Once you’ve optimized your LinkedIn profile (as well as that of your employees or team members), your next step is to learn to work with connections.
In this video (updated for the NEW LinkedIn interface), I’ll explain how 1st and 2nd level connections functions on LinkedIn, as well as get you to brainstorm a strategy to grow your 1st level connections. Let’s get started!
Watch ‘How to Work with Connections on LinkedIn‘ on YouTube!
Grow Your First-Level Connections on LinkedIn
LinkedIn networking is all about connections. Similar to Facebook, when you and another person “connect” on LinkedIn, that puts you in a relationship. Someone who has accepted your “connection request” is called a first-level connection. As on Facebook, this entails benefits –
- You can “see” the first-level connections email and phone number. In this way, LinkedIn is like your personal rolodex. You can look up a person by name or keyword, and then look up their email and/or phone number.
- You can “message” this person via LinkedIn (for free) – meaning you can use LinkedIn to “send a message,” which usually also generates an email to that person.
- You are connected to this person timeline to newsfeed, meaning when you post an article or update to your timeline, it will appear in the newsfeed of this first-level connection (and vice-versa).
Because of these reasons, it is important to “grow” your first-level connections (and have your key employees do the same), by continually reaching out to business contacts. Say, for example, that you go to a trade conference and meet a bunch of potential business contacts. You’ll return from the trade conference with their names, email addresses, and phones. So, immediately input them to LinkedIn and send a “connection request,” to the tune of “Hey, we just meet at the trade show, and I’d like to connect on LinkedIn.” By quickly following up, you’ll use your “real world” connections to grow your LinkedIn first-level “virtual” connections, and have the benefits listed above. Another way is to import your Gmail or other email contacts.
The long and short of it is that you constantly want to be growing your first-level connections on LinkedIn by every possible means.
Use Your First-level Connects to Grown Your Second-levels
LinkedIn is the best “rolodex” on the Internet. You can search by keyword and identify persons of interest. Just enter a keyword into the LinkedIn search and then filter by first- or second-level connections. Your first level connections are easy, in the sense that you can use LinkedIn to find relevant first-level connections and then reach out to them with an “offer,” such as an invitation to download your eBook, attend your webinar, or perhaps an invite to a real-world event such as your product launch and wine party at Proteomics World Boston.
Second-level connections can be a bit more frustrating. You can use LinkedIn to search for and identify relevant second-level connections. But you can’t directly message them, nor find their email address or phone number. So you have a few options.
- Connect with them. You can – within reason – send unsolicited connection requests to relevant people, assuming you have a legitimate reason to connect. I would NOT overdo this, however, but a few every few days or so, will be fine. Just remember that it’s akin to a spam email, so make sure that your reason for wanting to connect is interesting and legitimate to them.
- Use a first-level to get an introduction to a second-level. You can see “through” a 1st level connection into her 1st level connections (which would be your 2nd level connections). You can ask the 1st level connection to introduce you to the 2nd level, just as at a real-world business event you might ask Person A to introduce you to Person B. In this way, LinkedIn functions as your online “business Rolodex,” in which you can “use” your 1st level connections to network into your 2nd level connections. Note: this feature is ONLY available on the app / mobile phone version of LinkedIn and is not available (for free) on the desktop. Go figure.
- Use LinkedIn to identify interesting connections, and then find them on Twitter. Many people will list their Twitter accounts on LinkedIn, and so you can first use LinkedIn to find interesting people and then use Twitter – which is much more open – to tweet to them. So there’s a LinkedIn / Twitter combination that’s intriguing.
Throughout, just remember that you need to have something interesting and exciting to offer when you reach out in an unsolicited way. Don’t be spammy!
Grow Your Connections on LinkedIn
As you and your team work on building up your LinkedIn, think of using the “real world” to grow your LinkedIn connections. For example, after every trade show, be sure to come back to the office with a stack of business cards, and hunt down people you met in the “real world,” and then ask them to connect on LinkedIn while you are still “fresh in their mind.” Similarly, cross-link your personal blog to your LinkedIn, etc., so that you are constantly promoting your LinkedIn profile and connections. It takes time but a robust network of contacts is a fundamental asset of LinkedIn networking! You can’t grow your connections in a day, so this needs to be a constant efforts.
Get & Give Recommendations and Endorsements
LinkedIn encourages you to give (and get) recommendations and endorsements. Recommendations are a big deal – they are sort of like the letters of recommendation used in the job market. Endorsements are quick, and more like “tagging” an individual as having skills in a certain area. You can go directly to the recommendations page, here, and you can read LinkedIn’s overview to recommendations, here. Similarly, you can review LinkedIn’s official help file on endorsements, here.
One of the best ways to get both is pre-emptive. Go online to LinkedIn and pro-actively and pre-emptively “endorse” and “recommend” people with whom you’ve worked. In that way, they’re guilted (just a little) into recommending you back. You can then “feature” these recommendations on your LinkedIn Profile. It’s win/win!