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How Having as Many LinkedIn Connections as Possible Will Increase Your Revenues by 42%

by Jul 3, 2012, 5:56 am ET

As an early adopter of LinkedIn (member 554,000-ish) I’d like to think I have a bit of experience and insight into this business network. I am not a LinkedIn expert, but I do know enough about it to understand the value from the viewpoint of a candidate, recruiter, salesperson, and business owner. When it comes to expanding my network and invitations to connect, I have some strong opinions.

The Business Network

When LinkedIn first started, its “suggestion” regarding invitations to connect read:

Carol Schultz wants to be your connection on LinkedIn. We recommend that you only connect with professionals you know well and who you are generally willing to recommend to your other business contacts.

Now, LinkedIn invitations read:


Carol Schultz’s connections could be useful to you

After accepting Carol Schultz’s invitation, check Carol Schultz’s connections to see who else you may know and who you might want an introduction to. Building these connections can create opportunities in the future.

These are two very different guidelines.

The first is simple and to the point. It makes sense to me, and seems geared more toward relationships that are already in place. I’d be happy to recommend a business contact I know and whose work I know.

The second seems geared more toward what a connection can do for me. This is self-centered; e.g., I should connect with John so that I can see who is in his network who can do something for me. This leaves me feeling like I need a shower.

That said, I certainly understand the value of creating future opportunities. I just believe that connecting with total strangers is not the best strategy for creating those opportunities.

Network Effectiveness

I was approached by someone this week regarding hiring his company to do some work for me. I’m very interested and asked him for references and some examples of work he’s done. He didn’t give me either. He responded, “References are a non-issue, however for a program at this price, we ask you to reference our testimonials versus taking our very busy clients’ time on a call or email.”

He was quick to mention the names of a few large companies he has done work for and that he’d closed $100,000 in business in the past three days. That’s fine and dandy — and a conversation to discuss at length elsewhere — but I want to speak to some people who have retained him. I began to search for people to provide me with blind references. I always check blind references regardless of the references that are given to me, and I find references in a number of ways. I find blind reference checking to be quite effective.

I decided to use my LinkedIn network as my jumping-off point. He is a second-degree connection of mine and there are 13 people between us. I reached out to 6 of the 13 who I know best. Each responded to me that, though they were connected to him, they didn’t actually know him. I will continue to reach out to the others in hopes I will find someone who does actually know him and/or done business with him. In addition, I will use the other methods I have to get information.

Although I connect with people I know, others don’t, as I’ve pointed out. So what good do they do to have them in your network?

Your Connection Strategy

Do you actually have a LinkedIn strategy, or are you just slinging spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks?

What is it you’re looking to accomplish with LinkedIn?

  • Are you there because you think you need a profile?
  • Are you hoping people will find you?
  • Is your profile written professionally so people get an understanding of the value you offer?
  • Are you there to have as many connections as possible? If so, have you heard of Facebook?
  • Do you believe if you have as many connections as possible that more people will help you?
  • Are you trying to generate business?

People are so busy these days that it’s hard to get in touch with folks who do know you. What do you think the chances are that people you are connected to, but don’t know you, will make time to help you out?

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that building relationships is the best way to create opportunities; consequently, I am still guided by the early LinkedIn recommendation. I subscribe to the quality over quantity strategy because I want to know if I reach out to someone in my network they will be more apt to assist me in my request.

There are some people on LinkedIn who connect to anyone and everyone. There are LinkedIn Open Networkers, or LIONs. I know some LIONs who have more than 10,000 connections. I can’t even imagine having that many, let alone what value they’d bring to me … or me to them. I only just reached the 500-connection mark late in 2011. That took seven and a half years.

We Worked Together, Where? Being Dishonest Is NOT an Effective Strategy

I’m not interested in having people in my network I don’t know or have never spoken to. My profile clearly states that I don’t connect with people I don’t know; however, if an individual feels we should be connected I ask that they please send a note with a reason we should connect. I have accepted invitations from people who take the time to give me a reason to connect. I received an invite a few months ago from an inexperienced corporate recruiter who had read an article I wrote. She took the time to tell my why she wanted to connect and I accepted.

What really burns me up is people who send invitations under the umbrella that we’re “friends,” “colleagues” or “we’ve done business together.” What is up with that? If you’re going to lie and send me an invitation that says we’re friends or worked together in the past when we’ve never so much as met, emailed, or spoken, what makes you think I’d want to connect with you? Do you think I want people in my network that begin contact with dishonesty? Do you think I’ll want to help, or do business with, someone who lies out of the starting gate? Is it really that hard to compose a few sentences that tell me why you’d like to connect?

I don’t know if you realize it, but if you send an invitation to connect and the receiver indicates they don’t know you, LinkedIn will require you enter an email address to all invitees going forward. To me, that is much more work than composing two or three sentences introducing yourself and why you’d like to be connected.

What About That Headline?

I imagine my headline grabbed your attention enough that you read the post. How do you feel about a dishonest headline that drags you in and doesn’t deliver: a bit like a bait and switch?

Let me know how you feel.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Georgia Adamson

    Thank you for this on-target article! It really articulates the issue I have with the concept of “more is always better” in terms of contacts/connections. For a while, I wasn’t as careful in accepting invitations as I had been, but for the reasons you mentioned, I’ve gone back to a more restrained policy.

    I just wish LinkedIn had a better way for people to send a customized invitation! It seems to depend on the place/method they’re accessing the connection request function, as to whether they’re locked in to the standard (uninformative) statement or not.

  • Maureen Sharib

    Love the graph!

    Maureen Sharib
    Phone Sourcer
    513 899 9628

  • Suzanne Sears

    LinkedIn is the most valuable tool in the world for business: so from a recruiters perspective: its totally baffling why they put limits on how many people you can connect with that you dont know.

    By definition: recruiting requires reaching out to people you dont know: Why? because I either have or will have career opportuniities to share with them.

    Its really simple: if you dont EVER want to hear about other companies that might wish to hire you: and you are only interested in a Facebook type relationship:……..then just say so in your opening line.

    Believe me: recruiters are busy people: we need to talke to dozens if not hundreds of people any given week: we dont want to waste our time either if you never ever want to discuss career potentials.

    Even purchasing the LinkedIn in-mail plan doesnt give recruiters anywhere near enough leeway to make contacts.

    I dont need to personally “know” you to chat with you about the brand I am representing……..your profile alone gives me enough information to start a conversation.

    Or: keep your profile as near to anonymous as possible to avoid us. But then: why bother be on LinkedIn at all? if you dont want to build business connections for the future?

    If a recruiter sends you an invitation you dont want: click ignore: Easy peasy. They will move on to another who DOES want to hear about new career choices at lightning speed.

    On average: candidates I have gotten hired using LinkedIn as a primary contact have received job offers at no less than 10k nore than they were making and on a bell curve: 25k.

    I say: ignore recruiter invitations at your own professional peril!………and dont wonder why others are getting calls for the dream jobs you wish would come your way! Once you block us: its forever. We never get to reach out directly ever again.

  • Carol Schultz

    @Suzanne: I’m not sure your points are in alignment with the spirit of my article. The article is ultimately about quality of connections and connecting with people you may know already, have things in common with, and mutually see benefit from a business standpoint.

    I know many recruiters and none of them would avoid reaching out to someone if they were the right fit for a job just because they didn’t accept a LI connection. That would be “cutting off their nose to spite their face”, and childish.

    Your comment, “Once you block us: its forever. We never get to reach out directly ever again.” is just incorrect. When someone indicates they don’t know you, that just means you need to pick up the phone and call. Maybe you need to give that a try rather than sticking to email?

  • Lynda Fraser

    Carol, I COMPLETELY concur! Sometimes I feel that as a recruiter I should accept invitations from people that I don’t know – particularly as a recruiter from the other side of the world who is still relatively new to the US. But my instincts scream “no” and after them serving me well for many years now, I tend to follow them. I may not have 10,000 connections but I am proud to have a REAL connect with the 700+ that I do.

  • Zach Greer

    Nice article and I believe it’s important for all professionals, not just recruiters, to put a little more effort in their invitations. I’ve noticed a significant increase in the quality of referrals and connections since taking the time to add a little more detail regarding my intentions to connect.

    However, it’s important to note that LinkedIn also encourages mass connections to an extent through their “People you may know” sections which doesn’t require any effort other than clicking “connect”. They also encourage you to “connect only with people you know” when a primary focus in networking is always “getting” to know people. We’re essentially working with an online 24/7 networking event and restricting who we can speak with is like not allowing us to walk the floor and shake some hands.

    As a recruiter, I am often forced to check off the “friend” box as opposed to the others because they request an email address. I add a few lines about why I want to connect and most are receptive. I believe that most contacts are wise enough to understand that I am not attempting to be deceptive as I’m merely working around LinkedIn’s difficult restrictions. As the site continues to improve, I imagine we’ll see another option to eliminate this problem.

    I also believe many users are not aware that when they select “I don’t know this person” section that it can have a negative impact on the other person’s ability to conduct business. I would certainly hope that no one would want to intentionally hurt my opportunities to reach out to other professionals but I’ve recently started adding a line asking connections to “please archive this message if you do not wish to connect”. I find it odd that one would be penalized for attempting to network on a website designed to do just that.

    With telephone numbers not always available and the desire to not be too intrusive by calling the place of business regarding other job opportunities, LinkedIn is a great resource for the labor market.

    All that said, this is still a nice reminder that it is important for recruiters and other professionals to remember that your LinkedIn invitation is your first impression. If your intentions are always good, there should never be an issue that can’t get worked out!

  • Ken Schmitt

    Carol, great article – thanks for addressing an issue that is growing by the hour! I have to be honest in saying that early on – i.e. my first 6 years as a LI member – I subscribed to the same quality over quantity approach, only accepting invitations to those I truly know. Over the past 18 months, however, I have expanded that a bit to include people I know, those who have attended my workshops, those who have been referred, or those with whom I share a strong 2nd connection (i.e. someone I trust is already connected to them).

    As the owner of an Executive Search and Career Coaching firm, I continually struggle with the volume vs. “do I know this person” dilemma and I believe my hybrid approach has served me well. While my 3100 connections pale in comparison to many recruiters, I have found that it is highly unusual that I am unable to find what – or who – I am looking for through my network. While I only accept 80% of the invitations I receive, and although I can’t honestly claim to know all 3100 people really well, I have been able to use my network effectively to help others to get introduced to their targets, in addition to helping me find the best talent to fill my open searches.
    Ken Schmitt
    Founder/President, TurningPoint Executive Search

  • Carol Schultz

    Ken: Thanks. I have also started accepting invitations in the same way, especially since writing for ERE. I think the “policy” of accepting invites from a 2nd degree connection who is connected with someone you trust is a fine practice.

  • Paul Tseko

    “I always check blind references regardless of the references that are given to me, and I find references in a number of ways. I find blind reference checking to be quite effective”. And potentially a legal mess if you are caught.

    Remember, it’s not the reference who will give you what you need to hear; it is the skill of the recruiter asking the questions that will get you what you need to hear.

  • Tracy TC

    Hi Carol! I can share one perspective on “what’s up” with the “deceptive” connection requests. I’ve frequently used the friend category because I’ve found it to be one way that LinkedIn lets me reach out with the least amount of friction. I am definitely in alignment with your quality vs. quantity position, but before I switched to my “friend” strategy, I often found myself prevented by LinkedIn from reaching out to people that I have a lot in common with, but don’t yet know. It’s not a strategy that I think will work for people who don’t include a personalized comment with their invitation, but I’ve found it to be a strategy that has consistently worked for me.