Having a big network is always beneficial, right?
Well, on LinkedIn, the impact of having a huge amount of connections is still somewhat debatable.
You may have noticed some people calling themselves LIONs or including the term LION somewhere in their job title. This is an acronym for [L]inked[I]n [O]pen [N]etworker and means they are open for connecting with anyone.
But is this a good idea? There are typically two schools of thought:
- You should connect with anyone because extending your network increases your visibility, scope and ultimately your LinkedIn marketing potential.
- You should only connect with people you know to maintain a strong network of close professional colleagues.
Both have their merits and drawbacks. Your stance will usually come down to the core reasoning behind why you are on LinkedIn in the first place.
And there are typically 4 general reasons as to why you joined LinkedIn:
- To find a job
- To sell something
- To gain professional awareness to not miss out on any potential opportunities
- You’re not sure but someone told you to…
So if we take the two lines of thinking for whether a huge LinkedIn network is beneficial and apply them to the 4 main reasons why you joined LinkedIn, you will notice that 3 out of 4 reasons would benefit from having a large network.
The line of reasoning that a huge network doesn’t affect too much is when you use LinkedIn mainly for finding new jobs. In this case, you wont have a LinkedIn Company page, or utilise many other LinkedIn features. You may just keep your personal profile optimised and monitor a few recruitment groups for opportunities, while searching and applying directly on LinkedIn job posts.
Let’s address a few wider viewpoints…
- Perception: I must admit that I personally see people with LION in their heading as having a stereotypical tendency to spam more than most. It seems to me like LIONs tend to want to play the numbers game.
- Strength: I believe that they don’t value the strength of their network as much as the quality. How can you effectively maintain a network of say 10-20k on an individual level?
- Tactics: You can only send bulk emails to 50 individuals at a time on LinkedIn, which prevents people from being able to quickly mailshot huge networks.
- Data: Having a huge network allows you to data-mine for additional marketing capabilities such as email campaigns. The export contact details function allows you to create a workaround from the Tactic viewpoint above and send bulk messages quick via email software.
- List-building: I have first hand experience with undertaking various LinkedIn campaigns where the primary objective was to assist the list building strategies. It is a grey area. Whether you like it or not, people will argue that once you are connected on LinkedIn, it can be taken as consent to being contacted further.
It becomes evident that if you’re trying to leverage LinkedIn in a business sense, then building large LinkedIn networks makes perfect sense.
And if you’re using LinkedIn for personal purposes, then you won’t gain many benefits from building larger audiences. In this case, you may decide to maintain your first degree connections to those who you know or have worked with.
There may also be other instances where only connecting with real life connections on LinkedIn is suitable. I can think of three further situations where this may be the case:
- When connecting with unknown people may damage your personal or business reputation.
- When it is inappropriate for *privacy, security or legal reasons.
- When your business is based on relationship strength and not numbers.
*I have worked with businesses before that were reasonably strict on their LinkedIn connection policy due to not wanting to advertise some information to competitors.
So, now what?
Being clear on the foundations of an argument is only the first step. Decide right now whether building a large network will be beneficial to you…
…And decide how beneficial it will be.
If a big LinkedIn network is essential in achieving your social marketing objectives, then this has many implications on your LinkedIn marketing tactics and strategies.
As you may know, LinkedIn places a safeguard on sending connection invitations so that people don’t abuse and spam the network. If your invitations are marked as spam by a certain number of people, then LinkedIn will place a marker on your account. Any future connection invitations will require account email addresses before sending.
If a huge network is essential for you then this will seriously hamper your LinkedIn marketing effectiveness.
So another crucial factor to understand in building large LinkedIn networks is how your connection strategy will be developed. Don’t overlook this phase.
How important is your LinkedIn network size to you?