I was cleaning out my desk and found an article by Jeff Haden and was taken aback by the predictions he made about LinkedIn in December 2012 :

In less than two years LinkedIn today has become an extremely powerful news aggregator. Currently only "influencers" can be followed (Richard Branson has over a million) but it's safe to assume that someday all users will be able to directly post their own content and build their own followings. What's next? I don't know. All I know is something will be next. Pay attention, look ahead, and start positioning yourself now. Smart people get the most out of a tool. Really smart people do too, but they also plan for how to get the most out of what a tool may become”
This articled changed my whole approach to networking on LinkedIn. I scrapped selective networking and jumped the fence to open networking. LinkedIn indeed has evolved significantly over the past several years, and has become the world's largest professional network, with over 300 million members in over 200 countries. If you are not fully capitalizing on LinkedIn’s power, you could be missing out.
The 2 questions one must answer are:
✪ What are your goals?
✪ What do you expect to get out of LinkedIn?
If you plan on using LinkedIn to grow your business, whether locally or globally, to find people/prospects/candidates, to promote yourself, or to get found for either job or business opportunities, open networking may be more attractive to you.
Most people on LinkedIn tend to play it safe when it comes to adding connections however, if you want to significantly grow your network and increase visibility here are 5 things you should to do :

1) Complete your profile. What makes your profile complete?
  • Your industry and location
  • An up-to-date current position (with a description)
  • Two past positions
  • Your education
  • Your skills (minimum of 3)
  • A profile photo
  • At least 50 connections
The 4 levels of profile strength include; Beginner, Intermediate, Expert and All Star.

Completing same will ensure, you appear in LinkedIn search results. If your profile was incomplete ‘Intermediate’ or ‘Beginner’, all of the other ‘All-Star’ connections would rank higher and push you down the LinkedIn search rankings. . The search algorithm seeks and displays results in this order:
  1. Profile Completeness (100% only)
  2. Connections in Common (shared)
  3. Connections by Degree (1st Degree, then 2nd, then 3rd)
  4. Groups in Common (shared)
It’s important to understand that Profile Completeness is a trump card in the search game. If you don’t have a 100% complete Profile, your Connections or Groups don’t matter, you will be INVISIBLE when searched, game over.

2) Add Connections - Think about where you want to be and start now to build the network that will support those goals. The first thing I did when I joined LinkedIn was connect to the few people I knew in my country which was uneventful. They weren’t active and my updates didn’t get anywhere. I wanted to have an international presence, but this wasn't working. Change of strategy: I started looking for the movers and shakers on LinkedIn. Who were the top connected people? I researched also the countries with the most users and focused my efforts to connecting with individuals in those areas. If you try to connect with most of them now , they would not be able to accept as they have reached the 30k Connection Limit.


LinkedIn works on connections – first, second and third degree connections. The higher your first degree connections, the larger your network reaches. Building a huge network of diverse connections is the most valuable part of the biggest online platform for professionals.

3) Build you personal brand. What do you have to offer than differentiates you from everyone else? I love to motivate people. I started adding imagery to inspirational quotes and sharing with my network which allowed me to set myself apart. Additionally, share relevant and original content but don't over do it. This can have counter effect your efforts by causing your connections to hide you from their news feed.

Be active - Join groups. I joined the maximum groups which is 50 and and started engaging in discussions which often times led to me being the top contributor.

4) Endorsements - You're limited to 50 total skills, so add until you reach your maximum. I often say endorsements are like free advertising. You are basically leaving your footprint, as your photo appears on the person’s profile. That’s why most people usually only endorse the top 10. The benefit is, it can also lead to the endorser being on “ viewers of this profile also viewed.” Another benefit I have found is, it makes it easier for me to find someone if I don’t remember their name but know their photo. I can search though my endorsements listing and find them.



Getting all skills + endorsed looks great on a LinkedIn profile, but it’s nearly impossible to get that many endorsements without a large connection base.
 Start giving sincere recommendations to those who you have worked with. Recommendations are your written acknowledgement of someone's skills and should not be taken lightly.
Honestly, I wouldn’t hire someone based on endorsements alone. Recommendations are way more important. The remarkable thing about endorsements though, it shows your networking capabilities and also brings you up higher in searches. You can endorse the obvious skills (LinkedIn, Social networking, Creativity...etc) you have noticed about your connections, not the ones you are uncomfortable with.

5) Engagement - Having a large network can be a bit overwhelming. So to keep in contact with my network other that sharing regular updates. I also use the "Start a Conversation" feature to send happy birthday wishes as well as congratulate my connections when they change jobs or celebrate a work anniversary.

 

What works for me may not work for you. It all depends on your goals. I joined LinkedIn in November 2011 and within the space of 3 years, I have been able to amass a network of over 35,000 connections leading to me becoming the most followed woman on LinkedIn 47,000+ followers (who is not an Influencer). It took a lot of effort and commitment but has significantly paid off as my 3 last posts have totaled 1Million+ in views. In fact, my articles have been published in countries as USA, Canada, South Africa, Vietnam, UK, Australia, Russia, India, Holland, Middle East…etc
Would I change anything, no. I have an amazing network with over 35,000 professionals in over 100 countries. Is it a lot, yes, especially the e-mails and spam messages. But I have also built close friendships with individuals in different locations whom I interact with almost on a weekly basis.
Being an open networker is not for everyone. Many people are not comfortable connecting to strangers online. Online social networking poses risks that range from spam and invasion of privacy to harassment, identity theft and even physical harm. Open networking, especially if attempted haphazardly, increases your exposure and risk.
While there are certainly some disadvantages to having a large network, the positives have far outweighed the negatives.

What is your strategy for networking and has it been effective for you?
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