How to Build a Meaningful LinkedIn Network
LinkedIn is different from other social networking sites because it focuses on business networking in a professional manner. The best use of LinkedIn involves building and maintaining a professional network of connections, not sending someone a Super Hug. That said, you’ll find variety in the types of networks that people maintain on LinkedIn, and much of that has to do with each person’s definition of a meaningful network:
Quality versus quantity: LinkedIn strongly recommends connecting only with people you know, so its advice is to stick to quality connections.
Depth versus breadth: To focus your efforts at building a useful network ask yourself the following questions:
Is your goal to build or maintain a specific in-depth network of thought leaders regarding one topic, job, or industry?
Is your goal to build a broad network of connections that can help you with different aspects of your career or professional life?
Strong versus weak link: Beyond the issue of quality versus quantity, you’ll want to keep differing levels of quality in mind. Some people invite someone after meeting him once at a cocktail party, hoping to strengthen the link as time goes on. Others work to create strong links first and then invite those people to connect on LinkedIn afterward.
This decision comes down to how much you want LinkedIn itself to play a role in your business network’s development: meaning, do you see your LinkedIn network as a work in progress or as a virtual room in which to gather only your closest allies?
Specific versus general goals: Some people like to maintain a strong network of people mainly to talk about work and job-related issues. Other people like to discuss all matters relating to their network, whether it’s professional, personal, or social.
Do you want to simply catalog your entire network, regardless of industry, because LinkedIn will act as your complete contact management system and because you can use LinkedIn to reach different parts of your network at varying times? Or do you want to focus your LinkedIn network on a specific goal, using your profile to attract and retain the right kind of contact that furthers that goal?
After you establish why you want to link to other people, you can start looking for and reaching out to those people.