LinkedIn 101: Making Connections

LinkedIn 101: Making Connections

by Kerry Scott on 14 July 2009

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This is part two in our series on using  LinkedIn effectively.  Yesterday we talked about how to get started.  Tomorrow we’ll focus on the effective use of LinkedIn Groups. On Thursday we’ll wrap up with information on some of LinkedIn’s other features, like profile pictures, recommendations, and status updates.  If you want to make sure you don’t miss a post, you can subscribe to Clue Wagon via RSS and get posts delivered right to your desktop. If that’s too fancy, you can also subscribe via email.

Our resident experts and super-generous contributors are:

So let’s talk about making connections!

Is there such thing as too many connections?  Should I only connect to people I knew well?  What if a potential employer is looking at my profile and doesn’t like one of the people I’m connected to?

JENNIFER: Your connection strategy will likely depend upon how you plan to use LinkedIn.  If you’re planning to use LinkedIn to find trusted connections to opportunities, your best bet is to connect only with those that you know personally.  That way, if you find a person that your connection knows whom you’d like to be introduced to, they should be able to do that for you without any problem.  Likewise, you’ll likely only receive Introduction Requests from your friends and personal contacts – which can be very helpful.

On the other hand, you may choose to have a larger network and connect with more people – many of whom you don’t know, or don’t know well.  LinkedIn wasn’t created with this in mind, but many people certainly have gravitated in that direction.  Some of the pros of a larger network include the ability to use your “Status Update” to communicate a message/promote yourself or your services to a wider audience.  Also, if you’re using LinkedIn to search for people (for example like a recruiter or business development person would do), then the information you’re able to access is more complete the larger your network is.  Some of the cons of a larger network include receiving Introduction Requests and requests in general from people that you don’t know well enough to recommend.  Plus, they’re using LinkedIn to promote themselves too and the noise on your Network Updates page can get overwhelming (although you can choose what information you want to see/not see on your Home Page in the Accounts & Settings section).

In general, LinkedIn suggests you need around 70 contacts to be able to effectively use LinkedIn search, etc. so a larger network isn’t necessary unless it’s helpful for you to be able to communicate what you’re doing to a larger group of people.

As for an employer looking at your profile and seeing that you’re connected to a person they don’t like?  Do you really want to work there?  Plus, they’ll only be able to see your connections if they are a 1st degree connection to you (one of you has invited the other and accepted).

BETSY: I think this depends on your purpose for being on LinkedIn.  As a recruiter that works with outdoor, sport and lifestyle brands, I connect with everyone/anyone who could be a potential candidate.  And most of the people who connect with me, are either looking for a job now, or understand the value of connecting with a recruiter for future opportunities.  Not every connection leads to something right away—building a network is a long term strategy.

And if you want to keep your connections private, so a potential employer can’t see who you are connected to, you can do that!  It’s in the privacy settings.  You can share your network or keep it private.

It’s awkward to try to connect to people I haven’t kept in touch with.  What’s the best way to do that?

JENNIFER: First – make sure there’s a reason to connect with them. If so, then ALWAYS write a personalized invitation and let them know how you know them/why you would like to connect with them. You may even want to send them an email outside of LinkedIn first to ask if they’d like to connect. Since you don’t know them well (or haven’t maintained your relationship well), you don’t know what their LinkedIn connection strategy is. They may only want to connect to people they know well (and have stayed in contact with) and you risk that they might click the dreaded “I Don’t Know This Person” button on your invitation. If you send invitations to 5 people who click IDK, then your LinkedIn account will be suspended, and you’ll have to beg forgiveness from the LinkedIn Gods to be reinstated.

BETSY: Just do it! Send then a connection request—”Hey Sally, I know we haven’t been in touch in a while, but I saw that you are on LinkedIn, and would love to reconnect with you!”

If it’s someone you don’t know really well, but you worked together 10 years ago, remind them why you know them.  Most of the time people will connect, because they want to grow their networks, too.

KERRY’S NOTE: In my experience, people are on LinkedIn because they want to connect with people, either to find a job or to get business (or some variation on those two things).  As long as you have some reasonable connection with the person and you remind them what it is, most people are going to want to connect with you too.  After all, you both benefit from having a larger network rather than a smaller one.  It’s easy to say, “I feel so bad, I haven’t kept in touch with this person I was friendly with years ago…” but the fact is that they’re probably feeling equally guilty about losing touch.  Somebody has to make the first move, and it might as well be you.  I’ve actually reconnected with some long-lost friends via LinkedIn, which is always cool.

Photo by visulogik

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{ 1 comment }

Elizabeth July 14, 2009 at 7:20 am

This is good to know, Kerry. I joined LinkedIn months ago, but have been hesitant to connect to people I worked with many years ago because I haven’t been in touch since then. Thanks for the info!

Elizabeth’s last blog post..Why he should have just married his mother

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