Growing your Network on LinkedIn or Anywhere

In my last two articles, I wrote about the basics of setting up a profile on LinkedIn.  This article is going to talk about growing your network once your profile is set up.

I am a strong believer in building networks and making as many connections as possible but connections are only as strong as the effort you put into building them.  For example, in general, your connection with your parents is stronger than your cousin, which is stronger than a high school buddy, which is stronger than a co-worker which is stronger than someone you met last week.  Among the weakest of the connections is a LinkedIn connection that you connected with for no reason and have never spoken to.  The more effort you put into a connection and the more you do for your connections, the more they are willing to do for you and the stronger your connections become.

That being said, here are a few ways to grow your network:

Upload your Email Contacts – As part of the signup process, LinkedIn asks you to upload your email contacts.  If you haven’t done that yet, now is a good time to do so.  Your email address book is the best place to find people that you have already connected with in one way or another and then invite them to connect on LinkedIn.  It is easy to do and chances are, people that you have emailed have an idea of who you are.

Upload other Contacts – In addition to people in your email contact list, you probably have other people that you have been connected to in one form or another besides email.  You may have some business cards of people you met at a networking event or a yearbook with all of your old friend’s email addresses.  Enter all of those email addresses into the invite box and click send.  The way LinkedIn works is that your network is made up of your 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections so each additional connection can really build your network.

Join Groups – Groups are one of my favorite features on LinkedIn because they allow you front row access to the people that you want to meet but can’t seem to connect with any other way.  To grow your network through groups, search for groups on topics that you are interested in and join the group.  Many groups are open and can be joined instantly while others require the group owner to accept you.  Most group owners will accept you if you seem to have a reason for being in the group.

Once you are in a group, join discussions, find influencers and invite some to connect.  Make sure that you get to know the people you are connecting with because just being connected with someone means almost nothing.  When inviting someone to connect with you, you often have to enter their email address before inviting them.  The beauty of using groups to connect is that when inviting them, instead of entering their email address, you can just click that you are in a group together.

Answer Questions – LinkedIn has a feature where you can ask and answer questions within your network.  Ask questions related to your job or industry and see who answers them.  The people that answer the questions are joining your conversation and very well could be great connections to have.  Introduce yourself to them, connect and continue the conversation.

If you are looking to become known as an expert on a topic, search for all questions on the topic and answer them.  You may even want to write an entire blog post about it and then leave a link in the answer section.  This can show your expertise and introduce new readers to your blog.

Ask for Introductions – This works just as well in the offline world as it does in the online world with LinkedIn.  Just like with the recommendations, most people will not volunteer to connect you with someone else unless you ask for it.  Don’t be shy, whenever you are networking with someone, ask if they know of anyone that they can introduce you to that can help you achieve your goal.  On LinkedIn, you can look through your extended network for people that you want to meet and then ask your mutual connections to make an introduction.

This is one of the reasons that you should not just connect with everyone that invites you to connect or is willing to accept your invite.  Someone may ask you to introduce them to someone in your network and it becomes a little awkward when you have no clue who the person is.

Get Others to Connect With You

Now that you have put in some work finding people to connect with and growing your network, have people find and connect with you.  It makes your job a little easier.  Here are a few easy ways to get people to find you:

Have a Complete Profile – When you have a complete profile, there is a better chance of people wanting to connect with you.  Make sure to fill as much information about yourself and career as you can to make your profile attractive to others looking to connect.

Add Your Profile to Your Email Signature – Doing this tells everyone that you email that you are on LinkedIn and willing to connect with them.

Add your Profile to Other Sites – There are plenty of sites out there that allow you to add your LinkedIn profile.  If you have your own website or blog, that’s a good start.  If not, Facebook.com, About.me, Businesscard2.com, Twitter.com, and Google Profiles are all good starts as well as thousands of other sites.

Actively Grow Your Network – By doing all of the above to grow your network, more and more people will start to find you.  Your name will pop up in discussions and in answers.  Other people’s feeds will mention that you are connected to one of their connections.  Your name will show up on people’s profiles as “someone you may know”.

If you have any other tips on growing your LinkedIn network, feel free to leave them in the comments.