Rethinking LinkedIn; It’s a Tool, Not a Toy

ToyIt has become apparent to me that at the same time many laud the value of LinkedIn, very few wield it as the exceptional tool it is to generate opportunities. While I see many profiles with hundreds of connections most will admit that few if any opportunities avail themselves merely by having large networks. Is it even possible to continuously stay in meaningful communication with such a large number of individuals and if not what is the point? Allow me to make some actionable suggestions to you that may change your networking strategies within LinkedIn.

While networking in person will always be crucial, the unique value of LinkedIn is the Network Statistics. Here you can see your 2nd and 3rd degree connections. This may be daunting as the numbers are staggering; currently I have more than 9,700 2nd degree connections and an astounding 920,500+ 3rd degree connections from only 82 1st degree connections. Here’s how those numbers matter.

If you’re not already aware, the discussion I began on LinkedIn, Networking vs. Self-Promotion (ForbesWoman), generated great interest and opportunities have developed from it. I could sit back and enjoy that and just talk about it until the heat dies down. However, using LinkedIn effectively I can build upon that initial interest and possibly breed more. This is how.

Let’s say I’d like to reach editors within 25 miles of my zip code who are already in my network or are members of groups I belong to. I’d select the Advanced link next to the Search People drop down menu at the top of the LinkedIn Home screen. From there I’d select my criteria and near the bottom I’d click the boxLimit search to my network only. From one of my searches 48 profiles were returned and besides shared groups, several of them shared 1st degree connections. Now it’s time for me to construct my introduction email and politely request that I be introduced. I may now have the occasion to meet someone who would have had no interest or knowledge of me before.

Many have wondered (as well as I) why LinkedIn suggests strongly that you know the people you accept as connections. This is why that’s so important. If I request an introduction, imagine the frustration I’d experience when the connection admits, “I’m sorry Patricia but I can’t introduce you. I don’t really know her; we just share a group and I liked her comments.” I’m not at all suggesting that you change how you accept your invitations to connect, or maybe I am. I suggest that if you don’t already know them well when you accept or offer the invitation, make it your business to get to know them and build a relationship, otherwise the value of your network and of you to those who are in it diminishes. Since I’ve realized this, I am more likely to offer my personal email address to connect outside of LinkedIn if our only association is shared beauty tips and horror stories of bad bosses. It’s not a less valuable connection; just one that isn’t practical within LinkedIn. I should be able to vouch for anyone within my network and be able to expect the same from them. With this being considered, I am now taking the time to rake through the connections I’ve made and am breaking ties with those I don’t know well enough to do so but am offering them as much or as little personal contact information as necessary for the relationship to continue.

Let us not get LinkedIn confused with any other social media. If it is used wisely and considerately it is a far better vehicle to the relationships and developments we desire than almost any other today! If you’re only looking for a good time and conversation, go tweet someone.

I welcome your comments! No part of this article may be reproduced in any manner without permission and attribution.

Permission has been granted to the following:
Jenna Caputo

  • I’ve been thinking about this exact topic lately. I feel like I’m “losing touch” with the people I am “connected with”. I’ve become clear that I want to use the social media tools to truly connect, not just shout back and forth (that’s what it feels like to me).

    I know more and more people who are cutting back on the number of their connections, dropping those that don’t seem like they’re looking for a real person-to-person interaction.

  • “Let us not get LinkedIn confused with any other social media.”

    How important is that one simple statement? Your thoughts about extending network usefulness are well taken, Patricia. I recently received an invitation to connect w/ a member who claimed millions of connections – I had to wonder why they wanted/needed mine? Unless we utilize our potential on this most crucial SNS, it would seem we are simply wasting valuable time. Superlative article.

    • NVS

      I’m with you, Gregory. I mean, I don’t mind being just another supporting person, but I get the same kinds of invitations where people say, “I have a zillion connections so join me!” Is THAT supposed to be the reason we connect?

      I frequently go through my connections and delete those I haven’t made any real connections with and it surprises me to find that time after time, those I remove will almost immediately contact me and say, “Hey, I see we’re not connected anymore.” That’s what it takes to get notice? A removal?

      Strange use of *social* media, indeed!

      Thanks for the kudos, Gregory. There are plenty of us out here and eventually we’ll revolutionize the way social media should actually work.

  • Great article! While I am one of those people who have 500+ LinkedIn connections, I have met almost every singe one of them. As a business owner, I attend a lot of networking events and teach classes. Often those individuals want to connect with me after the event or class.

    As you say in this article, I do try to connect with each person to deepen the relationship, but as my network grows it becomes more difficult. Therefore, I no longer accept connections from people who like my comment in a group or in a status update. I’m striving for quality. Quality is always better than Quantity. After all, we should be making connections that are beneficial to both parties and there is no benefit in sheer numbers.

    • NVS

      That’s a whole lot of people to follow and communicate with! But at least you’re aiming in the right direction. Connection without communication is not social at all.

  • NVS

    I have quite a few friends that I’ve met on LinkedIn in the past two years and a large number just don’t spend much time there anymore. It’s too pitchy. In one group I’m currently in, people are posting their Facebook pages and then saying they’ll follow back. They hardly ever show up to the group again except to post the same link again. It’s so unrealistic to think that a large showing of numbers equates popularity. Ok, for some, yes it does. Oprah, Guy Kawasaki, Mari Smith. But for many, they only care about the numbers. I could be a robot for all they care.

    I’m actually very curious to see what the next big social media platform will be. Or will Facebook and other sites redevelop over time. It’s difficult to dig through the myriads of screaming to buy this or support that and get to the people behind the icons.

  • I’m so glad I’ve come across your articles. I’ve only just started to make connections with LinkedIn. Being very English I don’t think I’d have dared to ask anyone who I didn’t already know to accept an invitation from me. It’s interesting to read your reasoning on why one shouldn’t accept invitations.