By Stuart Jones
I’ve just read yet another LinkedIn ‘How To’ guide advising that the key to success when using the network is to build a huge number of first-tier connections. This is an argument I’ve never really been convinced by; at the very least, it’s certainly not the only option.
The key word when looking to use LinkedIn effectively is ‘strategy’. So, what’s yours? Do you even have one?
For those who don’t, or are thinking of reformulating an existing one, here are four of the leading ‘connection strategies’ I often see savvy corporate recruiters adopting.
LION – LinkedIn Open Networker
Getting the most obvious one out of the way, the aim of the ‘LION’ approach is to gain as many connections as possible, regardless of industry sector, skills or background. It is simply a growth strategy designed to increase your visibility of profiles within the network.
A handy shortcut to help increase the size of your network is to export your Outlook contacts into an Excel spreadsheet, save as a CSV file and then import it into LinkedIn to search for contacts already on the site. LinkedIn offers inbuilt functionality to do the same for Hotmail and Gmail accounts if you go through the ‘Add Connections’ button. You can use various sites, such as TopLinked, to target profiles with high connections and ask for connections yourself.
The upside to this tactic is a larger network, delivering more visibility and better search results. But the downside is the dilution of the quality of your network makes it hard to see identify the information that will add value among the sheer volume of it.
The opposite approach to the LION strategy, the niche strategy looks to build a small, but highly targeted, network of professionals from a particular industry sector or who possess a specific skill set. These networks can still be thousands of people strong, depending on the focus of the niche, but of a much higher quality than a LION network.
Someone with a niche network will obviously not have access to as wide a range of contacts as the open networker, but the levels of engagement and value driven by their circle should be much higher.
One of the main benefits of social networking is the ability to tap into your employee talent network, something especially useful when chasing for employee referrals. If you connect to every single employee within the business, you will gain second-tier visibility of your organisation’s entire talent network.
To leverage this for maximum advantage, it is worth considering a Proactive Employee Referral Programme (PERP) for a period of time. Lou Adler first talked about PERPs some time ago, but it’s amazing how many companies are yet to use this feature of LinkedIn to its maximum benefit.
In order to do so, encourage your staff to access LinkedIn and connect with the best talent they know in the sector. Market your enhanced referral scheme heavily across the organisation and then reward staff with referral fees wherever connections are in place.
This kind of programme will boost the reach of your organisation’s talent network and, in turn, your number of referral candidates.
The final strategy, albeit a slightly controversial one, might be to connect to as many of your agency suppliers as possible. Working on the assumption that agencies are also using LinkedIn extensively to recruit, and are connecting directly with their candidates, you will theoretically gain access to your agency network at 2nd-tier level, which means they will be fully visible.
What works for you?
So, there you have it, four simple LinkedIn connection strategies to consider when building your network. Each one has its pros and cons. Do you use any of these four strategies, or perhaps a combination of them? Which is the most effective one for you? Are there any strategies you think are even more effective? Let us know in the comments section below.