There is one rule for LinkedIn: Don’t connect with total strangers — unless they seem interesting, have the potential to turn into clients or could serve as referrals sources. Research by Kredible Technologies Inc. suggests in-house counsel are more likely to hire lawyers with whom they have at least one connection in common. That said, here are 10 ways to quickly build your LinkedIn network.
1) Connect with “People You May Know.” This is the low-hanging fruit for new connections. LinkedIn will display these on the top right-hand side of the home page.
2) Connect with co-workers. The point is opening your Rolodex to them and vice versa. When you need an introduction, this is useful information to have.
3) Connect with fellow alumni. Along the top of the screen at LinkedIn.com is a tab that says “Connect” that gives you the option to “Find Alumni.” Maybe members of your old study group can send business your way.
4) Import your contacts from Outlook. This can be tricky. LinkedIn has a default setting that will “Select All” of your contacts; deselect that option and go through the list, checking off the people with whom you want to connect.
5) LinkedIn discourages people from connecting with total strangers, but if you both belong to the same group, LinkedIn figures you have enough in common to merit a connection. Don’t just click the “Connect” button, though — click on the individual’s profile and then click “Connect.” This allows you to send a personalized message along with your connection request.
6) Every time you bring business cards home from an event, find those people on LinkedIn and send them personalized invitations.
7) If you like what people share and talk about on Twitter, connect with them on LinkedIn. Your crazy uncle might not be the best person to connect with on LinkedIn, but your brother-in the law investment banker might be. Try and get some cross-pollination going.
8) Sometimes your LinkedIn connections will share articles from people outside your network. If you like the article, send the author a message and get connected.
9) Read the newspaper. What companies are in the news? Which interview subject tells a great story? Send that person an invite through LinkedIn with a personalized message saying how much you enjoyed the interview.
10) Check your inbox. Too many lawyers have boxes full of unanswered connection requests — sometimes from general counsel or journalists.
Growing your network isn’t an end in itself, but having a large, engaged network will give you a larger audience and valuable contacts. There is an old saying: “If you aren’t growing, you are dying.” So keep growing your LinkedIn network. You won’t like the alternative.