specialist, blogger and more. Someone may be more likely to search connections who perform specific functions rather than search by their formal titles.
9. Publish Articles
It’s common practice to share blog articles written by others that you feel will resonate with your audience by posting an update on LinkedIn and sharing the URL. Even better is when those insights and ideas are your own. Publishing articles as native content on your LinkedIn profile (also known as long-form posts) is one of the best ways to establish your personal brand and share your expertise in a given industry.
The great thing about native content is that your network will be notified every time you publish an article, increasing your chances of engagement and brand exposure. This also stresses the importance of not publishing articles every day or your followers may start to tune out. While a simple call-to-action to get in touch or check out additional resources is usually acceptable at the end of the article, nothing will turn off readers faster than an article that ends up being nothing more than click bait or a sales pitch. So only write on topics that will truly provide value to readers.
Getting to 500+ LinkedIn connections won't happen overnight, and if you already have 500+ connections, don't stop there. LinkedIn is the easiest and most powerful networking tool of our time, putting you one click away from meeting anyone; all without leaving your couch.
These tips should make the idea of growing your number of connections less intimidating, more realistic, and much more fun. Want more tips on engaging others through social media? Check out our helpful guide below.