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How to REALLY Grow Your Network on LinkedIn

How to REALLY Grow Your Network on LinkedIn

For some, it makes more sense to have a smaller, more targeted network.  But as a recruiter, it is imperative that I have a large and diverse network.  For me, it’s all about quality *and* quantity… As such, I decided to be an open networker and set my sights on growing my network by following the steps below.  I eventually grew my network to 30,000 first-level connections (back in June 2009), at which point LinkedIn capped my network.  I’ve since received thousands and thousands of additional invites which are archived and waiting to be accepted in my inbox.  Now if only LinkedIn will raise the limit…  :)
If your business needs are like mine in that you need a wide network with robust search results, here’s my advice for growing your LinkedIn network.  You can use these tips to become an open networker or scale it back a bit to simply grow your network in a more targeted way.  It worked for me and I’m confident it will work for you!

1. Join LinkedIn Open Networker Groups:  Some of the biggest are TopLinked.com, MyLink500.com, Invites Welcome!, Networkers United, LinkedIn LIONs, etc.  Some are free and others have varying costs, depending on your participation level. Be active on their boards and put yourself out there. This tip is the #1 thing that you can do to quickly grow your network because it connects you with other like-minded networkers.  It will enable others to come to you, rather than forcing you to do all of the legwork and max out your invitations.  (Yes, LinkedIn does limit the number of invites a person can send.  If you run out, simply contact LinkedIn Customer Service and ask for more invites. They will typically grant them.)  And remember, if you’re not interested in being a full-blown open networker, you’re not forced to accept ALL invites. Just archive the ones that aren’t relevant to you at this time.  You can always go back in and accept them later.  As long as you never actually DECLINE an invite, you’re not breaking any social networking etiquette rules!

2. Clearly List your Email Address:  Include your email prominently throughout your profile (in several places – your headline, your professional summary, your contact settings, etc.), in case folks are looking in different places.  People view this as a green light to invite you to connect.  Make it clear that you never IDK people.  (IDK = Clicking the “I Don’t Know This Person” button.)

3. Weave LinkedIn into your Daily Interactions: Be diligent about asking your everyday professional contacts (even casual ones) to connect on LinkedIn.  Be creative…  import your contact list, include a link in your email signature, invite the team at that new client company, reach out to former coworkers, etc.  In my case (as a recruiter), every time I would fill a position, I would go in and email all of the other applicants to thank them for their interest and invite them to connect on LinkedIn so that we could stay in touch for future openings.  Not everyone would take me up on this offer, but many were happy to have an inside connection at the company and use my network to find their next position, whether at my company or another in my network.  Strategic job seekers use LinkedIn to give their job search that extra advantage!

4. LinkedIn Groups: You can join up to 50 and there’s a LinkedIn Group Search Engine to make this process quick and easy.  Once you’re a member of a group, you can automatically send messages to other group members for free.  There are also Discussion boards, Job boards, News boards and Promotion boards that are very handy.  Use these as an opportunity to network and/or ask people if they’re willing to link up.  You can also use these groups to establish yourself as an expert in your field and make people want to link up with you.  Don’t see your ideal group out there?  Start your own!  You can start up to ten groups, but be aware that those ten DO count toward your 50 group limit.

5. Tweak Your Profile: Cater your profile to suit your networking needs.  If you want to target specific industries, say so.  If you want to reach out to people in certain professions, say so.  If you just want to grow your network, be very clear about it (i.e., “Feel free to invite me at johndoe@gmail.com” or “I accept all invites at johndoe@gmail.com” or “I welcome your invitation to johndoe@gmail.com”, etc.). If you’re clear about your networking needs, the right types of people will be drawn to you and will feel encouraged to send you an invite.

6. Search Engine Optimization (SEO):  Put on your SEO hat.  Think about the type of person you want to reach and then make sure the appropriate words are in your profile so your name will pop up if those people run a search. Do a few test searches and see if your name comes up on top of the list (or on the first page, at least) or if it’s buried six pages deep.  Think about your target network and/or look at the profiles of people in similar roles / industries to get some ideas of which keywords to include.

7. Twitter: Use Twitter to grow your network and drive folks to connect with you on LinkedIn. Engage with your followers and form relationships. These people will WANT to connect with you on LinkedIn as well.  Reach your more passive followers by tweeting out a link to your LinkedIn profile or, better yet, a one-click link to your invitation page.  (Note – I do NOT recommend feeding your LinkedIn status updates with your Twitter timeline.  Nothing aggravates your network more than a constant stream of tweets to their inbox and/or LinkedIn home page.  Be strategic about which tweets you choose to share with your LinkedIn network and use the #in feature in Twitter.)

8. Facebook:  Most folks keep their Facebook account personal, but you can always join Facebook groups pertinent to your profession and/or industry.  You don’t have to actually “friend” your fellow group members to interact with them and network.  Just set your privacy settings appropriately and network away.  It IS the largest social media network out there, so it may not be wise to discount it for professional networking purposes!  (If a fellow Facebook group members DOES happen to send you a friend request, you can always respond back indicating that your FB account is personal but that you’d love to connect on LinkedIn for professional networking purposes.  Works out perfectly, especially if your main goal in networking on Facebook in the first place was to grow your LinkedIn network!)

9. Other Social Media Sites:  Use other social media sites to form connections with like-minded folks and/or peers in your profession / industry.  Social media sites like YouTube, MeetUp, Foursquare, Empire Avenue, Flickr, etc. can be great forums to network and ultimately lead to LinkedIn connections.

10. Search LinkedIn to Find Open Networkers: It seems obvious, but go out and search LinkedIn to find people who are open networkers and willing to connect.  Only want to connect with certain types of open networkers, that’s okay too!  Just narrow your search results accordingly by including specific keywords in your search criteria.  Reach out to those folks and or send them invites… you’ll be amazed at how quickly you build up a great base!

Good luck with LinkedIn and happy networking!

San Diego, CA, United StatesMost Connected Woman on LinkedIn ~ Blogging about Social Media, Recruiting, Networking and Job Search Tips & Tricks… Pay It Forward!

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