If you’re already familiar with LinkedIn, you’re probably well aware of what connections are. If you need a little refresher, a LinkedIn connection is someone you are directly linked with on the social networking platform. Either they’ve asked you to be their contact, and you’ve agreed, or vice-versa.
However, while this is the most common way of connecting on LinkedIn, this is actually only one kind of connection available on the platform: a first-degree connection. You can see second and third-degree connections’ profiles and updates, as well.
A second-degree connection is those individuals who are connected with your contacts – think about second-degree connections like you’re meeting a friend of a friend. A third-degree connection is the group of professionals who are connected to your second-degree connections.
On LinkedIn, you’re able to send all three levels of connections messages or opt-in to seeing their updates on your homepage.
Interactions with second-and third-degree connections are slightly different than those with first-degree contacts specifically because you likely don’t know them. They aren’t former colleagues or alumni from your university.
Third-degree connections can be even trickier since they don’t even give you the opportunity to say “I see we’re both connected to so-and-so” – you might not have any first-degree connections with a potentially-valuable contact.
Utilizing your LinkedIn contacts is a hugely important tool in networking. How, then, can you use executive LinkedIn connections?
Benefits of Growing Your Executive LinkedIn Connections
If you’re searching for a new job, it’s clear why you would need a large network of connections. Connections often post job opportunities they may not announce elsewhere. You can also use InMail to ask for recommendations or endorsements that would make your profile more appealing when hiring managers peruse it.
Even if you’re not actively seeking out new employment, a robust network can be valuable in a number of ways. For one, if you want to establish yourself as a thought leader, you can connect with a larger group of people who will read your pieces.
If you’re adding updates to your page regularly, you’re also building possibilities for new partnerships.
“You also appear on your connections’ homepage updates whenever you create a post. These are huge benefits that can significantly increase your LinkedIn presence and increase lead generation/sales,” says Braden Wallake of HyperSocial.
How to Start Building Your Network
The first way to develop your larger network is by making as many first-degree connections as possible. You likely are already connected to your current and past colleagues, but what about reaching out to your old business school pals? This could be an effective way to grow your network outside of your home city, for instance.
At the same time, be sure you’re targeting those connections that can make your network useful, not just large. LinkedIn only allows for between 80 to 100 connection requests per week to prevent scammers and bots, but this is also a good rule of thumb for making direct connections, as well.
“With the rise of scammers, bots, and spammers, LinkedIn has decided to focus on quality LinkedIn connections. So they’ve put a cap on the number of connection requests you can send per week and per day. Before, you could set up your favorite LinkedIn automation tool to connect with 100+ leads daily on autopilot and call it a day,” explained Stefan Smulders.
Meaningfully Target Second- and Third-Degree Contacts
Let’s say you’ve maxed out your contact list of colleagues, college chums, former and current clients – basically, everyone you’ve ever met who has a LinkedIn account.
So, what’s next for developing connections? Tapping into your second- and third-degree connections.
There are several ways to craft the emails you might send connections you’ve never interacted with before. First, if you both have a connection in common, you could mention the individual you both know before moving on to the reason you’d like to connect.
Alternatively, if you don’t have any contacts in common (third-degree connections), you could talk about something you do share, like the same country or origin or an interest in a sports team.
Perhaps even more effective than this strategy, though, is to connect with third-degree connections by sharing your interest in their area of expertise, ideally on something they’ve recently posted. For instance, if a third-degree connection posts a think piece about supply chains, something you’re an expert on, as well, you could send them a message on the subject.
Use the following template as guidance for how to write your message:
“I’m looking to connect for these reasons:
- Discuss your smart article on supply chain management. I share an interest and expertise, as well, and would love to pick your brain.
- Talk about your career and the lessons you’ve learned in your field.
- Connect over our shared love of the Packers – a rarity in SF!
Would you have 15 minutes to get on a quick phone call this week?
Looking forward to connecting!”
These out-of-the-blue connection requests don’t always work, even if you tailor them to the specific contact, but it’s worth it to try to reach out to a new individual who might become a meaningful contact.
Making Executive LinkedIn Connections that Matter
Building a larger – yet intentional – network on LinkedIn is important whether you want to grow your business or develop your career. Yet too many executives rely too heavily on first-degree connections rather than exploring how they could interface with their larger network.
If you’re struggling to build your LinkedIn network beyond those individuals you already know, consider meeting with one of Ivy Exec’s executive coaches to talk strategy.
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