How do you use LinkedIn to grow business? There are many reasons to have a robust LinkedIn profile and connect to others for business professionals. Yet even among business builders, there are multiple strategies on business building with the 175 million + social connection site. Here are two very different strategies.
SHARE who you are connected with to all of your connections
DO NOT SHARE who you are connected with to all of your connections
I was an early adopter of LinkedIn (October, 2003) - connecting with people I knew in real life, and it is still the strategy I use today. I am a "master connector" - I LOVE connecting people to each other once I feel they could benefit from the connection. This "feeling" I get has produced business relationships among people who may not have ever known each other, it has produced a lot of revenue for others, and even friendships. But I clearly work one way: If I meet you at a conference or event and we exchange business cards, you can bet I will be going on LinkedIn and inviting you to connect with me. With over 1500 connections to people I really know, I am careful to not over-connect. I invite those who are similar in that they work with B2B companies - often in my niche - mid-market technology or distribution companies.
There are a lot of professional conferences and events I attend over the course of a year so there is no shortage of who I might want to connect to.
What I DO once we are connected is look at where you worked in the past, what groups you are a part of, content you have connected to your profile, and items like what schools you went to. I also look at our mutual connections - it is great to know that we both have several mutual business acquaintances or even friends.
What I DON'T do is go to see who you all your connections are - I'm more interested in who you and I know in common.
That brings me to a SECOND strategy - connecting with someone and looking to see who all they are connected to. To do this, you have to SHOW on LinkedIn who all your connections are. I find it odd that someone would want to connect to you and then immediately want to see who all YOU are connected to, in hopes that they might find someone you could introduce them to. In using LinkedIn since 2003, I have *NEVER* done that - most likely because I am in sales and can pick up the phone and call anyone I want to connect with. Yes, I do use the phone (and train & coach others to do the same).
To choose whether to show all your connections to your connections, you go to the LinkedIn "settings" to -
Who Can See Your Connections?
Select who can see your connections. Note: People will always be able to see shared connections.
Ever since I was aware of this feature, I set mine to "only me" instead of "all connections". It is a privacy feature. I started doing this because, as mentioned, I don't network by seeing other people's connections, and assumed that others were like me. It wasn't a big deal. Later on, I started working on bigger, complex deals where in the process (months) - someone at a new company I'm proposing to work with reaches out to connect with me on LinkedIn. Sometimes multiple people do, because I also guide people on ways to better build business on LinkedIn.
I don't know about you, but I learned a long time ago that I'd rather discuss who I am interested in working with on my own terms than to have people in my network contacting me to see if I'm working with "Company X". That is on top of the fact that I don't naturally look to see who else you are connected to. Having been on LinkedIn more than 9 years it is safe to say that my use of LinkedIn works - but it is more to do with the content, connections, and groups I'm in than in me reviewing others' connections.
You could say it's a mistake on my part not to show my connections to all my connections, and in fact, I'm re-evaluating my philosophy on that. In doing research with my own industry counterparts, I found 65% of other B2B sales consultants in my space are OPEN with their connections, and 35% do not share them just as I don't.
There are other privacy features in LinkedIn that I'll be talking about later. You should be sure and see what all you have control over so that you are good with the way your profile is set up. Go to your account, then to Settings.
Turn on/off your activity broadcasts
Select who can see your activity feed
Select what others see when they view your profile
Select who can see your connections
Change your photo profile and visibility
Show/hide "viewers of this profile also viewed" box
So what do YOU think about the two strategies? We'd love a discussion on this.
What are YOUR thoughts about how you use LinkedIn to connect to others?
Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips in selling.