How Many Connections Should I Have On LinkedIn?

That, my friend, is an excellent question!LinkedIn

There are two primary schools of thought on this: quality or quantity.  Those who lean toward quantity will try to create the biggest list of connections possible in order to expand their network as far as possible.  This could come in very handy when looking for jobs, especially targeted searches for particular companies or industries – obviously, if you have thousands of connections, a single post to your LinkedIn page is going to reach far more people than if you had just a couple hundred connections, thus increasing your chances of finding your target somehow.  LinkedIn has also become quite the gathering ground for business- or industry-related articles and opinion columns.  Having a lot of connections means a lot of eyes will see whatever you post, and increase your chances of getting interactions and notice from others in your industry.  However, there are some downsides to having a huge network on LinkedIn, and they need to be considered, as well.

For one thing, one of the best ways to connect to someone new and grow your network is through LinkedIn introductions.  Normally, you would ask one of your existing connections to write a brief introduction message and put you in touch with someone you’re trying to reach (who is a connection of theirs).  If you have a vast network of connections but don’t really know them very well, that introduction message is likely to lack a certain heartfelt genuineness that could put off the recipient and fail to bring about an actual contact in real life.  Second, when you connect with someone, you can see all of their connections…and they can see yours.  Whether or not it’s fair or right, the people with whom you associate do reflect on you, so if you don’t know your connections well, it’s possible that their actions, words, or histories could be damaging to you without you even knowing it.  Finally, studies show that it’s usually the quality of your connections rather than the quantity of your connections that are more likely to land you a job.  It’s those personal recommendations from people who really know the kind of person — and professional — you are that carry weight with those making the hiring decisions.

Social network connections by pnx - NetworkingThis leads us to the quality school of thought.  In addition to the recommendation aspect previously mentioned, there is the flip side, as well.  If someone asks you to introduce them to one of your connections, but it’s not someone you know well enough to thoroughly endorse, then why bother having them as a connection in the first place?  Similarly, you don’t want to introduce someone to one of your connections that ends up being a total flake; that makes you look bad!  Actually knowing all of your connections is probably the single biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to either side of the recommendation coin.  Of course, there’s a threshold below which being choosy in your connections becomes silly – if you only have three or four connections, then you’re kind of wasting your time on LinkedIn.  Find a happy medium that works for you.  There’s also that association thing at play, too; you don’t want to be connected to someone who turns out to be a serial killer, and you certainly don’t want to introduce them to anyone new!

In all seriousness, though, the bottom line is that when you’re setting up your LinkedIn network, first stop and think about how you plan to use it.  Is your goal to get as big a network as possible because you plan to post industry relevant information on a regular basis?  Is it just to have a convenient online resume that people can see when need them to?  Is it to make (and help others make) genuine connections in a way that jobs are found and lives are improved?  Bottom line: what’s your purpose?  This question will go a long way toward guiding your decision-making process on who your connections should be and what threshold you use for determining which connection request to send or accept.Contacts by roshellin - Contact Book

One more thing – don’t be afraid to remove connections.  It’s probably a good idea to sweep through your LinkedIn contacts list at least yearly to remove contacts with whom you no longer keep in touch.  Think of it as a digital spring cleaning.  If nothing else, use that sweep to first try to re-establish contact with people and renew those relationships.  If they don’t respond, then you know it’s time to remove them from your list.

LinkedIn is a terrific tool, but like most other tools it is only really useful in the right situations and in the right hands.  Develop your purpose, make a plan, and then execute it.  You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

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Has LinkedIn figured out what it is yet?

Confused Felipe

Photo attribuation: By FelipeIbazeta (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

LinkedIn has been around for quite a while now. You never noticed? Well, it’s been here since 2002, ready to replace Facebook for professional people. Yet another social media site, to fill with photos and information about oneself. But, it wasn’t fun and… cool… so, it’s kind of a nobody in the social media world. Maybe more of a somebody than Google+, but still pretty low down on the totem pole.

Part of the reason LinkedIn isn’t a businessman’s “right hand social media man” is because LinkedIn hasn’t really seemed to know what it should be. Mix business with pleasure? Strictly Business? Hiring and firing site? Resume showcase site? All of the above? None of the above? Hundreds of people have been sent to this site by their bosses with instructions to get themselves a profile, only to find themselves pounding their heads on their desks, plaintively asking, “How are we supposed to use you, LinkedIn? What are you actually designed for and how can you help me?”

Crickets chirping…

Facebook is popular because it creates all types of varied communities, and allows you to set up groups and network about anything, be it higher things like philosophy, history and math, or more mundane things like the latest celebrity news. It’s also pretty self-explanatory, so much so that a child below the legal age of 13 can get on, fill out a profile and start friending people. In the middle of a serious discussion about whether or not to fire an employee, one can be entertained by a video of a cute kitty that just happened to pop up on your feed. LinkedIn, however, is largely, though not exclusively, a business community. It is not designed for Tweets and Re-Tweets, or discussion of the latest YouTube viral video. It IS a way for businessmen to network their skills, easily share their resumes, and solve business problems in a way that is largely drama free and professional. Now, if you think about it from a businessman’s point of view… isn’t that kinda nice?

The basics of LinkedIn are that you can list your work experience, your profile picture and add a personal touch to your business life. Unlike with Facebook, where you can willy-nilly friend any Tom, Dick or Harry without knowing them at all, this is not a good strategy to follow with your LinkedIn account. This is a SERIOUS networking site, folks. You only link in with people that you are working with or could be valuable to you business-wise. You won’t find any cats or dogs with people’s names either.

LinkedIn additionally allows one to create groups and network with professionals based on their areas of expertise. So if you are a professional historian, you can join a group on ancient Chinese history and network with professionals in that field, sharing information and details. Or, if you are an IT professional, you can network about PhP and C++ with other professionals in that area, without having to do some grueling searching.

This does sound intriguing…

Since being founded by Reid Hoffman in 2002, LinkedIn slowly grew and grew until it recently exploded in its number of users as well as its profit and revenue. In 2011, LinkedIn grossed more income from advertising revenue than Twitter. (Source) The number of users of LinkedIn has grown to 200 million members in 200 countries (Source). As it continues to grow, businesses have begun utilizing LinkedIn’s professional orientation to establish tools to apply for jobs through LinkedIn on their listings. Employees can search for jobs through LinkedIn, having fast access to thousands of companies and even meeting future employers directly. LinkedIn also serves job recruiters by sorting the talents and abilities of members who might fit the positions that businesses are looking for. Businesses can advertise on LinkedIn, listing products and services with descriptions on their company pages, and users can write reviews for them. All in all, there are endless opportunities for all types of economic activity. So, it’s not Facebook, it’s not meant to compete with Facebook; it’s meant to market you, and market businesses. Aren’t you glad we had this discussion and figured this out? Now, on to save the world.

What does the future hold for LinkedIn? LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner announced at the end of 2012 that the company’s plans in the coming decade are to establish an “economic graph,” which kinda/sorta pillages Facebook’s social graph concept. LinkedIn presents its economic graph (when finalized) as an all encompassing chart of the global economy and all of the connections therein. The terminus ad quem of the “economic graph” is to make the connections of the global economy thorough and universal, in order that LinkedIn might possess not simply all the job recruitment in the world, but furthermore the skills required to acquire those jobs, the total number of professionals who might work them, and the businesses (whether nonprofit or for-profit) in which they work. Weiner aims at nothing less than making the global economy mapped, charted and transparent. This sounds Googlish to me!

There are signs that LinkedIn could achieve this grand vision. Not only is it growing in the US and Europe, but even in markets which are not always friendly to Internet movements, such as China. (Source) Comprising 1/5th of the world’s population, the Chinese expansion could make LinkedIn to the business world what Facebook is to the social world, further linking the global community via their phones, tablets and laptops.

Is the world ready for this level of centralization? The growth, marketability, and versatility of LinkedIn would suggest that its heading in that direction, ready or not. Best to get on the bandwagon then…

LinkedIn: Does it Matter?

With over 259 million users, LinkedIn is no small social network. Considered the top professional networking and job search site, LinkedIn is a useful tool for both professionals and businesses to share their talents, experiences, and references. LinkedIn is also a goldmine for business news and discussions as users and businesses share articles and stories aggregated across the web on one platform. Sounds like LinkedIn matters to me!

A powerful tool for marketing yourself and your business, LinkedIn allows for numerous opportunities to showcase yourself and your products to gain contacts that can lead to future jobs or clients. In this post, I’ll explore highlights of personal profiles, as well as company profiles that are key to presenting yourself in the best light.

Key Features of Your Personal Profile

It’s important to optimize your personal LinkedIn profile by filling in every section as completely as possible. This will help manage your online reputation by optimizing your profile for your name and skill set.

Recommendationslinkedin recommedations

LinkedIn recommendations are important for LinkedIn users who are either trying to secure a new job or a potential client by showing off some of your highlights. Recommendations are the LinkedIn equivalent of references and I recommend personally requesting recommendations from those who you have a strong relationship. In that note, ask your reference to give a specific example, if possible, so the recommendation holds more weight. In my opinion, Recommendations are much stronger than the Skills section since anyone can give you props for a skill even if they have never worked with you in that area.

Professional PortfolioLinkedIn Professional Portfolio

LinkedIn’s portfolio feature is a great way to showcase your professional experience using rich visual content. Key areas of this great imagery tool are in your LinkedIn summary, experience, and education sections. Types of content that can be added are photos, videos, presentations and audio recordings. Here is the official list of approved providers, like SlideShare and Spotify.

Key Features of Your Company Page

Again, it’s important to fill in every section as completely as possible to provide the story of your business in a visual and concise manner to show your business in a positive light.

Company UpdatesDell - Best LinkedIn Page of 2013

When sharing posts from your company page, share useful tidbits of information to grab your readers attention. Also, sharing information about your corporate culture helps readers connect to your brand, which is helpful in growing brand ambassadors. Companies, like Dell, one of LinkedIn’s best company pages of 2013, “doesn’t bury the lead” when they share status updates. “Companies with snappy intros catch the eye and get better engagement.” Check out some of the other top pages of 2013 here.

Use Visual ContentFour Seasons Visual Content with References

Rich media and visual content doesn’t end with your personal page. With Company Pages, you can create large image (and clickable!) headers, as well as individual icons for each product and service you offer. There are also several places within your page where you can include short videos to engage your visitor.

So to answer the question, does it matter? Yes. Yes, LinkedIn does matter. Comment with your success stories below.

The proper treatment for social media overload

When it comes to social media, the array of options is dizzying.  Facebook is the biggest, of course, with 1.2 billion users.  Twitter comes next, but then comes a glut of others, including — but certainly not limited to — Google+, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr, and so on.  Then there are a boatload of other services that may have another primary purpose but still contain a social aspect to it, like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Flickr.  There are other players who are huge in their own industries but are trying to bust into the social sphere, like Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube.  There are also an increasing number of hardware manufacturers like Samsung or Sony that are integrating their own “apps” into hardware devices like Blu-ray players to try to play in this space.  As if the waters weren’t muddy enough, there is an increasing number of so-called “curators” like Pulse, Zite, or Flipboard, who simply gather content generated by other outlets and arrange them in simple and intuitive interfaces, integrating social media-like functionality as a secondary feature.  So what should you use to promote your business?

confusion3

The answer to that perplexing quandary is, without question…it depends.

It’s simply not realistic to avoid social media altogether, at least not if you’re intending to grow through the 21st century.  You could take the opposite approach and try to hit them all, but that would take a small herd of twenty-somethings, each armed with more smartphones than hands.  There has to be a middle ground somewhere.

The key is targeting.  Before you devise your social media strategy, you have to answer a few questions.  Who are you trying to reach?  Seventy percent of Pinterest users are women.  LinkedIn is known for its prowess in job searching and career-related content.  Google+ is where you need to be if you’re looking for or addressing a technically savvy crowd.  If you’re trying to reach mobile users in particular, social media consumes a whopping 30% of mobile users’ time all by itself, and 63% of year-on-year social media growth is via mobile apps and website usage, so social media is the way to get to your audience.  If you’re focusing on your business’ brand, Instagram is the place to be.  If you’re looking to find a niche and let the market itself grow the size of that niche, then Facebook and Twitter are out since they’re sitting at something like 0-4% adoption rate; on the other hand, Pinterest and Instagram are growing by leaps and bounds at a clip of about 25-35% per quarter.  Of course, for sheer magnitude of reach, you simply cannot beat Facebook or Twitter, each of which have more users than most of the other services combined.

Another key question is: how and what are you trying to communicate?  If you’re looking to send out a major chunk of text, don’t bother with Instagram or Pinterest – blogs are the ideal forum for you, with Facebook or Google+ a close second.  For high-quality still photos, though, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr are perfect.  YouTube is the undisputed champion of video, but Vine has picked up a huge following for quickie videos that are easy to share, too.  Neither of those are any good at text, though.  Twitter is terrific for witty banter or frequent updates on events or fast-moving real world developments, but long conversations simply aren’t possible.  Customer service functions are rapidly moving into Twitter because it is the only genuinely real-time communication in social media.  I have personally contacted companies via Twitter for fast help at least half a dozen times and gotten good response almost every time.

confusion1

The bottom line is that you first need to understand your own business, and how you want to portray yourself to the rest of the world.  It’s better to cherry pick two or three social media services that are a good fit for what you’re trying to do than to cram a round peg into a square hole simply for the sake of “getting out there.”  The Internet is clogged with enough useless digital vomit already, so don’t contribute even more!  Keep it focused, keep it relevant, and keep it coming regularly.  The key result you’re looking for is to get engagement from your followers and/or customers.  Getting likes or comments or shares is how you know you’ve found both a receptive audience and a good vehicle for reaching that audience.  And don’t think for a moment that no one will care about your business, no matter what it is.  Velveeta has over 7,000 followers on Twitter and over 150,000 likes on Facebook.  If processed cheese food can get that kind of a following, so can you.  You just need to know who you are, who you’re trying to reach, and what you’re trying to accomplish.

The 5 ways social media affects your business

There are over 15 million businesses on Facebook. Twitter has over 200 million active users, and many of those users are Tweeting on behalf of a business. Instagram has 150 million users, and, increasingly, those users are companies looking for new ways to promote themselves. But skeptical small business owners might wonder whether all of this social media stuff really matters for their bottom line. Are these millions of users just wasting time online and procrastinating when there are more important things that could be done? What is the return on investment? Do all of those status updates, 140 character messages, and interesting pictures really bring in more customers? The answer is yes. We’ve got five good reasons why social media matters for your small business.

1.) Social Media Provides an Insider’s View to your Business

Spend some time on Instagram and you’ll feel like you’re getting personal photographic glimpses into people’s lives. It’s like paging through a friend’s photo album, except that you might not know that friend offline. Celebrities have taken to Instagram to get closer to their fans–singer Beyonce uses the social media outlet to post pictures of herself backstage and with friends. These peeks into Beyonce’s personal life are seen by 6.5 million followers. Instagram has, then, helped her boost her fan base. Businesses can do the same with Instagram. Think of your fan base as current and potential customers. You can use Instagram to show the behind-the-scenes elements of your company. Have a quirky Friday tradition in your office? Snap a picture of it for Instagram. Are you a restaurant owner? Post pictures of your food on Instagram to advertise new dishes. Are you a clothing designer? Use Instagram to show yourself in the creative process. No matter what kind of business you own, social media is a great tool to provide more transparency–and more trust–in your company.

2.) Social Media Helps you to Connect with Customers

There are over a billion people on Facebook, so if your business does not have a Facebook page, then you are, quite simply, missing out on connecting with a lot of people. Why is it important to post frequently to the social media giant? Because it is a perfect way to connect directly with your customers. Once people “like” your page, then they will see everything that you post and then they can interact with you online. Be sure to post every day to keep the name of your business on the minds of these page-viewers and also to develop relationships. Potential and current customers will use your page to ask you questions, to offer comments, and, yes, sometimes issue complaints. But if you respond to these customer posts in a timely and professional way, then you show that you’re a conscientious business owner who cares about your customers, whether they are happy or not. Facebook is also a fun way to connect with people–implement a weekly trivia contest, take pictures of your patrons and post them, ask your clientele to take pictures of themselves with your product and then post them to your page.

3.) Social Media Helps You Tap Into Industry Trends And Connect With Other Businesses

Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can help your small business tap into larger industry trends and join industry conversations. With Twitter you’ll want to follow lots of local people in order to build your customer base, but you’ll also want to follow other businesses that are similar to yours. By doing this you can see what social media methods have been successful for others and which methods have not worked. Twitte and LinkedIn also allow you to communicate directly with other businesses, industry publications, and social media gurus. By following the right people, you’ll have plenty of insightful industry-specific reading material at your fingertips. It’s like attending an industry conference every day without the hassle of traveling and spending excess money.

4.) Social Media Is The Best Kind Of Word-Of-Mouth Advertising

People are already talking about your business on social media–even if you’re not out there. But if you are present in the social media world, and you’re using the platforms correctly, then you’ll tap into the the best kind of advertising–viral, word-of-mouth marketing. This doesn’t mean that you need to use every single Facebook post to sell something, for instance. Personal, fun, and interesting posts are the ones that people share. And you want people to share your posts because then the name of your brand is not only seen by that one person who shared your post, but also by that Facebook users hundreds of friends.

5.) Social Media Allows You To Have Real Time Moments With Customers

Social media gives your business the chance to have “real time” moments with people online.  Let’s say that someone has a question about one of your company’s services. Instead of getting on the phone, they send you a tweet. If you respond quickly, then you have provided a direct, real time response to an issue that may have taken a lot longer to resolve if the customer had to place a call, perhaps be put on hold, and maybe even talk to several people before receiving the right answer. And by reacting quickly to tweets like this, you show the entire twitterverse that your company is on top of customer service.

Or maybe you see that someone has posted a picture of your product on Instagram. Simply by “liking” the post and posting a short comment you are showing that your business is run by actual people who care about connecting with customers. And, like on Twitter, that Instagram users followers will see this, too.