You get a LinkedIn connection request from someone half a world away, and you wonder why on earth he or she would want to connect with an accountant from the heartland of the United States. This is probably where you throw up your hands and exclaim, I don’t know what I’m doing on LinkedIn!
But don’t be dismayed. Different people have different connection strategies on LinkedIn, and the person who invited you to join his network may have a different strategy than you prefer. He obviously feels an international network will help him accomplish his business goals.
Some people haphazardly accept connection requests, but it is important to have a distinct connection strategy. And just so you know, I don’t think connecting with your college friends, coworkers, and friends from church qualifies as a legitimate LinkedIn connection strategy!
The makeup of your network is directly related to the ROI you will receive on LinkedIn. Therefore, it’s crucial that you consciously decide who you want to have in your network. But the good news is that developing a solid strategy is not as difficult as you may think.
Inbound connection requests
When you receive an inbound LinkedIn connection request, browse through the person’s profile. If your answer to some or all of the following questions is "yes" or even a strong "maybe," you should definitely consider adding him/her to your network.
- Have I ever met this person?
- Does any information on this person’s profile lead me to believe something good might happen from starting a relationship with him/her? (for example, attended the same school, worked at the same company, involved in similar organizations or nonprofits, the person’s industry is aligned with yours, etc.)
- Did the person state a distinct purpose for wanting to connect with me? If so, does it resonate with me?
- Does this person have people in common with me whom I consider to be trusted friends or colleagues?
- If I bumped into this person at a networking event tonight, is it likely the conversation we’d have would cause me to consider the night a business success?
If you are still on the fence after asking yourself these questions, don’t pull out a coin and flip it. Rather, accept the request, because if at some point having this person in your network becomes a detriment to you, you can simply disconnect from him/her.
Keep in mind that the more connections you have (especially the right ones), the more successful you will be on LinkedIn.
How to connect with the right people
Your personal connection strategy will ultimately determine the size and makeup of your network. You will want to consider including the following important groups of people in your network to ensure you will maximize your ROI:
- Current clients
- Prospective clients
- Other professionals who hang out with your clients (e.g., attorneys and bankers)
- Experts in your industry
- Leaders in associations or organizations you belong to
- Recruiters who specialize in your industry
- Suppliers and vendors
- Donors and volunteers of nonprofit organizations you are involved with
- Employees of companies you might be interested in working for or developing a business relationship with
- Coworkers at your current and past employers
Another valuable reason to include these people in your network is the referral potential. People are more likely to recommend you to others if you remain top of mind. Once they are part of your network, they will see your LinkedIn activity, including any helpful resources you share—the perfect way to show you are an expert in your field.
More ways to grow your network
LinkedIn has some great features to help you build a powerful professional network. My favorite is the Advanced People Search feature. It enables you to search for broad categories of potential connections as well as very specific types of people. If you are in a niche market, you will find this feature to be particularly helpful.
For example, let’s say you’d like to find presidents, CFOs or controllers of manufacturing companies in your town. Just drop the title, industry, and geographic area in the appropriate search boxes, push the Search button, and your list will appear.
To learn more about how to maximize this easy-to-use feature, go to my website and download my worksheet LinkedIn People Searching: Your Ticket to Improved ROI.
LinkedIn etiquette for outbound connection requests
There are many ways to find new connections on LinkedIn and numerous ways to specifically invite someone into your network. However, in my opinion, there is only one proper way to invite someone to join your network, and that is with a personalized invitation.
In other words, avoid using the default message I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. You are attempting to begin a long and hopefully mutually advantageous professional relationship. Start it with a warm, friendly invitation.
If you are committed to using personal invitations, always use the Connect button on the person’s profile. All other Connect buttons, including the one on your phone, will most likely send the default message and provide no customization option.
To learn more about making first-class connection requests, download The Essentials of a 5-Star LinkedIn Connection Invitation.
More tips for building your LinkedIn network
Because the size and makeup of your network are vital to your success on LinkedIn, make it a priority to develop your own personal connection strategy. A powerful professional LinkedIn network will be worth its weight in gold.
For more tips on developing a strong network that will help you grow your business, download The LinkedIn Connection Conundrum: Who Should be in Your Network?
About Wayne Breitbarth
Wayne is a nationally recognized industry leader in LinkedIn training and marketing and author of the best-selling book The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success. He works with companies to develop a comprehensive strategy for using LinkedIn to increase sales, raise brand awareness, recruit employees and reduce recruiting fees, and discover new markets for products and services.
Wayne’s online training course, Explode Your Revenues Using LinkedIn, has received rave reviews. For more details, visit www.powerformula.net/explode.