Networking Through LinkedIn

LinkedIn is based on the premise that anyone you'd like to meet is less than six degrees away from you based on who you already know. Using LinkedIn to network with others starts with your profile which is essentially your resume. After that, you add people to your Connections using your email address books or searching and finding team members, clients, vendors and others you’ve met in professional settings. The stronger your contacts, i.e. people who you actually know and who know you, the more fruitful your LinkedIn networking.

LinkedIn calculates your Connections and the people you find on LinkedIn based on degrees from you ranging from one to three degrees: 1st degree means they are your immediate connection; 2nd degree means they are someone who is connected to one of your connections and 3rd degree refers to someone who is connected to someone else who is connected with you. People are considered “out of your network” if they are more than three degrees away from you, however, LinkedIn lets you contact those people through InMail, a premium feature.

You can add to your LinkedIn network passively through a feature called “People You May Know.” LinkedIn automatically culls connections of your first degree connections to suggest that you may know them and want to link with them. Take care when sending out an invitation to connect with people you don’t actually know. Explain in your request why you'd like to specifically connect with that person. Don't simply send the generic connection message LinkedIn populates in connection your requests emails.

When you view someone else's profile on LinkedIn, you will see who has viewed that same profile on the right side of the profile page. This is a free feature but to see who has viewed your own profile requires at least a paid Pro account. Seeing who has viewed one of your connection’s profiles is an interesting way to find people with whom you might want to network. Seeing who is viewing your profile could give you insights into potential partnerships or leads.

Networking through LinkedIn is most productive when you take a more active stance. Strengthen the network you already have by:

  • Posting valuable, useful information through your profile updates – and not just about you but interesting things you’ve read;
  • Passing along introductions when someone you know and trust wants to connect with another of your trusted Connections;
  • Making connections between your Connections who you think should meet for business partnerships or other professional opportunities;
  • Recommend or endorse your Connections.

Looking to expand your network? Start with a search on LinkedIn by name, title, company, location, industry, relationship, or school to find either people you may know who is also on LinkedIn or someone who may have a connection to you.

While it may seem like a good idea to review your connections' connections and immediately putting out connections requests to them, this type of activity is considered “trolling” and is frowned upon by both the recipients of your request and by LinkedIn. Look instead for more meaningful and visible ways to connect with others rather than doing the digital equivalent of skimming through a phone book and adding people's phone numbers to your contact database.

The best way to meet someone through LinkedIn is to be introduced to them by your actual Connections. LinkedIn allows you to easily request introductions to people you don’t yet know through your Connections and who they know. Compose a message to your contact and a message to the person you’d like to meet and all messages are sent via the connection chain until it reaches that person. Keep in mind that if someone along the way doesn’t know the referrer of the message, this reduces the chance of your message getting to its final destination.

Building a strong network – even on a professional networking site – takes time to cultivate, particularly if you are looking to network for business where credibility and trust are key. LinkedIn provides powerful tools for business networking, but the way you use them can make or break your networking success.