Getting The Most From Your LinkedIn Network: Why You Shouldn’t Just Connect With ANYONE!

Dan Dixon

Dan Dixon

January 30 • 7 minute read

So, we’ve all heard the ‘6 degrees of separation’ theory, right? The one where every human can be linked to any other human on earth, by no more than 6 other people? It’s a pretty old idea (1929) and with the rapid development in technology since it’s inception, 6 degrees are probably a little generous.

Where am I going with this? Well, I’d like to apply this idea to your LinkedIn network. I talk to so many people about LinkedIn who boast about how many connections they have and listen to them try to explain how this surely means their network is very powerful etc etc…. It is certainly an understandable point of view to expect the more connections you have, the more useful your network is. After all we have all just lived through a period where the amount of ‘Likes’ a business Facebook page had, or how many Twitter followers someone had was a well accepted metric of success.

I concede, the bigger your audience on a platform like Twitter or Facebook, the more people who are likely to see your content…BUT…is this audience engaged with your content? Engagement is key, but, I digress, that’s a blog post for another day.

LinkedIn : 3 Degrees of Seperation

Back to LinkedIn : On LinkedIn, your network is made up of 3 layers of people, 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree connections and members of any groups* you are in.

*For the purposes of this article we will discount group members as right now, we are focussing on referrals.

Someone you are connected to is called a 1st degree connection. People who your 1st degree connections are connected to (but not connected to you) are called your 2nd degree connections (think ‘friends of friends’). Then the same applies for the 3rd layer of your network, 3rd degree connections are those connected to your 2nd degree connections. Sounds quite confusing when written down, so see the below diagram for clarity!

LinkedIn Network

So let’s say you have just 100 1st degree connections, and they have 100 connections of their own (your second degree network) and then they have 100 connections of their own, here’s how many people will be in your network:

1st Degree connections ; 100 people
2nd degree connections : 10,000 people
3rd degree connections : 1,000,000 people

Yes, that is a grand total of 1,010,100 people.

 It is likely, if you are reading this blog, you have more than 100 connections. In fact, 27% of LinkedIn users have between 500-999 1st degree connections. Lets do some maths based on 750 1st degree connections:

1st degree network : 750 (halfway between 500-999)
2nd degree network : 562,500
3rd degree network : 421,875,000 !!!!!! ←astronomical number of people

Obviously not all of your connections will have the exact same number of connections as you, some may have small networks, but other will have very, very large networks, and it’s these connections I would like you to focus on. How many of their connections could the guy with 3,500 1st degree connections really introduce you to? And I mean a proper, warmed up, personal introduction? Certainly nowhere near as mans as 3,500.

The Referral Network

Whatever your purpose, LinkedIn is intended to be a referral network. This means, if you identify someone in your 2nd degree network you would like an introduction to, you can reach out to specific individuals in your 1st degree network who connect you, and ask for that introduction.

Tip : View the profile of anyone in your 2nd degree network, just below their basic information you will see a section names “Highlights”. This is where LinkedIn shows you which connections you have in common. Use this to work out who is the best person to give you an introduction to the 2nd degree connection!

So now we are getting to the crux of the matter. Think referrals. Would you refer somebody to a business contact or associate whose work you could not vouch for? The answer is no (I hope!). To be able to give (and receive) good quality business referrals and introductions through LinkedIn we need to be able to speak about the quality of our connections’ work. I agree, this isn’t realistic for EVERY contact you have, we will always connect to old Uni alumni, ex / current colleagues, other people in our industry etc, and those kind of connections come with their own benefits. What I am getting at here is connecting to any old person with a 500+ network who sends us a connection request because they saw we liked a generic post (and didn’t even personalise the connection invite!) which dilutes our network beyond any recognition.

My network at the moment is pretty bloated due to the fact I have recently switched jobs, and during the process I had connected to quite a few recruiters in my industry to help find my next role (turns out Matt from KMS who I already had an offline business relationship with came up trumps this time! Cheers, Matt!). So, to combat this, I will be having a bit of a spring clean. I will disconnect from anyone with 500+ connections, no direct business relationship to me and / or recruiters and open networkers I have never done business with. This will hopefully trim back some of the baggage in my current network and allow me to focus on nurturing and enhancing my existing relationships on the network.

Quality Vs Quantity

What I am not encouraging you to do is have a panic and a mass cull of LinkedIn connections. More a shift in mindset going forward, with who you decide to connect with. Always connect with those you have done business, colleagues past and present and look to build up warmed up relationships with targets in your wider audience. Quality > Quantity every single time.

Tip : Unless the connection request you are sending is to someone you know well, ALWAYS  use the personalised LinkedIn invite. This allows you to give context as to who you are and why you want to connect. It can also serve as a conversation starter as the message will be delivered to the recipients inbox like a regular message.

Your Network

If you are interested in seeing the exact size of your network, follow simple instructions from the video below:

In summary, it is absolutely fine to have a ‘spring clean’ of your existing LinkedIn connections, and it is also absolutely fine to be more selective with who you connect with in the first place. Go for quality over quantity and you wont go far wrong.

If you would like to know more about LinkedIn, or would like to chat to one of our experts about your Social Media Strategy, please feel free to get in touch, we would love to chat with you.

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