There appears to be two main schools of thought, one suggests connecting with as many people as possible by actively targeting potential prospects with connection requests and the other recommends being more selective as to who you request/accept as a connection.
Personally, I think there is a middle ground.
You are looking to have a large network of connections as the larger your network the greater potential you have for your updates to be seen and shared. However, what you really want are connections who are interested in your products/services or can add value to your conversations.
For every individual industry sector the actual number of connections will vary. The MD of a high end specialist engineering company may only have about 250 connections, but every one of those is within his company’s target audience. The proof that this works for him is by the high number of shares and comments he gets from the updates about his particular area of expertise together with the links back to his company website.
At the other end of the spectrum is an IT software company who are targeting SMEs, where the sales director has around 5,000 connections within a defined geographic area.
Having been on LinkedIn for many years now, I have built up a reasonable network (over 1,000) made up of previous colleagues, clients, industry experts and potential clients, all of whom I feel add value to my network.
So, how do you start to grow your connections?
1. Search for previous colleagues
You can do this by searching for the individual names, I tend to search for the company and then use the Show All Employees option to list everyone who has or is working for that company. It is an easy process to then scroll through the list and send a connection request to each person you know.
Remember to always personalise the request message to remind the recipient who you are and why you would like to connect. Do not use the standard LinkedIn message – your request will be ignored more often than accepted if you do. I don’t accept anyone now who sends me this message.
2. Search for previous clients
Send a connection request to previous clients with a personalised message reminding them of the work you carried out for them together with a reason for connecting e.g. Keeping up to date with industry trends, new versions of product.
3. Search for people you have met
We all collect business cards at meetings and events, I sift through the ones I collect and pick out the individuals that I want to connect with on LinkedIn. As before, the message needs to be personalised e.g. Further to our conversation at xxxxxx event this morning
4. Search for speakers you have heard at an event
Connecting with key individuals in your industry sector or the sectors that your clients work in can be a good way to curate good content to share and maybe have your content shared by a key influencer.
I often use the connection request as a way of saying thank you to a speaker I have heard or responding to a blog/article I have read.
5. Identify and target potential prospects
This is the most important connection you could ever make, someone new who may purchase your product or service. This is a complete topic on its own, so I will cover it in a future blog.
LinkedIn will also make recommendations on individuals to connect with that you may know, these can be useful to check out and is covered in our blog, 10 minutes a day on LinkedIn.
Making the right connection is a key to being successful on LinkedIn. Don’t rush the process, creating the right network will take time but it is worthwhile pursuing.
My key recommendation is to ALWAYS personalise your message.