In my training workshops, I often get asked, "Do you cast your net wide and connect with everyone on LinkedIn, in the hope opportunities come your way? Or do you only connect with people you know personally and have an existing relationship with?"
My advice is straightforward - keep your connections relevant. To get the best out of your LinkedIn experience, you need to connect with the right people. Connect with people you know and trust first, such as people who know you, people who see you as an industry leader, and who would not hesitate to recommend you to others in their field. Then connect with people who will add value to your network. You may not necessarily know these people, but there is an opportunity from both sides to do business. As your network grows, you will be able to send an invitation to more people outside of that network. When you are sending an invitation to someone you do not know, take the time to personalise the message, validating the reason you should connect. Building your network will be an ongoing work in progress.
The beauty of LinkedIn is its ability to help you get introduced to the people who can make a difference to your work – it is like an online professional networking event. You should be strategically growing your network every week. My recommendation is to personalise your connection requests - these may or may not be read, but it is a nice touch to add a salutation and a reason for connecting - it humanises the process and demonstrates your value.
A further recommendation is to follow up on your new connections (a week or so later) with a long-form message introducing yourself and articulating your business offering, or a problem you see and perhaps a solution. The most important part is not to use a salesy approach but to connect more in an educational or informative way. Again, there may be no response from the recipient, but at least now they understand why you reached out and what value you can add to their world.
It is important to remember that effective LinkedIn Marketing is all about context and purpose. Both have a place; it isn't one or the other. LinkedIn is all about being visible, adding value and building relationships.
Need help to build your online professional brand – read more about it here.