Is Bigger Better ... on LinkedIn?

By Tamara Sigerhall

Recently I met with Chris Reed, CEO of Black Marketing to talk about size. Size on LinkedIn that is! Chris has 36,000 connections on LinkedIn, whereas I have 3,000. Whilst Chris and I are both big proponents of engaging with our LinkedIn networks, we approach the subject of “Is Bigger Better for Business?” from different angles. Chris has 36,000 connections on LinkedIn, whereas I have 3,000. Whilst Chris and I are both big proponents of engaging with our LinkedIn networks, we approach the subject of “Is Bigger Better for Business?” from different angles.

Chris believes that having a larger network on LinkedIn is better for achieving his business goals. I think size doesn’t matter (so much). It’s what you do with it.

So we decided to both put our cases forward in answer to four questions about size on LinkedIn and let you decide!

We are simultaneously publishing the same blog on both our profiles so that everyone can see our views. We would love your feedback and thoughts as to who is right, if in fact there is a definitive winner...

Q1) Does size matter (on LinkedIn)?

Tamara – yes it does. Too small a network (i.e. less than 500 connections) will raise doubts as to whether you know how to use LinkedIn effectively. Too many connections and you risk looking like you are data mining (sorry Chris!). Whilst I think it’s ok to add people you haven’t actually met or spoken to yet on LinkedIn, I recommend asking yourself if this is an individual that you will engage with in a meaningful way. In other words is this person likely to have similar professional interests as me? (In my case this is likely to be anyone who works in or closely with Human Resources)

Chris - yes it does the bigger the better. You need to have a wider, deeper, broader base of contacts outside of people you know to ensure that you can keep expanding your new business targets and engage beyond your existing network. If you only have people you know or people you have met on your network you're missing the point of LinkedIn. It is to enable you to reach people both in your existing network and beyond your existing networking to achieve your business goals.

Your 2nd/3rd connections which make up target lists on Sales Navigator for example only increase if you have additional 1st connections. Otherwise you are relying on people changing their profiles/countries/jobs to fulfil that sales pipeline.

The world is also a big place and with 400 million professionals on LinkedIn why would you limit your knowledge sharing and insights to just those people you know which are more likely to be in the country that you live in and the industry you are in.

We live in a global economy. I want to know what people think across the world. I also want clients across the world so why would I limit my connections, as by doing that I am limiting my business growth.

I also would never dream of judging people and say no I don't wish to be connected with him/her because he looks less interesting or less connected than someone else. If you're genuine, you're interesting. Simple.

I also don't presume that the person who I am connecting with doesn't know people who may be interested in engaging with my content or taking up our LinkedIn marketing services. If I say no to them I would be cutting my nose off and I wish to grow my company through whatever way I can not say no to opportunities. Grow your network and you will do this.

Q2) Quality over Quantity ... or is what you do with it more important than how big it is?

Tamara – who you add is important; how you interact with your network even more so. My content and what I share is all about human capital. Now, hopefully not only HR folks are interested in this subject, but being a little discerning and adding mostly people who seem to share this interest on a professional level leads to more meaningful interactions with my network.

This allows me to develop relationships with people across the globe that ultimately lead to new opportunities both for them and myself. It also means that I receive more relevant suggestions from LinkedIn as to whom I should be connecting with. That said, for those invitations that I decline, I never press “I don’t know” or mark an invitation as “spam”, unless it really is an obvious scammer (for pointers on how to spot those, see Chris’s views below).

Chris - I accept everyone who wishes to connect with me apart from the generals in Syria/Egypt/Africa, the bankers in Africa/US who are clearly not whom they say, the pretty girls who have 5 connections a gmail account and the same badly spelt summary short anyone who is genuine. Why would I not?

I can engage more people with my created and curated content, I can amplify my personal brand and Black Marketing brand, more people can share/comment/like my content, there is more engagement and more dialogue. I gain more insights, more business associates and contacts who can introduce me to their connections and the professionals that they know along with their different views on business matters.

I believe that everyone genuine should be treated the same on LinkedIn and that they are all fantastic quality, no one is better or worse "quality" than anyone else and it's not my place to make that judgement if someone is interested in connecting with me or accepting my invitation.

Q3) Does it matter if you don’t know all of your connections?

Tamara – LinkedIn doesn’t want you to spam people you don’t know with connection requests. Doing so might result in having your invitation privileges curtailed for a while (I admit that I learnt this lesson the hard way, in my early and overly eager days of figuring out LinkedIn). That said, you really shouldn’t limit yourself to adding people in your own neighbourhood. That’s not how business works and that’s the exact opposite of what LinkedIn as a global social networking platform was designed for. A good rule of thumb, however, is that you should establish some sort of other connection - via email, phone or coffee - with at least 80% of your network. This increases the quality of your LinkedIn network.

Chris - No it doesn't matter a bit. It's very limiting to say that you must know all or even most of your connections intimately. This is not your best friends network, it's a business networking site. It's called social media for a reason.

Reach out and embrace it. Treat it like a business networking event like the AmCham Singapore or BritCham Singapore events that I attend on a regular basis or the Marketing Magazine ones I attend.

I don't know most people at these events when I first go but I get to know them over the course of the event. The same applies on LinkedIn. I get to know people through content sharing, messaging, commenting and introductions, posts and company pages.

I also run a global business and by that definition am not going to know everyone in the world intimately but appreciate them being connected to me and helping me grow my 2nd and 3rd connections which are crucial for growing my pipeline, leads and client base across the world.

I also passionately believe that LinkedIn is indeed a catalyst to meet people, not the be all and end all. I love meeting people that i have been connected to on LinkedIn. Whenever I do talks in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Sydney, Manila, where we have a presence, I always arrange to meet people that I am connected to or I am 2nd connections with on LinkedIn.

Most people are very appreciative that you reach out to them about meeting up, taking the relationship from on line to off line. However by the sheer definition of size I will never be able to meet all 36,000 of my connections.

Q4) Does a bigger network enable you to leverage your content more effectively?

Tamara – If you have a good quality network on LinkedIn, absolutely. If you have a network filled with people who do not share your professional interests (in my case an example of that demographic might be, say, aeronautical engineers), then it is unlikely that they will engage with or share your content. There is one caveat to that. If most of the content you share on LinkedIn is fairly generic or “funny” memes, then it is likely that many people will share your content regardless of how much or little you have in common with them. That doesn’t mean it will do much to build your professional brand though.

Chris - yes without a doubt. The more people in your network the more actual and more potential people you will reach and the more of their connections you will reach. You need amplifiers and willing shares of your content to engage.

Using the tried and trusted 1-9-90 rule of social media content creation and sharing only 1% of people create content, 9% share and 90% do nothing but view. You need more of the 9% to make your content go viral/be amplified based on the strength of your content you curate and create.

Why would you wish to just share with existing connections? Why limit your scope? Social selling on LinkedIn is all about using content to engage, compelling and interesting content that is.

The more people who like and wish to share your content the more engaging you are and the more views you personal profile will gain and your company page will gain on LinkedIn and the more influence you can have. The more people who read your content the more people who could start a business relationship with you or be positively effected by your employer branding or wish to become a client or want to join you company or invest in you.

Classic social selling, people buy people and content is one great way for fellow professionals to build a rapport with you, get used to you, become aware of you and what you do. Go beyond borders and networks and into new areas with new areas and you never know what might happen.

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