How to Work with Connections on LinkedIn

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, 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!

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How Connections Work 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. When you post an update, there is a good chance that that connection will see this update in her newsfeed, and vice-versa. You can also direct message that connection, and you can see her email address, phone number, etc.  Next, 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.

You want to “grow” your 1st level connections, thereby expanding your network up to and including using your 1st level connections to reach out to your 2nd levels (and get them to become your 1st’s).

Let’s go through some scenarios and todos –

  • Finding and connecting to people. Click here for the official LinkedIn help file on this. Basically, you can search for a person on LinkedIn, and then “ask” them to connect to you. This is similar to a friend request on Facebook.  You can also allow LinkedIn to “see” your email address book, and ask people en masse to connect to you.Working with Connections on LinkedIn
  • First-level Connections. Once you send a connection request, and that person accepts (or vice-versa). Then you’re connected as 1st level connections. (Browse the official LinkedIn help file on “degrees of connection,” here).This means, that –
    • You can “see” their contact information, especially their email address and phone number.
    • You can “message” them via LinkedIn, which also generally means you can use LinkedIn to send them an email.
    • Your updates appear in their newsfeed, and vice-versa (including posts to Pulse, LinkedIn’s internal blogging system).
  • Second-level Connections. For second levels, you can’t “see” their email address or phone number.  You can send a connection request (to become a 1st level), but if they don’t know you, they might refuse.
  • Using First Level Connections to Reach Out to Second Level Connections. One of the coolest things you can do on LinkedIn, is “use” your 1st level connections to reach out to your 2nd level. Now, we’re not being trashy about this! But, just as you might “ask” someone you know at a business level to introduce you to someone they know, you can “ask” a 1st level to introduce you to a 2nd level. It’s important to have some real, legitimate reason for this outreach.
    • You can search for 2nd level connections by keywords and other attributes.
    • LinkedIn will then identify who connects you at a 1st level, and you can then reach out to that 1st level connection.
    • A scenario here is if, for example, you work in the “proteomics” industry, and you’re going to be in Boston for “Proteomics World,” at which your company will be having a wine and cheese event. You’d like to invite interested people to the event, and you can “use” your 1st level connections to identify and invite their 1st level connections (your 2nd levels).
    • NOTE: you can NOT ask a 1st level connection to introduce you to a 2nd level connection on the desktop version of LinkedIn. But you CAN on the App / Phone version. So if you want to “use” your 1st-level connections to ask for introductions to 2nd levels, you MUST use the APP / phone version of LinkedIn. Go figure!

Growing Your Connections

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!

Giving and Getting 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!


How to Work with Connections on LinkedIn
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Jason McDonald

About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.