With over 380 million users, LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site on the web - even Santa Claus himself has a LinkedIn profile. Connections are what form the bedrock of a useful LinkedIn experience, but expanding your network can be difficult, particularly after you've gone through everyone in your contact list. Building connections is what the platforms all about, an important element of the process - so how can you expand your professional network and maximize LinkedIn? Let's take a look at some of the ways you can groom and grow your connections list.
Participate in Groups
One of the best ways to form authentic connections on LinkedIn is to approach it as a digital networking opportunity. The service hosts thousands of active groups that discuss every conceivable line of work and industry. Join a few related to your personal or professional interests and, importantly, participate in the conversations. Don't use it as a way to direct people to your website or Instagram page, just let the discussion flow freely and organically. When people want to know more about you or what you do, they'll click through to your profile to find out.
Give as Much as You Get
LinkedIn's all about creating connections and referrals between professionals - but don't expect the platform to do all the work for you. When people reach out asking you for an introduction to someone on your list of colleagues, facilitate it if you can. Helping your connections meet each other builds goodwill and encourages reciprocity down the road - which might, eventually, prove more beneficial that you'd think.
Remember Your Manners
You wouldn't walk up to someone at an in-person networking event, stick your business card in their face, and say, "call me", right? So don't do it on LinkedIn either. Make sure your profile and any messages you send are professional and represent you at your best. Respond to messages and connection requests in a timely manner to let people know you take your presence on the platform seriously.
Pay Attention to People You May Know
Sometimes the opportunity to form new connections are right under your nose. LinkedIn's algorithm helpfully suggests people you may know right on your dashboard every time you log-in. The names and profiles change often so don't forget to check them regularly.
Go Offline to Connect Online
While it's certainly acceptable to send invitations to people you don't know, LinkedIn users are much more likely to connect with people they've met in person. Get out from behind your desk and go to Meetups, Chamber of Commerce events and other local networking opportunities in your area. Once you've made a personal connection, don't hesitate to ask if you can look them up on LinkedIn - and don't forget to follow up.
Use the Personal Touch
When reaching out for an initial connection, ditch LinkedIn's pre-filled message template and take a few minutes to craft a personal message. "Personalize each connection request with a reminder of how the person knows you or explain why they should connect with you, and you'll find they're far more likely to accept," recommends LinkedIn expert Melonie Dodaro. "The latter is especially important when you're trying to connect with prospects you've never met".
What are your favorite tips for making authentic connections on LinkedIn?