The question of who to connect with on LinkedIn comes up all the time. And, while we have covered this topic several times over the years, it’s important to revisit. Remember, LinkedIn is 15 years old and how people have used it over the years has changed; people have changed jobs, careers, cities, countries and often need to rethink their networking strategy.
It’s okay to change how you connect with people and network on LinkedIn. It’s your network, and it should align with your career and current job objectives. Too often, I talk with people who say they don’t use LinkedIn because their network won’t be helpful for your current position.
My response? “Let’s clean out and rebuild your network.” It may be time-consuming but, much like cleaning out your closets, it feels good. After all, what’s the point of having connections that you don’t know, will never engage with and are in a completely unrelated industry or geography?
The caveat is that the more extensive your network, the more LinkedIn’s algorithm will connect you with others. You will have a robust 2nd level network. Remember, you don’t know who that 1st level connection knows that may be of value. Nevertheless, a group of 1st level connections not directly tied to your industry or geography may render little actual success on LinkedIn (good connections + value to your network + a needed product/service = connections, phone calls, meetings, and new business).
Know who your connections are. I talk to enough people who sheepishly share that they know few of their 1st level connections. Sometimes their remarks feel more like a confession, and I assure them we are not there to pass judgment. Download your 1st level connections (we will share a Quick Tip on how to do this on Thursday so stay tuned) and sort them by position and/or company. Look for the gaps and the opportunities.
What kind of a network will help you in your current position or over the next couple of years? Decide to keep those people who no longer fit your networking objectives, so your network remains large or cut the cord and disconnect from them and rebuild with more of a blank slate. Either works. Choose the approach that gives you confidence. What do I mean by that?
I was talking with a salesperson who I thought would be a natural on LinkedIn and when I realized he wasn’t using it at all, I asked why. He told me he previously had been a recruiter, and his network reflected that job and not his current position, so he didn’t see the value in using LinkedIn. His network was of no value to him. Easily solved. We see this all the time.
After our conversation, he did the hard work. He cleaned out his network and has become laser-focused on connecting with the right people in his market (decision makers, influencers, prospects, and clients) and is now far more confident about using LinkedIn. He doesn’t sell across the country or even beyond his metro area, so he uses “geography” as a filter. He knows who needs to be at the table to decide on their services, so he uses “title” in a current company as a filter.
Connect intentionally with the people that fit your industry, geography (this could be local or global depending on what you do and where). We have a client who is hoping to relocate to another city and potentially start a business there. Today they have little to no network there. However, our suggestion was to start to research and connect with people who are leaders in the community and potential Centers of Influence, (my favorite group).
Continually reassess and clean up your network. It’s okay. Remember, it’s your network. I don’t encourage CEOs and business owners to connect with everyone. Their networks should be focused on advisors, peers, C-level folks in other companies, clients/customers, and top prospects. Connecting with the CEO/owner/president of their top customers should be a top priority. It’s an easy way to keep in touch, remind them of who you are, be visible and share valuable and up-to-date information.
Craft your ideal network. Is it laser-focused or broad-reaching? Write down the types of people you want to be connected to and begin a plan of personalizing messages/scripts to use to connect with those people. Give them a reason to connect with you. Let them know why you want to connect.
If you’re serious about your network and networking on LinkedIn, take some time and turn this into your personal initiative. Research, connect and engage with more of the right people at the right time with the right message.
Want to go a bit deeper on this topic? Check out these articles:
Should You Rehabilitate or Demolish Your LinkedIn Network?
Be in the Know, All the Time, with LinkedIn
The CEO May Not Want to Connect — Tips and Settings to Consider
Spark Conversations with People Who are on LinkedIn Right Now