They may call you a sellout or a hustler, but when it comes to LinkedIn, it pays to be generous with your connections.
As much as marketers lecture on the importance of quality over quantity, there's no denying there are some major benefits to accumulating hordes of followers and friends, even if admittedly they couldn't even pass for acquaintances IRL.
Social Media Networking Rules & Regulations (Unofficial)
There are some social networks that generally hold a higher standard for connections, but sometimes rules are made to be broken.
- Instagram: Most of us don't care much about our friends' beautiful, delicious ramen noodle bowl lunch. We certainly don't want to see a stranger's half-eaten tuna salad. Instagram tends to be a real-friends-only network.
- Facebook: While Facebook is lax to some degree, most people still aren't likely to add blatant strangers. Maybe you only add them because they took one Poli-Sci class with you in college or they were on your intramural bocce team, but you've probably had at least some kind of minor human interaction with them.
- Twitter: Twitter is extremely generous when it comes to establishing connections. On Twitter, it's perfectly normal to follow people you know absolutely nothing about. That's a natural result of not requiring a confirmation to establish a connection (AKA I do what I want). Twitter is a numbers game. User's unabashedly broadcast their follower number as a key indicator of their worth.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn tends to be more like Instagram and Facebook in that people are more critical of their friend requests. It makes sense - the professional social network expects you to act, well, professional. Not like a child at his first day of Kindergarten, hugging every new "friend" he shares a Fruit Roll-Up with (everyone knows true friendships revolves around the exchange of Jawbreakers).
Turns out, this is all wrong. You should be self-promoting on LinkedIn like it's the last dance a senior prom.
TLDR; you should be treating LinkedIn more like Twitter.
Twitter connections are unilateral - you follow anyone you find even remotely interesting. I decided to try this Twitter-specific approach with LinkedIn. I think, like me, you'll be surprised to see the results.
Pros of LinkedIn Connection Binging
1. You'll Have Top Spot in Most Viewed Connections
The more connections you have, the more likely you are to show up in a user's "most viewed connections" section.
I know what you're thinking - who cares? What's the point of showing up in a user's most viewed connections? Well, I was at an industry networking event recently and two different people recognized me (even though we had never met) from their most viewed LinkedIn connections!
2. Your Profile Gets a Lot More Views
More network connections means a ton more profile views. After I started being more lenient with adding and accepting connections, my profile views went from a handful here and there to thousands per week!
While there are no obvious advantages to profile views, you're getting more notice and attention. Isn't the point of networking to get your name out there? I consider that a win.
3. More Endorsements Than a 5 Star General
Since I started my connections binge, I've been collecting endorsements like bottle caps. Previously I had an embarrassingly low number of endorsements from my measly 300 connections. Having the 99+ endorsements looks fantastic, but it's almost impossible to get there if you don't have a ton of connections, since it would require a huge percent of your connections to endorse you.
Even in fields where I'm considered an expert, like SEO and SEM, I had pretty low numbers. Now with 10,000 connections, I get around 300 new endorsements per week! My profile is more decorated than a 5 star general; I have more badges than a homeschooled Eagle Scout. That's some serious online street cred.
4. You'll Become the Popular Kid: More Connection Requests
There's definitely a snowball effect when it comes to connection binging. The more connections you have, the more connection requests you'll find flooding your dinky little LinkedIn Inbox. I get 100-300 connection requests each week now!
Looks like someone in town is wearing their tight pants.
5. Boost in Post Engagement (+Likes, Comments, & Shares)
Now that I've racked up +10,000 connections, I'm treated like LinkedIn royalty. Every status update I post on LinkedIn generates a ton more engagement than my old status updates as a LinkedIn peasant. In the past I'd be lucky to get just one or two thumbs up. Now my status updates have an average of 30 - 200 likes. Not too shabby!
Engagement with posts drives even more engagement, since LinkedIn gives timeline appearance preference to talked-about content. It's a beautiful LinkedIn loop.
6. More People Devour Your Published Content
As a high-ranking LinkedIn gigolo, you're LinkedIn published content gets consumed faster than an MIT student in a zombie horde.
Part of this success is due to the LinkedIn blogging platform, which notifies users when a connection publishes a post. The more connections you have, the more notifications other users will receive. The result? Heaps of engagement with your published articles.
More connections leads to more content engagement, which increases your chances of getting featured in LinkedIn Pulse (which, in turn, boosts engagement even more)! My LinkedIn articles now get anywhere between 1-55k views. A recent piece got 132 likes and 49 comments! That's a huge improvement prior to my LinkedIn connection binging, when just a handful of likes or comments was something to celebrate.
7. More Connections on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
When people see and engage with your content on LinkedIn, they usually also share your content on other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. There's always a spill over. When I have a very successful LinkedIn post, I'll often discover a truckload of new Twitter and Google+ connections.
8. More LinkedIn Followers
When users see the high levels of engagement with my posts, many decide to follow me. Followers are people who subscribe to your content updates, but are not LinkedIn connections. This means more individuals committed to your content and reading your posts. No downside there!
9. More Website Traffic
Increased post engagements also leads to more website traffic! I've increased traffic to WordStream from LinkedIn by 4X in just a few weeks! That's the true power of LinkedIn connection binging.
Should You Be a LinkedIn LION?
Some users choose to become LinkedIn Open Networkers (LIONs), connecting with anyone and everyone they see on LinkedIn.
While I've suggested many benefits of generous networking on LinkedIn, it's a far cry from blindly adding connections indiscriminately. Really, LinkedIn connection binging only works when connecting with a relevant audience that will have at least some interest in the kind of content that you're posting. Random connections aren't all that beneficial.
This should be obvious by now though - haven't you watched Game of Thrones enough to be wary of those Lannister lions?
When I see a LinkedIn user that wants to connect with me, I examine their profile to see:
- Are they a premium member? There are a ton of spam accounts on LinkedIn, so seeing that a user has a paid premium account means they are more likely to be a real person.
- Do we have trusted connections in common? Having a few connections in common is always a good sign.
- Does the user have related skills and interests? If they have no related skills, no relative interests, and do not work in any industry similar to mine, I probably won't add them.
- Does the user's profile look impressive? The user should have a profile picture, at least some endorsements, etc. Otherwise, no way José.
- Is the user in a country where I do business? I love Bangladesh, but my company doesn't do business there. It's important that I focus on networking in the countries where I conduct business and want to grow.
The Downside to Being a LinkedIn Streetwalker
Selling yourself cheap on LinkedIn has serious side effects, and not all of them are good. The cons:
- Spam. The spam train will hit you hard. The Monty Python crew will have nothing on you. You'll get a lot of folks trying to sell you stuff, so be prepared and try to develop a system for weeding out the undesirables.
- 30k Connection Limit. LinkedIn limits you to 30k connections. I currently have 10k and am adding hundreds of new connections each week. Eventually I'll hit the limit. At that point I plan on deleting the bottom 25% of my connections to make room for new, better connections. You'll have to be ready to send some connections to the chopping block. LinkedIn is a merciless battleground.
- Implied Endorsement. If anyone I know connects to one of my 10k LinkedIn connections, my face will appear as a connection in common. Some may view my connection as a character endorsement, even though the connection could be a complete stranger. So if someone ends up being a serial killer, you might wind up labeled an accomplice. That's going to be some tough paperwork.
LinkedIn connection binging has some pretty powerful implications. While there are risks, I think they're pretty minimal for what you're getting in exchange.
Conclusion: LinkedIn Whoring Pays the Bills
Let's face it - self-promoting on LinkedIn provides some big time benefits.
Friendship is a delicate, fragile thing to be treasured; but you're not looking for real friends. You want a crowd at your party, and LinkedIn connection binging promises a wild ride.