Six Ways to Expand your LinkedIn Network

Article by Donna FeldmanWhoever said, “If you build it, they will come” was not referring to your LinkedIn profile! On LinkedIn, once you’ve built a completely optimized profile it’s time to go connect with people. Why? Because your connections are your network and your network is what makes LinkedIn work for you.

(For more about optimizing your profile, see my earlier post Ten Simple Steps to a Powerful LinkedIn Profile.)

While you don’t have to connect with anyone and everyone, keep in mind that LinkedIn judges a member’s importance based on his or her connections. More first level connections means you will show up in more searches and that means being seen by more potential clients and referral partners.

So how do you find people to connect with and what’s the best way to invite them? Whatever you do, when inviting someone to connect, do not use LinkedIn’s generic invitation form. Take the time to send personalized invitations, because most members want to know why you wish to connect. If you are members of the same group, have connections in common, met at a conference or networking event, or found their profile interesting, let them know.

LinkedIn Invitation

Note: You cannot personalize invitations sent from mobile devices, so use your desktop or laptop when inviting people to connect. Also note that with some functions, when you are given the option to connect with someone, it automatically sends out the generic form. When in doubt, go directly to someone’s profile. The “Connect” button on their profile page will allow you to personalize the invitation.

Connect Button

Now that you know how to send invitations, here are six ways to find people to connect with on LinkedIn.

1. See Who You Already Know on LinkedIn. If you already have a lot of business contacts in your webmail contact list, you can easily import them into LinkedIn using the “See Who You Already Know” feature. You can access this feature by clicking the “Add Connections” tab in the pull down menu under “Network” on the main navigation bar.

Add Webmail Connections

Once you’ve uploaded your contact list, LinkedIn will identify the contacts that are already on LinkedIn and give you the option of sending out multiple invites at once. Don’t do this unless you want to send the generic invite to everyone on your list. Instead, review the list and invite only those people you want to connect with by sending them an individual personalized message.

2. People You May Know. The “People You May Know” feature uses an algorithm to display people you might want to connect with based on your network of connections and their connections, your current and past work history, and the schools you attended. You can view the People You May Know feature in the right hand column of your Home or Profile page, or at the bottom of your Invitations page. You can invite someone to connect right on this page, but don’t use the “+Connect” button. Instead, click right next to it on the box with the pencil inside, this will allow you to personalize your message.

+ Connect

3. Who’s Viewed Your Profile. Take a look at the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” feature located in the right hand column on your Home and Profile pages. Is it someone you’ve met or already know? Or could it be a hot prospect, referral partner or business connection? If his or her profile looks like someone you want to add as a connection, do it! In your personalized invitation you could say something about noticing that they viewed your profile and inquire if there was a particular reason or something you could help them with.

Who's Viewed Your Profile

4. Groups. One of the easiest ways to expand your network is through joining LinkedIn groups. You can join groups in your own industry or geographic location, your ideal client’s industry, groups that your target prospects are members of, alumni groups, groups for small business owners, or join a group focused on something you might want to learn about or are interested in, such as the new LinkedIn Get Clients Now! Reader Community.

A big advantage to being a group member is that even though LinkedIn restricts who you can reach out to when you have a free account, with your fellow group members, you can view their profiles, message them, and invite them to connect.

5. Advanced Search. With the “Advanced Search” function, you can easily search for prospects, referral partners, local business owners, or people in a particular company. You can use keywords, job titles, search by zip code, and filter for industries. To find people you share a connection with but aren’t already connected to, select 2nd level connection under the Relationship filter. When you see the connections you share in common, you can mention their names in your invitation, along with why you wish to connect with the person you invite.

Advanced Search

6. Everyone else! Use the basic “People” search function to easily find people by name. Invite colleagues, classmates, clients and co-workers, past and present. Invite people you meet at networking events, conferences, and trade shows. Make it easy for people to connect with you by adding your personal LinkedIn URL to your email signature, business cards, website, and other social media profiles.

And that’s it! You should now have a network of colleagues, clients, business professionals, referral partners, and prospects. What’s next? Now you can start building relationships by sending messages, getting involved in group discussions, posting status updates, and liking, commenting on, and sharing your connections’ updates.

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Reader Comments

Great tips, Donna. I think that LinkedIn is a mystery to a lot of people beyond getting the connection. Participating in groups, as you say, is a great way to be helpful, get noticed, and move the connection further. ~Kristy

So let’s say I sell shoes for my own biz…Nikes, reeboks, dress, womens etc. Whats a good way to find referal partners on linkedin? Just search for the word shoes?

Bill, if your business is a local brick and mortar business, I would recommend searching for other local businesses that serve the same customers as your business. You might search for sporting goods or athletic clothing, boutiques and women’s clothing, or, you could search for personal trainers, personal shoppers, etc. Connect with people who serve the same target market as your business.