For some, it makes sense to have a smaller, more targeted network. But as a job seeker (and at some point, every one of us will be a job seeker!) the larger your network, the better.
In my case, every time I have a professional need, I can call on my 40,000+ contacts on LinkedIn to find a person, an answer or an opportunity.
So, based on how I climbed to those 40,000 connections, here’s my advice for expanding your LinkedIn network, quickly:
1. Prominently Display Your Email Address
Include your email prominently throughout your profile – in several places: your headline, your professional summary, your contact settings, etc. People view the appearance of your email address as a green light to invite you to connect.
2. 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 to your LinkedIn profiel in your email signature, invite the team at that new client company, reach out to former coworkers, etc.
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!
3. LinkedIn Groups
You can join up to 50 LinkedIn Groups, and you should! To help you pick the right groups for you, 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. There are also discussion boards, job boards and much more in every group; use these as an opportunity to network and/or ask people if they’re willing to connect. You can also use these groups to establish yourself as an expert in your field and make people want to reach out to 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.
4. 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 connect with me at email@example.com” or “I accept all invites to connect at firstname.lastname@example.org”).
When 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.
5. Leverage 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 when 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.
You have likely used Twitter to grow your network; you have engaged with your followers and formed 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. You can even use Buffer or Hootsuite to set up 4 or 5 tweets every day, encouraging others to find you on LinkedIn. In addition, be sure to include your personalized LinkedIn URL in your Twitter profile.
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!
On your Facebook page, post often that you’d like to connect on LinkedIn as well (“Have we connected on LinkedIn yet?”). And be sure to include your LinkedIn profile information in your Facebook profile… the results are amazing!
Use these tips grow your network in a more targeted way. And remember, you don’t have to choose between quantity and quality. Shoot for both! It worked for me and I’m confident it will work for you.
Good luck with LinkedIn and happy networking!
About the Author: Stacy Donovan Zapar is a 16-year recruiting veteran for Fortune 500 tech companies and CEO & Founder of Tenfold Social Training, a recruiter training company for talent acquisition and staffing teams around the world. In addition to in-house recruiter training, she is also currently working for Zappos as their Candidate Experience & Engagement Strategist, working on fun projects around social recruiting, talent communities, talent brand, candidate experience and more.
Stacy has been the Most Connected Woman on LinkedIn since 2008 and currently has more than 40,000 1st-level connections. She has her own blog, is a LinkedIn Publisher, a contributor to LinkedIn’s Talent Blog and speaks regularly at HR / Recruiting conferences globally. Connect with Stacy on Twitter and, of course, LinkedIn!