Over the years I have seen users on LinkedIn trying to grow their network desperately, adding anybody randomly and hoping that somebody from the other side of the dashboard will click “Accept” to their connection request. Although without any criticism, this might be considered a sort of “strategy”, there are better ways to grow a healthy LinkedIn network.
Usually, a connection on LinkedIn should be something where we have met or done business with the other person, what Reid Hoffman (co-founder of Linkedin) refers to a “Closed Network“. Hence, he says “For the network to have value as an introduction tool, the connections need to have meaning”. If that is very true, in recent times I think Linkedin has slowly but surely started to become similar to other social media platforms. I remember when I joined 10 years ago, the tone of voice was strictly professional and you had to be sure writing the right comment. I got admonished once because my reply was not properly on topic. Not today.
Asking for a LinkedIn connection is something legit, and you are absolutely free to do your way, but before, ensure you have done the following checks. It will increase the chance of being accepted into somebody’s network.
Add a decent, professional profile picture
If you have recently graduated from school and you are transitioning to the job world, one of the first things they must have told you is to have a LinkedIn account. This way you can apply for jobs or connect to your fellow students. Always remember that LinkedIn is a professional Network, so you should keep it professional.
The first thing to look after is your profile picture. I still see on some connection requests images of people taken while they are drunk, in a pub, during concerts, among other people at a party. Upload a picture of yourself while you are sober, well dressed (not necessarily a suit). Be natural and that’s it. Try not to take the picture as you take a selfie. Ask a friend or your parents to take the headshot.
Remember: A profile picture is the first thing that potential LinkedIn peers are going to check/see in a connection request. LinkedIn itself offers great bits of advice on photo filters and other tips you might want to know to bring your profile picture to the next level.
Have a strong, complete, realistic, up to date cv
No matter if you have 10 years experience or just out of the College. What is important is to write key information on what you have done so far. Don’t inflate your experience or knowledge. Professionals and HR Recruiters know instantly that. Same for your Profile’s summary. Catch the attention but not “overcook”. I read sometimes in profile summaries phrases like “Marketing Guru”, “Expert Marketer”, “The coolest guy in town”, etc. If you don’t have job experience, add what you have done in school, what subjects you studied and what assessments/projects you have done. Be interesting and show you have a good attitude presenting yourself. There is a good article written by Jasmine Sandler about good vs bad LinkedIn profile. For example, she emphasizes having well-written content and targeted skills.
Now you are ready to grow your LinkedIn Network
Once your profile is “bulletproof” it is time to grow your network. I personally don’t recommend to ask anybody for a connection just for the sake of increasing its number. You might get lucky because they are eager to grow their network too. What’s the point on that? The scope here is to grow a meaningful peer relationship so that you can interact and be introduced to their peers, focusing on the Country you are working/living. After all, you may agree with me that you use LinkedIn to grow your job career. Adding unknown, unreliable, off topic industry connections might just damage your profile. Also, connecting with unknown people will attract further other unknown who just look to increase their network. In the end, you want to move towards your work career ladder. Moving from junior to senior to manager with connections you don’t have an idea of what they doing is not and healthy growth.
What to focus on if you want to increase your Linkedin Network
1. If you live and working in Ireland I would focus on the Irish and Uk market, this will increase the quality of your network (for example if somebody makes a search on LinkedIn, filtering on geolocation). Also, as a native Italian speaker, I would keep in touch with professionals in my native country. This also helps to benchmark strategies or tactics done in different countries, as well as trends. You should do the same if you speak a second language or if your native language is not English.
2. Follow your industry leaders, like, comment, share. LinkedIn also offers help on this, suggesting who to follow or connect.
3. If you recently finished studying at College or University, you should have connected with all the teachers/lecturers and alumni you met in school. Usually, a school has a Linkedin Page or an Alumni page group. For example, National College of Ireland, where I obtained my Master Degree in Marketing has an alumni page.
4. Write a recommendation to peers who studied or worked with you. They will bring you to another level and you will be remembered. You can ask also for recommendations.
5. Attend local Networking events or conferences based on your sector. Introduce yourself, then ask on LinkedIn for connection. If you want to try connecting with the event speaker, don’t just send the request but write a note explaining who you are, where you heard about them and why you want to connect. One good resource in Ireland for events and networking is Eventbrite.
6. To grow a meaningful network, add a note when you send the request. Like in life, introduce yourself. There might be the chance you want to connect to a 2d level peer (a connection of your connection) where you ever talked to them. Writing an introduction note they will be more willing to add you back because you tell them who you are.
7. Once your network grows, start chasing the 2d degree connections. They will be more interested in connecting with you because you have the leverage of having a connection in common.
8. Look after your network: Like posts, comment and share. Write a short sentence the reason why their post should be read when you share. Add some insights if you can. Every time you comment on others’ posts, their connection see it, meaning you are getting attention. Hence they might decide to connect with you, feeling that you might enjoy their posts or published articles. Don’t be afraid to reach the post’s author expressing your interested in the reading at one condition that you will have to explain the reason.
9. If you plan on posting something on your profile, do it during working hours. Usually, in the morning a post gets better attention than afternoon/evening when the office closes down. According to Jane Fleming’s Linkedin Business blog post, the best time to post on LinkedIn is:
7:30 – 8:30 a.m. / 12:00 p.m. / 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays and 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. on Tuesdays
Following this article, you will be able to increase your LinkedIn Network and improve your profile. Just an extra tip, don’t be afraid to ask a recruiter or senior LinkedIn member for feedback on your profile.