I have been on LinkedIn for several years and I recently hit a brick wall - LinkedIn's limit of 30,000 first-degree connections. That has forced me to do some pruning here and there, and I've had to disconnect from some really great people to stay under the limit, but I'm still hovering around 30K.
Why do I have so many connections?
Well, as a professional resume writer who works exclusively with retail managers, of course it's in my best interests to have a large network of retail leaders. But beyond that, it's just great to belong to a large community of like-minded people who love what I love. I learn from them, I stay up-to-date on retail news through them, and I stay motivated through them.
For those of you who are job searching or may be job searching one day (which is almost everyone), it can help you connect with recruiters and other decision-makers, and it can give you access to job leads. "Who you know" might play a big part in your success.
So how do you grow your network? Here are 5 steps to take:
Make it clear on your profile that you are open to connecting with others
Many people will be reluctant to send you a connection request if they don't know you're open to it, so include a sentence in your summary or headline stating that you're open to connecting with new people. When people view your profile, they will be more inclined to send you a request.
I don't recommend stating that you'll connect with absolutely anyone (ie. LION - LinkedIn Open Networker) - it may be perceived that you just want numbers and don't really value your individual connections all that much. Instead, I would limit it to your industry or occupation. In my case, I only connect with people in retail.
Get a custom URL for your LinkedIn profile and make it available to contacts
Once your profile clearly states that you'd like to connect with people, you can drive visitors to your profile from inside and outside LinkedIn. Within LinkedIn, they would just click on your name. Outside LinkedIn, you need to give them a link to your profile. Make sure it's a customized URL, which looks much more professional than the one they give you. Here is how to do that:
How to customize your public profile URL on LinkedIn
Once you have a custom URL, promote your profile by adding the link to your email signature, website, or by sharing it through other social media channels. The more people see your profile, the more connection requests you will get.
Join retail groups on LinkedIn and contribute to discussions
There are many retail groups on LinkedIn, some that are quite active and others that are pretty much dead. The best ones are managed and moderated daily, but unfortunately there are many that have been abandoned.
I encourage you to search for groups and join a few. Post an introductory message to say hi, share and like other people's posts, and participate in group discussions. The more active you are, the more people will check out your profile and see that you are open to connecting.
Once you're comfortable with the group dynamic and rules, you can even post a new discussion stating that you're open to connecting with members of the group.
To start, I manage two groups on LinkedIn. Feel free to join:
Retail Careers USA (48,000+ members)
Retail Careers Canada (14,000+ members)
Post to your LinkedIn homepage that you'd like to build your network
I know the people who initially see your post will already be connected to you, but this is a great way to expand your network if your connections are willing to like, share, or comment on your post, so that people in THEIR network can see it too.
Just don't fall into the trap of posting the standard "I'm doing a test to see how many of my connections can really see this post. If you can see it, please click 'like' - thanks!" That ruse has been done so many times and people have really started to get annoyed by it. Instead, post something like:
"As a store manager with 10 years' experience in retail management, I'm looking to build my network here on LinkedIn. I am a strong believer in networking, sharing, and contributing to the growth of an online community so we can all learn and benefit from each other. I value all of the connections I currently have, and am open to connecting with new people from the retail industry. Please check out my profile for more information."
Send connection requests to people you'd like to have in your network
It's perfectly acceptable to send someone else a connection request - you just need to be careful and selective. If the recipient doesn't know you, they can click "ignore" and state that they don't know you. If that happens too many times, you'll be in LinkedIn's doghouse and you won't be able to send any more.
So how do you prevent that?
Only send requests to people you'd really like to connect with - don't send them to anyone and everyone. Read their profile first and personalize a message stating who you are and why you'd like to connect. If you send the standard "I'd like to connect with you on LinkedIn," there's a greater risk that you'll be turned down.
Lastly, post articles and initiate discussions that provide value to your network. The more people appreciate your posts, the more likely they'll want to be part of your circle.
All the best!