Building a LinkedIn Network from Scratch

This is a continuation of my series on UNsocial Networking. Last month, I discussed starting a Facebook network from scratch, and now I’d like to talk about LinkedIn.

Jenn, I thought you didn’t like LinkedIn…?

Those who have been following my blog for awhile might remember my post: When Social Networking Makes No Sense (I’m looking at you, LinkedIn). In response to that post, reader, Paul, wisely wrote (in part):

…Funnily enough, it’s LinkedIn that I find most interesting – but I get the impression we’re using it for very different reasons; for myself it’s a place of discussion rather than one of true networking, largely because my current profession is one I wish to break away from (preferably ASAP). Instead, I like to get a feel for those already heavily involved in the fields I see as interesting and worth perusal…writing, for example….

Very good point, Paul.

I think part of the reason I haven’t found LinkedIn to be useful to what I’m doing right now is that I’m not recruiting, or actively seeking to be hired or recruited, which seems to be the primary purpose for this particular networking site. As I’ve discussed previously, it is important to use Social Networks as Venues, and know what plays well on which ones.

Since then, I’ve also discovered that although I’m not very active on LinkedIn, it is a very good place to make quality connections to transport to other social networking sites that I actually do use – such as Facebook, Twitter, and, increasingly, Goodreads. LinkedIn contacts can be exported or synced with most email programs or your phone, then uploaded or synced from there to most social networking sites.

We interrupt this blog post for an important security reminder.

Speaking of the fact that the email you use on any of these sites is likely to end up on virtually everyone’s smart phone and contacts list before this madness is over, this is a very good place for a public service safety reminder: Always use a different email address for social networking than the one you use for your financials or your (unrelated) business communications. You don’t want to make it ridiculously easy for a less than scrupulous person to access your PayPal account, and if you have a full-time job that is not related to your online business or social networking, you don’t want to make it easy for phishers to scam your boss. We not return you to your regularly scheduled random blog post.

OK, so how do I build a LinkedIn Network?

In spite of whatever you might read on LinkedIn, you are not restricted to adding people you’ve actually met in person. If you already knew these people, there would be no reason for a site like LinkedIn, which has developed an environment where everyone is expected to have a minimum of 500 contacts before they are seen as “legit,” and very few people actually know 500 people that they would be able to list as true business contacts. If they did, they wouldn’t need to go on LinkedIn for career prospects.

So, how do you find people to add? How do you do this without being perceived as a spammer, or begging for friends? Here are the steps I took that might work for you.

  1. Consider adding people you actually do know. I chose not to do this, because of the reasons I described in detail in UNsocial Networking: Because Friends don’t let Friends SMO, and Dissociateive Media Identity. However, it would be a logical first step for many people.
  2. Set up a complete profile, and join some groups. The more information you put in your profile, the more quickly you will be accepted to groups and accumulate contacts who want to network with you. Join groups that relate to your business expertise, your hobbies, and your interests. Then, once you are a member of a few groups, begin searching through those groups and add the people who have two or more things in common with you. For example, I added people who were content writers, AND had an interest in digital art. For example, I added people who had attended the University of Phoenix AND were ghostwriters.
  3. Thank the people who accept your invitation by endorsing them for skills they have listed in their profile. Unlike in the real world, where you would need to have actually witnessed a person’s ability in order to “endorse” or “vouch” for someone’s ability, on LinkedIn, everyone just “endorses” everyone else willy-nilly. I can’t explain this, and I find it odd, but more endorsements actually help accounts rise to the top of the search results, so the more endorsements a person can obtain for a particular skill, the better.
  4. As you begin to accumulate contacts, go back to your groups, and find people you have at least one contact, and at least one professional skill in common with.
  5. Keep doing this (adding contacts and mutual contacts) until you begin to receive invitations to connect. When you receive your first one – accept it, and celebrate! Once you get about 350 or so, you’ll receive these invitations more frequently. Once you hit 501 contacts, only you will know how many contacts you really have, so it’s up to you if you want to keep growing your network or just maintain (and nurture) the one you have.

So that’s how I did it – I’m now at 536 contacts. I hope I don’t lose any over that “willy-nilly” comment above. 😉

Let me know if you have suggestions or tips for growing a quality LinkedIn network of your own!

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