LinkedIn Connections, how many do you need, how to invite them, etc.

You need to have connections to maximize LinkedIn’s benefits.  In fact the more connections, the better.  However, as in most things, how much is too much?  There are at least three schools of thought about the number of connections you should have on LinkedIn; from (1) you should know every connection personally, to (2) you should connect with everyone that will accept, and (3) somewhere in between.  I prefer the option #3, I want to know everyone personally, or at least have a common vision or ministry focus.  I currently have 226 connections and I can say I personally know 80%, and know I have a common focus with the rest.  Recently, I’ve received quite a few invitations in response to this blog, which I find personally very rewarding.  Who you connect with is a personal decision, but my advice is not to seek connections, or accept connections from just anyone.  I’d recommend having a connection strategy and a focus, and suggest you consider adding it to your LinkedIn profile to let others see.  For those still considering seeking very large numbers, consider how valuable you might appear to others that know you can’t possibly know thousands of connections.  On the other side of that coin, don’t leave anyone out that you know well, including co-workers and bosses from current and previous jobs and assignments, school mates (at least college and/or professional/ministry training), people you know from church, ministries, professional and social organizations, neighbors, doctors, lawyers, pastors, and everyone you meet from now on.  Set your minimum goal for at least 100 connections, and once you reach that goal, make it a habit to keep building your network.

The next important thing to remember is don’t use the standard LinkedIn invitation.  If you don’t know the person you are inviting very well, make sure you tell them how they will know or recognize you, and why you want to connect.  When someone receives a LinkedIn invitation there are three possible responses; (1) “Accept”, (2) “I don’t know this person”, and (3) “Archive”.  Accept means they have accepted your invitation.  Archive means they don’t want to connect but believe they might know you.  I Don’t Know This Person means exactly that, except if you receive five or more “I don’t know this person” (IDK) responses, LinkedIn tags you as a potential spammer, and unfortunately that isn’t obvious to everyone.  Being tagged as a potential spammer doesn’t keep you from continuing to use LinkedIn, but it does require you to input the e-mail address for all future invitations.  This can be quite a challenge because many people only use one e-mail address in LinkedIn and you may not know which one.  While we’re here, I’d recommend having a dedicated e-mail address for LinkedIn (mine is Bill.Bender.LinkedIn@gmail.com), but also including your personal and work e-mail addresses so you don’t miss anyone that might not have your correct e-mail address.  Also, once you receive an IDK response from someone, you are locked out from inviting the person again.  So, how can you safely add connections and not get IDKs?  First invite everyone you know well including a quick comment to customize the invitation.  For those that might not recognize you, be sure to remind them how they will recognize you, or where you met.  Just to be safe, I usually add something to the effect of “I’d like to connect if you are open, if not, please just Archive this invitation”.  Even with all those safeguards, you occasionally get an IDK, not to worry, just try to not get five.  If you do, I’ve been told that an e-mail to LinkedIn customer service might remove the e-mail address requirement.

There are many ways to find people you know on LinkedIn, so you can invite them.  First, you can search for them by name in the search box at the top right hand side of the screen.  Note; be sure the drop down box is set to People.  You will probably find it easier to use the Advanced Search (click on “Advanced” to the right of the search box), and include their current or past employer or their location.  LinkedIn allows you to save up to 3 searches and specify how often to recheck to see if they’ve newly joined LinkedIn.  You can click on Tools at the bottom of a LinkedIn page and download the Outlook toolbar or the Browser toolbar.  The Outlook toolbar gives you a LinkedIn button in Outlook that allows you to invite contacts in your Outlook address book, and import your LinkedIn contacts into your Outlook address book.  One of my favorite ways to find people I know but may have overlooked is to look at my direct contacts list of connections.  Hopefully they’ve made it public (viewable by their contacts), and I’d suggest you make yours public as well.  When you see someone you know, you can click on their name and send them a (customized) invitation.  Of course once you get 50 connections, it can take time to view every connection, so I’d suggest you scroll down on the Home Page to “Recently Connected” so see your networks most recent connections.  There’s an option right under Recently Connected to “See more updates” that puts all the recent connections in the right column.  Yesterday’s connections scroll off the screen quickly so you’ll need to check this every day or two.  You can also click on “My Connections” (under the Connections tab) and check the color of the number of connections to the right of their name.  If the color of connections is orange or red (in lieu of black) they have new connections that you might know.  The last suggestion is at the bottom of the Home page, you’ll find a list of companies that have new colleagues and schools that have new classmates that have just joined LinkedIn.

Now, how about extending your reach past those you know.  Develop a list of target contacts, those that you want to connect with but don’t know yet.  You can check their profile to see who you know in common.  If you have a mutual connection, you can use the “Get Introduced Through a Connection” and ask your connection to forward your invitation to your target connection with their comments.  If the connection is a close one, this type introduction is rarely refused, especially if you include why you want to be connected.  The next method is to see what groups your target connections are in.  If you are not in that group, consider joining if it has some value to you.  If you are in a common group, you can send them an invitation directly, but that’s not always a sure strategy to get them to accept.  The best strategy is to watch what and where your target connection most participates.  Read their discussions and responses.  When the time is right, and you have something of value to add, join a discussion they posted or replied to.  When you start or join a discussion the LinkedIn default is that you will automatically follow that discussion so there’s a good chance they will see your response.  You can ask questions in your groups or in the general LinkedIn Answers area (in the More.. tab) that could attract your target connections.  The key to remember is make sure your questions, discussions, and responses are carefully worded to get their attention, and contain value to help establish your credibility and expertise.  If you post a discussion or reply, and your target connection responds to your posting, you now have a perfect reason to request a connection.

Strategy, strategy, strategy, it’s all about planning what you want LinkedIn to do for you, planning how to maximize the chances LinkedIn will help you, and planning who you need to be connected to that will improve your chances of meeting your goals.  I recently read a study that said over 80% of the money in the world is made by those that actually put a plan in writing, that alone is a good enough reason to start your strategy and action plan today!

Thank you for spending your valuable time reading my blog, I sincerely appreciate your support.  If you find it valuable, consider signing up for e-mail alerts so you’ll know when something new is posted, and please share this with others it will help.

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