This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Build LinkedIn Influence

Your LinkedIn network is one of the most valuable professional assets you can build today. Who you know still matters, but with LinkedIn you can expand your network and cultivate relationships in ways that have never been available before.

Here are the 3 important advantages to connecting with relevant (not random) people on LinkedIn and growing your professional network:

1. Convert LinkedIn Connections Into Relationships

LinkedIn connections don't automatically lead to new relationships. Getting someone into your 1st degree network is just the first step. It gives you access to build rapport and start developing a relationship.

With your 1st degree connections, you gain the privilege of being able to go one-to-one through LinkedIn's messaging platform. There is no better way to cultivate a relationship than initiating a direct conversation.

2. Stay Top of Mind

The people who are in your 1st degree LinkedIn network are the ones who are most likely to see the status updates you share and the posts you publish on Pulse.

Over the years I've been active on LinkedIn, I can't tell you how many of my clients began our introductory call by saying ‘I see you all the time on LinkedIn'.

Don't underestimate the power of staying consistently visible with your network. However, if your updates aren't adding tremendous value, they won't be effective.

3. Expand Your Network Exponentially

Each new connection you make on LinkedIn at the 1st degree level will automatically expand your network exponentially. You can then gain visibility and access to your 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

This kind of relevant network expansion has never been available in the history of networking! Through LinkedIn, you can see who others are connected to and take steps to grow your network strategically.

Build a Smarter LinkedIn Network

The most important rule to remember as your build your LinkedIn network is to be strategic about it.

A smarter network on LinkedIn will attract more meaningful and relevant people and opportunities into your business.

In my early days of using LinkedIn, I made the mistake of connecting with anyone and everyone. I didn't have any plan or strategy in place for who I should connect with.

What I learned over time is that making random connections on LinkedIn leads random results. Your network can get chaotic in a hurry!

It is much more productive to connect with fewer, relevant people on LinkedIn. There should be a good reason for sending and/or accepting a LinkedIn invitation to connect.

Also, when you making smarter connections on LinkedIn at the 1st degree level it will lead to more relevant 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

9 Ways to Build a Smarter LinkedIn Network

1. Build a “Right-Sized” LinkedIn Network

More connections on LinkedIn will not equal greater success. The quantity of LinkedIn connections you have is only as valuable as the relevancy and depth of each connection you make.

When you grow your network with relevant connections and go deeper with the important few, you attract more of the same.

2. Understand and Leverage LinkedIn's Economic Graph

LinkedIn has redefined the six degrees of separation through its economic ‘social' graph. LinkedIn has a master map of how each of its members are connected across geographical territories, industries, companies, schools, colleagues, and more.

Pay attention to LinkedIn' ‘People You May Know' connection suggestion engine. If you are focused on building a smarter LinkedIn network, these suggestions will become more relevant.

Also take advantage of LinkedIn's advanced search. By leveraging LinkedIn's pre-existing economic social graph, you can uncover many new connection opportunities.

3. Practice Appropriate “New Connection” Etiquette

Sending personalized invitations is getting tougher to do on LinkedIn, but it can still make a big difference.

Personalized invitations stand out, build rapport, and achieve higher acceptance rates.

If you end up sending a generic invitation by accident, follow-up quickly with a personalized thank-you message once your invitation is accepted.

If you can't find a way to send a personalized invitation, consider sending a paid InMail message first to introduce yourself and build rapport. From there you can take the next step and send an invitation to connect.

4. Send Personalized Thank-You's to New Connections

Sending a personalized thank-you message is a great way to make a first impression, build some initial rapport, and become more memorable with a new LinkedIn connection.

When you send a thank-you message, you might ask the recipient how you can help them or who you could introduce them to. Include your name and website address in the email signature area of the message. When you do this, your new connections are likely to click on your website to learn more about you.

5. Import Your Existing Contacts into LinkedIn

The more data you provide to LinkedIn, the more relevant and meaningful your experience is going to be. Help LinkedIn build your personal economic social graph!

Under the ‘connections' tab, you will see that you have the ability to import your existing email contacts into LinkedIn. Don't worry, you won't lose this data. LinkedIn allows you to export your contacts at anytime.

Once your contacts have been uploaded to LinkedIn, you can see who you are not connected with inside of LinkedIn and send personalized invitations to connect.

Replicating your offline network online with LinkedIn will give you more insight and intelligence about your existing contacts and their networks.

6. Leverage Your Unique Market Opportunities

Earlier I mentioned that connecting with anyone and everyone is not a smart way to build your LinkedIn network.

Who should you connect with on LinkedIn? What makes for a smart connection?

I recommend leveraging your unique market opportunities. Your unique market opportunities include connecting with people who:

  • live and work in your city or town
  • members from natural affinity groups you belong to
  • mutual members of community associations and organizations
  • existing clients/customers, prospects, potential referral sources
  • joint venture partners and vendors
  • people who share your hobbies and interests

Also consider connecting with industry and community influencers, journalists, and editors (over 90% of journalists are on LinkedIn).

7. Pay Attention to Shared Connections

LinkedIn will show you the connections you have in common with your 2nd- and 3rd-degree connections, as well as mutual group members.

There is a direct correlation between the number of shared connections you have with someone on LinkedIn and the likelihood they will accept your invitation to connect.

8. View Profiles of the People You Wish to Connect With

A little-known tactic for attracting new, strategic connections on LinkedIn is to go out and view the profiles of the people you are interested in connecting with.

Make sure your profile settings are configured to show your identity when viewing the profiles of other members. Otherwise they won't know who you are!

When a LinkedIn user becomes aware that you have viewed their profile, they can see your profile picture and headline summary as well as the connections you have in common.

9. Use LinkedIn Groups to Make Relevant Connections

Mine your LinkedIn group memberships and utilize groups for relevant professionals you can connect with who fit into your smart network-building strategy.

You can still join up to 50 LinkedIn groups. Within groups, I recommend becoming active and engaged first. Start a discussion by asking a thoughtful question. Weigh in on existing discussions.

Once you become familiar within a LinkedIn group, you will attract new connections from mutual group members naturally.

LinkedIn does allow you to send a personalized message to mutual group members as well, but you are limited to 15 per month.

These 9 tips should help you in redesigning your LinkedIn network to make it smarter.

If you feel like your network is already too large, random, or out of control, don't be afraid to remove connections and clean it up.

Or, you can just start right now with a new focus on building a more strategic LinkedIn network!

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