Have you ever really stopped to think about who you are – or should be – connected to on LinkedIn and why? Based on discussions in LinkedIn sales groups and questions I get from new clients, the size of your LinkedIn network is a hot topic. Is bigger always better – or is it more about how you use it?
To answer that question for yourself, it helps to understand how your network affects your LinkedIn efforts.
How your LinkedIn network affects your LinkedIn efforts
As you may have noticed, LinkedIn does not allow everyone to find and potentially communicate with all 360+ million members, which when you think about it is probably a good thing. Instead it provides access based on your current connections and their connections. (LinkedIn also provides expanded access based on the type of account you have – premium, sales navigator, sales navigator corporate, recruiter – but that’s a topic for a different article.)
In one form or another you are able to see and reach out to your direct connections, your direct connections’ direct connections and their direct connections. Your access to LinkedIn members grows rapidly – as do your visibility to those members.
Visibility – Exposure
Just as more connections means access to more members, it also means more people will potentially see you and your LinkedIn activity. Each time you post a status update or group discussion, or you like, share or comment on someone else’s update, article or discussion, your activity shows up in the news feed of your entire network — all of your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections.
The three degrees of connections also works in reverse. Any one that you can see can also see you. This means you will show up in more searches of people who are trying to find someone with your experience and skill set.
Adding 1st degree connections rapidly expands your overall network and the number of people who can see you and your activity. Your network grows exponentially. (See diagram above)
“You are known by the company you keep” has been said, in one way or another, by so many people – including probably your parents – that the exact origin doesn’t show up on a Google search. Regardless of where it started, its meaning survives on LinkedIn, where your – buzzword alert – “personal brand” can be highly influenced by who you are connected to.
Although you can choose to keep your connections invisible to others, doing so will rob you of a chance to associate yourself with the right people.
Open, closed or strategic
In the beginning days of LinkedIn, networks were a way to connect online with people you already knew personally – and knew fairly well. Every now and then I run across someone who still considers it important that her or she can pick up the phone and reach any and all of their connections. Today, from a sales, marketing or business development perspective, I fail to see the value of a closed network strategy. Just like a real world networking event, LinkedIn is a place to meet new people.
One the other end of the network spectrum are open connectors – known on LinkedIn as LIONs – who will connect with anyone that finds their profile and clicks on the Connect button. The thinking behind this networking philosophy is “you never know who may know someone you want to know”. That may be true, but simply being connected to someone who is connected to someone you’d like to meet isn’t going to land that person in your lap. You have to keep your connections warm or they’ll forget about you, and how do you do that with 7000 connections most of whom are completely irrelevant to you?
Somewhere in the middle of a closed network and an open one is what we call a strategic network – one that encompasses a growing range of relevant connections. Depending on your LinkedIn objectives, your strategic network might be comprised of prospects, customers, influencers, analysts, media, investors and others who can help or be helped by you.
Being connected to market influencers and known 3rd party experts will make me feel that you are one of them. Being connected to other people like me will make me comfortable that you have good taste. Being connected to every Tom, Dick and Mary who sends you a connection request will confuse me.
How many connections should you have?
This is one of those questions that gets answered with the ever popular “it depends”. The size of your market, the number of accounts you handle, what you’re trying to accomplish all affect the number of people you may want in your network.
At the time of this writing, the average LinkedIn member has 930 connections. (source: SBI Magazine) But, there are definite differences among industries and seniority levels.
Regardless of whether you chose to keep your network fairly tight or you get a kick out of big numbers, the important thing is that you give it some thought and approach it strategically.
Want some help? The Conversion Company designs and builds strategic networks for sales and marketing professionals, executives and other thought leaders in B2B companies of all types. Contact us to talk about yours.