How To Get More LinkedIn Contacts (without being a L.I.O.N.)
By Paul Konikowski, CTS-D
If you are not yet on LinkedIn, it is kind of like Facebook-for-work. There are no games or apps or Caturday videos on LinkedIn, and you do not need to be social friends with someone to be LinkedIn (connected) with them; you just have to know them through work, or have met them; or sometimes you just need to know someone that knows them.
LinkedIn is a great way to get business referrals and recommendations about your previous work experience. Your LinkedIn Profile is essentially an online resume and portfolio of your past projects, and there are tons of LinkedIn groups where you can pitch or answer questions. There are also LinkedIn Company pages you can follow, and daily news articles, but LinkedIn is really about making valuable business connections and building your network.
What is a L.I.O.N? When LinkedIn first started gaining popularity, a small group of power users saw the potential for a completely open network of random connections pooling their contacts, rather than each person actually knowing their contacts. These LinkedIn Open Networkers added the acronym L.I.O.N. to their LinkedIn user names to tell others they were willing to ‘LinkIn’ with anyone. There are a lot of positives to open networking platforms like Twitter and Pinterest that allow anyone to follow anyone else (one way connections), but most LinkedIn users are not L.I.O.N.s. Most LinkedIn users want a network of professionals they have actually met, or know someone they know, and trust. To me, LinkedIn is all about organizing your work contacts, keeping in constant contact with them, and building new business connections based on reputation.
So how does one go about getting 500 or even 1000 LinkedIn Contacts without being a L.I.O.N.? Well believe it or not, you might want to start with your family members. They can help to proofread your profile, and who knows, and they even learn what you do at work! By adding all of your family members to your LinkedIn Network, you can kick-start your Contacts with people who know you well, and are (hopefully) willing to recommend you to others. By adding you to their networks, many of their contacts will be alerted to your profile and skills, which may turn into more business for you. Because with LinkedIn, it’s not just who you know, it’s who they know. Go ahead and add your trusted friends too, one at a time, or using the email search tools, but keep in mind LinkedIn is really supposed to be about work, so don’t expect the same types of posts as you see from them on Facebook.
Next, add all of your current and past coworkers; there are a few ways to do this. You can search them one by one by name, or you can search by company in the main search box. As you add your current and past coworkers, its good to look at their contacts to see if you happen to know any of them too, but don’t get carried away. You can also use the LinkedIn search tools pictured left to add your classmates from college.
If you are the type of person who keeps business cards in a Rolodex or similar filing system (physical or electronic), I applaud you, and challenge you to take on this next step: Go through your business cards one by one, find each person on LinkedIn, and send them each a request to connect. Depending on the size of your business card collection, it can be quite a task, but I can honestly tell you it was the best thing I ever did to increase my presence on LinkedIn. I suggest you do it in small bites, ten or twenty business cards at a time. You will be amazed how many people will be happy to connect with you. If they don’t, please don’t take it personally. Some people just use LinkedIn when they are unemployed!
As you move forward in your career, you will continue to collect business cards from the people you meet. I suggest you find them on LinkedIn within a week of meeting them, and then ask them to connect. Keep it simple, something like “Hi we met at that seminar last week, I would like to add you to my network if you are interested. Thank you”. It’s still good to keep the business cards and continue to print your own, as the physical versions add another level of interaction. I like to bridge the gap between the physical world of business cards and the online world of LinkedIn by adding a QR code to my business cards. This makes it easy for someone with a smart phone to easily look up my LinkedIn Profile, and connect, without having to type out my email or last name!
At this point, you should have added everyone you know or have ever known, right? Now its time to expand your network reach by optimizing your LinkedIn Profile for its internal search engine (SEO for LinkedIn). This short video explains the basic LinkedIn SEO techniques better than I ever could. Big thanks to Johnny D for sharing this with me:
Why didn’t I optimize my LinkedIn BEFORE I made all my initial connections, you ask? Well, it’s about flexing the muscle to build the muscle, and vice versa. Each time you update your profile, a large portion of your LinkedIn network are alerted with news that “Mr. T has updated his profile”. The exact number of impressions (people who saw the update) depends on the size of the LinkedIn network, each person’s alert settings, and how often they log in. In the screen capture below, I don’t know Eugene, but we share a connection named Allan who commented on his new photo. If you update your profile every day, a large portion of your contacts will be alerted every day, which is too much, so try to keep your profiles edits to one day a week at most. You want to remind people what you do for a living, not annoy them.
By following the above steps, which may take some tenacity, you can easily double the number of primary contacts in your LinkedIn network. But the key is to keep up with it: every time you meet someone new in a business meeting or trade show, and exchange business cards, you should subsequently try to connect with them on LinkedIn. It can be very tedious, but it also means more business in the long run! It’s important to keep your LinkedIn Profile up to date, and to constantly build your network, even when you are not looking for a new job. Engage in some relevant LinkedIn Group Discussions, occasionally comment on others posts, or even advertise yourself using LinkedIn Ads to reach a new business audience. The strength of your LinkedIn network speaks to your credibility, both online, and in the real world.
And where is the real world again? asks the tech blogger aloud.
Meow answers his cat.
If we are not yet connected on LinkedIn, here is my profile: