5 Strategies for Building a Bigger Network on LinkedIn

 

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When it comes to social media marketing, you have a lot of different options.

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn…

And the list goes on.

Despite being not quite as big as Facebook, LinkedIn is often a better choice for businesses.

It provides you with an opportunity to connect with professionals and engage with them on a personal level.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know:

Over 80% of B2B leads generated from social media come from LinkedIn.

That’s pretty incredible.

Although there may be less traffic on LinkedIn, its users are much more open to learning about products than Facebook users are, who just want to see pictures of cats.

In one particular set of results, LinkedIn produced more leads than even the company’s blog. 

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No, that doesn’t definitively mean that marketing on LinkedIn is more effective than blogging, but it shows you the power it can have.

While LinkedIn is smaller than some other social networks, it’s still pretty huge. It has more than 300 million users and is still growing.

And more importantly, those users are buyers. Businesses are 50% more likely to buy a product if they’ve already engaged on LinkedIn.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’ve been referring to businesses as customers.

LinkedIn is mostly a platform for B2B (business to business) companies. In other words, it’s for companies that sell directly to other businesses.

It makes sense when you think about it. People go on LinkedIn for reasons related to their professions. They’re looking for ways to further their careers, not for products for their personal lives, like a new computer or toaster.

So, if you sell your products directly to consumers, LinkedIn probably isn’t right for you.

But if you sell products to businesses, LinkedIn provides a massive opportunity to generate more leads.

The basics of using LinkedIn for business: The goal with LinkedIn should almost always be to generate leads (and subsequently sales).

To do this, you start with your network on the site.

The larger your network, the more potential you have to engage with someone in your network, who might become your customer.

That’s why I’ve dedicated this post specifically to strategies that will help you build the most effective network possible, both in size and quality.

1. Determine with whom you should be trying to connect

If you do some reading about LinkedIn marketing on other sites, you’ll find that there are two general opinions.

First, you can reject anyone you don’t know or who doesn’t work in your industry in some form. The idea behind this is to keep your network as “high quality” as possible.

But unlike on other social networks, you don’t get penalized by having a large number of people in your network. So, even if you have a large network of “low quality” connections, it shouldn’t harm your results.

The second approach is to grow your network to include as many people as possible. This means that you accept invitations to connect from everyone and actively look to add more people to your network.

Here’s why I like the second—the bigger the better—approach:

  1. Even if someone isn’t in your industry, that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future.
  2. Even if someone isn’t in your industry, that doesn’t mean that their connections aren’t. Being connected to that original person will make you show up higher in their connections’ searches and possibly in their “suggested connections” as well.
  3. The more connections you make, the more likely you are to show up in “most viewed profiles,” which will lead to even more invitations to connect.

Other than simply being more open to connecting with people you don’t know well yet, you can implement this strategy with just a few simple steps.

Step #1- Learn to recognize spam profiles: Once you start to get a decent number of connections, you’ll begin to get a lot more invitations to connect.

Some of these will be from spammers.

They create accounts, try to connect with a few hundred people, and then start spamming with products or promote scams in various places on LinkedIn.

This is where having “low quality” people in your network can hurt you. You don’t want to be associated with spammers in any way.

If someone sees the spam and then sees that you’re connected with the spammer, you could lose your connections or even potential sales.

Sometimes, you might get fooled, but it’s pretty easy to spot 95% of fake profiles. Take a quick look at your new connection’s profile before you accept them.

In particular, fake profiles usually:

  • don’t have profile pictures or use stock photos (usually of an attractive man or woman)
  • have very limited or no information
  • use a company name instead of a personal name (to market your business through LinkedIn, you need to make connections as a person)
  • use a logo instead of a profile picture

Spammers typically create hundreds or thousands of these profiles at a time, so they all look very similar.

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Now that you know what to look for, you’ll be able to spot a fake profile in just a few seconds.

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Just report these invitations as spam and move on; there’s not much else you can do.

Step #2 – Start by connecting with everyone you know: When most people create a LinkedIn account, they begin by connecting with people they’ve worked with.

For some, this can be hundreds of people, which is great. But if you’ve mainly worked in small businesses or don’t have a ton of experience, this could be under 50 people.

If this is the case, you’re not “popular” on LinkedIn yet, which means that people won’t be as eager to connect with you.

In practical terms, it’s a lot easier to go from 300 to 350 connections than it is from 50 to 100. That’s why the more people you can start with, the better.

Beyond your work acquaintances, connect with:

  • friends
  • family
  • peers (other students or people in your profession)

As long as they know who you are, don’t worry if you know each other very well.

The only thing you want to avoid is sending tons of invitations to people you don’t know at all because that’s how you get reported as a spammer.

Step #3 – Encourage people to connect in all possible places: Like I showed you earlier, LinkedIn is often one of the most effective, if not the most effective, lead generation channels.

It makes sense to focus on LinkedIn in your marketing strategy.

You can build your network both on and off LinkedIn.

First, add your LinkedIn profile to your email signature. If you send a lot of emails, you’ll get a regular stream of new connections just from this.

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Next, make it clear in your LinkedIn profile summary that you’re happy to connect with just about everyone. If you check out my LinkedIn profile (go connect with me now!), you’ll see this in my summary:

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Finally, add your LinkedIn profile to every page of your blog.

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2. Sharing content does more than drive traffic

Building a bigger network should be one of your main goals, but there are a few others as well.

For one, you want to use LinkedIn to build relationships with your followers and turn them into leads/customers when the time is right.

One thing you need to be doing is sharing content on LinkedIn.

When you make a post on LinkedIn, it will be shown to anyone following you or connected with you.

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Unlike other social networks that have way too much content as it is, LinkedIn will actually send notifications to your followers when you make a new post so that they don’t miss it.

What and when you should post: Don’t worry much about the specific time when you post. Although there is an optimal time, it doesn’t make as big of a difference as it does on other networks.

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The most important thing in regards to when you should post is that you post consistently. I’ve adopted a once a week schedule, but you could try posting more if you have the time.

Another important question is: what to post?

While you can post personal status updates about your job, you want to post about things that your target audience is interested in. This is one aspect where LinkedIn marketing is the same as marketing on any other social network.

By doing this, you are right away positioning yourself as an expert in your niche/industry.

You can post content created by others, or you can post links to your own content—it doesn’t really matter when it comes to this specific function.

However, it does matter if you’re interested in all the benefits you can get from regular posting.

Benefit #1 – You stay at the front of their minds: We just talked about how posting content about your niche positions you as an expert.

When you consistently post content about your industry, your connections keep seeing it. Every post is a new reminder that you take your work seriously and pride yourself on being on the cutting edge of the industry.

Say you’re a nutritional consultant. And let’s say an HR manager (your connection) is looking to hire a nutritional consultant to help their business’ employees eat better.

Guess who they’ll immediately think of? That’s right, you.

You’ve been posting content about how good eating translates into better lives for workers and more productivity for a long time. In most cases, they won’t even look for an alternative.

Even if you are not connected to this HR manager, you might be connected to one of their coworkers or friends.

When the manager mentions the idea to your connection, they’ll light up and say, “I know the perfect person for you.”

Staying at the front of someone’s mind, once you’ve positioned yourself properly, is a long term strategy that pays off.

Benefit #2 – You drive traffic: When you post your own content, you immediately drive traffic to that content.

It’s not as good as email marketing in this regard, but it can still drive a few hundred to a few thousand visits, which isn’t too shabby.

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Obviously, you don’t get this benefit if you post other people’s content.

Your first concern should be posting things that are genuinely useful to your connections who are interested in the topic.

Ideally, you’ll post your own content, but if you come across something great that your connections would appreciate, share it with them.

Traffic should be a side benefit of posting, not the only benefit.

Benefit #3 – You have the opportunity to engage: Remember that one of the main things you’re looking to do on LinkedIn is build relationships.

If you ever needed something that a close friend sells, wouldn’t you go to them first?

By building deep relationships (as deep as possible) with the right people, you can achieve an insane conversion rate, when your connections convert into customers.

And the right people present themselves to you when you post something.

They’re the ones who are most interested in your content and who ask questions or add stories in the comments.

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Then, you can start a dialogue with them, which can lead to further conversations through private messages on LinkedIn or even email.

Direct communication is always how you build strong relationships, so look to not only respond to comments on your posts but take discussions further.

Benefit #4 – Some content will help you convert connections into customers: Yes, some connections will just wake up one day and say, “I need what you’re selling.”

This is awesome.

However, some leads won’t be sure if they really need what you’re selling, or they won’t know how it could help them.

This is where the content itself comes in.

The majority of content (from a marketing perspective) should be educational. It teaches the viewer many things, one of which might be how your product could fit into their lives.

Content such as webinars (see NeilPatel.com for an example) and case studies are both specific types of content that help convert people who are unsure into customers.

3. The one element of networking that LinkedIn users often forget…

It’s not fair to say that only LinkedIn users do this when it comes to networking.

In fact, it’s one of the most common mistakes people make in real life as well.

Have you ever gone to a networking event, handed out a ton of business cards (like everyone else), and then wondered why it never led to anything?

Don’t feel bad if you have; just about everyone has gone through it at one point or another.

It happens because people don’t truly understand what networking is all about.

They think that it consists of one step:

  1. Meet new people in your industry

They don’t realize that networking actually has two steps:

  1. Meet new people in your industry
  2. Build relationships with those you meet

The people who find networking events useful aren’t the ones who pass out business cards and call it a day.

They’re the ones who go to dinners with their new acquaintances or give them a call/email after the conference is over.

They find ways to give value to these new people they’ve met to deepen the budding relationships, which paves the way for future favors and business.

That’s how you truly add someone to your network, and that person becomes someone you can call upon when needed.

How to do real networking on LinkedIn: A lot of attention is focused on getting more “connections” on LinkedIn.

That’s equivalent to the first step of networking.

But don’t stop there!

Now, you need to start developing relationships with as many of those new connections as possible.

Being able to show them your posts (content) is a big help. We already went over the benefits of doing that.

But if you only do that, you won’t engage a large part of your potential network.

Instead, a better approach is to do something for them first (also known as “adding value”).

Once you do, the reciprocity principle will kick in, and they’ll want to help you out as well. This can go back and forth as long as you’re willing to participate in this exchange. At the very minimum, you’ll develop a professional relationship with someone.

Here are some ways in which you can give value to someone you’ve connected with:

  • leave thoughtful comments on posts they share
  • share things they post
  • send them direct messages asking them if there’s a way you can help them out

It’s hard to give specific advice here because everyone appreciates different things.

For example, some users will post questions on LinkedIn when they’re having problems with their work. If you know the answer, don’t just type a response, but create a short video tutorial for them.

Go the extra mile to help someone when it looks like they could use it because that’s what really gets attention.

If you have a large network on LinkedIn (over 500 connections), you could spend all day doing this.

I strongly recommend that you take a bit of time to go through my guide to being efficient on social media so that you are able to do all this without spending too much time.

4. An underused area of LinkedIn for growing your network

I touched on the concept of a high quality connection earlier.

It’s someone who is very likely to become a lead in the future.

While there’s nothing wrong with having other people in your network, ideally, you want as many of these high quality connections as possible.

If only there was a way to find these types of connections in one place!

You know I wouldn’t ask a question like that without giving you the answer. There is a part of LinkedIn that is amazing for finding high quality prospects:

Groups.

Users form groups around things they care about.

Marketers join marketing groups on LinkedIn; personal trainers join fitness, nutrition, and personal training groups; and so on…

They go to these groups specifically to learn about new developments, people, and even new products in their fields.

Groups are the fastest way to make hundreds of connections and then engage with them.

It was found that 86.3% of conversations that eventually led to a sale from LinkedIn came from a conversation in a group.

It is by far your most effective avenue to begin building real relationships if you follow everything else I’ve covered so far.

How to use groups to expand your network and generate leads: One option is to create a group from scratch. That automatically positions you as an expert to all the people in the group.

Also, just about all members will be happy to connect with you.

But that takes a lot of work and time to build up.

The better option for the majority of people is to simply join existing groups that have already done the hard work of building a large active group.

To find these groups, search for the topic you’re interested in at the top. You can either search only for groups by picking the group option from the drop down menu to the left of the search bar, or you can click the “Groups” filter on the results’ page.

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You’ll find that most of the biggest groups are typically full of spam unless the creators moderate them strictly.

You’ll see several posts per day where members just share their own content, but no one engages with it in any way.

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When there are tens of thousands of members in a group, but not a single person is engaging with any of the posts, you’re unlikely to have any meaningful conversations in the group.

Ideally, you’re looking for groups that have at least a comment or two on every other article. The more the better.

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Again, you’ll notice that the biggest groups aren’t usually the best ones to join.

Instead, look for groups that are more specific.

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This group, “content marketing for financial institutions” has a razor sharp focus. Even though it has fewer members than the general “content marketing” groups, it has more engagement.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to go through every group manually to see if it’s good or not.

The best groups usually require permission to join and browse. Click the button on the group to ask to join, and you’ll usually be approved within a day as long as your profile is filled out.

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You can always leave a group later if it turns out to be a dud.

How to behave in groups to grow your network: Any fairly large group will have a large portion of inactive members.

Your goal should be to engage with and connect with the active portion.

The members who actively post content, share it, and comment on it are the highest quality leads you will ever find on the network.

Then, you can use all the other strategies we’ve covered to start building your relationship with them.

So, what’s the best way to do this?

When you first join a group, you don’t want to start posting content right away even if you think it would benefit the members. It’s easy to come off as a spammer if you do.

Instead, spend the first week or two commenting on the content other people post. You can also “like” and “share” it as a bonus, but that doesn’t do much on its own.

Don’t just write “nice post,” but actually put a bit of time into making a thoughtful comment. You want the poster to appreciate the comment and reply to it.

After you’ve had a short discussion through comments with someone in the group, try to connect with them.

From there, look for opportunities to add value by using methods we looked at before.

Once you’ve been in the group for a bit, you can start to post your own content occasionally. When people engage with it, ask them to connect.

Other than that, just keep spending a bit of time commenting like you did from the start.

Keep in mind that you can join multiple groups. Look for 5-10 that you can be active in on a daily basis. If you have more time and are having success, you can join even more.

5. Influencers can put you in touch with almost anyone

There are influencers on all social media sites who have tons of followers or connections.

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Because they have so many connections and typically know a lot of people, they have an in-depth understanding of LinkedIn that no typical user can match.

There are two ways in which this can help you grow your network.

The first thing you should do is try to connect with them or, at the very least, start following them.

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Find at least 10-20 influencers in your niche, and then connect or follow them.

That will add all their posts to your home feed.

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Unlike what happens in some of those other groups we looked at, followers of these influencers do read what the influencers post.

Not only that, they engage with this content.

This gives you a great opportunity to get your name in front of a lot of users. When you comment on one of the influencers’ posts, a decent percentage of their followers (perhaps in the thousands) will also read the comments.

But again, don’t just say “nice post.” That doesn’t do anything for you.

Instead, leave a thoughtful comment, and try to find a way to mention that you’re trying to expand your network.

For that article pictured above, a good comment might look like this:

I completely agree with that list of traits, especially networking. I’ve been connecting with as many smart entrepreneurs as possible lately, and I’ve noticed that the more I grow my network, the more opportunities come my way.

People reading that comment will know that you’re open to connecting with them, and you can pick up a handful of new connections with every such comment.

Will an influencer help you out? The second strategy that revolves around influencers is a lot more difficult to use but can produce some great results.

The basic idea is to get the influencer to do you a favor and introduce you to a few people in your niche.

For example, if you told me you were interested in expanding your network of small business owners, I could easily give you a list of 10-20 that I’m already connected with.

You could then send them a message saying that I recommended you connect with them. You get the chance to not only grow a relationship with them but also impress them with getting a referral from an influencer.

The hard part, of course, is getting an influencer to do you a favor like that.

And I’ll be honest, it’s not easy, and you need to prepare for a lot of rejection.

You absolutely have to find a way to provide them with some sort of value beforehand, whether it’s based on something they’ve posted about on LinkedIn, on their website, or wherever.

This isn’t something that I can break down for you. You need to first investigate their business, find a problem, and go above and beyond to solve it.

This tactic isn’t necessary to succeed on LinkedIn; you’ll do just fine with all the other ones we’ve looked at. However, it is an option and can be a powerful way to grow your network with high quality contacts.

Conclusion

LinkedIn is probably the biggest social media opportunity for businesses.

It has a relatively huge user base, and users are focused on improving their professional lives. This makes LinkedIn a great platform for B2B sales.

I’ve given you five detailed strategies you can use to not only grow your network but also build relationships that will eventually lead to sales.

If you have any questions about these strategies or have an interesting story about LinkedIn you wouldn’t mind sharing, leave them in a comment below.

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