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5 keys to 500+ LinkedIn contacts

inmapGetting your LinkedIn network to 500+ is important. It gives you greater reach across sectors and regions, enables you to quickly pull together teams or panels if the need arises, send direct queries regarding specific issues directly to people that may answer them, or call in professionals to help with a project. Getting to 500 also makes your profile appear stronger.

I began using LinkedIn October 27, 2008, or just when the Icelandic economy came tumbling down. Until 2013, my network grew at a rate of 1 per week which, toward the end of 2012, translated to around 200 contacts. January 2013, I merged IceStat with the Iceland Development Agency and assumed the position of Marketing Director. In order for me to take the company to the next phase, expanding my contact network became imperative.

In less than 3 months, I broke the 500 contact barrier, which equals a growth rate of approximately 275%. The majority of these contacts are of value either as direct contacts that I may interact with at some point – if I am not doing so already – or they are people of interest that post interesting content on their profiles or in group discussions. Having a solid network is more valuable than a large one since this is a professional network unlike Facebook and Twitter that are basically mass-market advertising channels.

If you want or need to expand your network beyond the 500+ limit, the following Keys may help (I assume you already have a basic professional LinkedIn network in place that consists of 200 connections or less):

KEY 1: Actual contact

Use email or even the phone to make key connections. The higher up in the pecking order these people are, the better. Stay clear of cold invites at the outset; few people accept invites without checking the one requesting the connection. If you want to connect with someone, ask yourself why. Then simply transform that why into email or a phone call and end it on the question: “Would it be OK for me to add you to LinkedIn?” Very few say no to that. They now know you, have interacted with you, and perhaps even see some future value in having you in their network. Key 1 is only used on specific, high-profile targets and to get your head focused. You are not selecting key contacts at random; they are the cornerstones of your professional network so handle this with great care. Once you master this key, move on to:

KEY 2: Outliers

Outliers are wonderful. They work with – or for – your key contact whom you have already connected with, so you use that as your weapon when sending out a batch of cold invites. Whenever you manage to connect with a key individual within an organization, you can connect to at least 10 people he or she works with without saying anything at all – they check your profile, see that you have him or here as a contact, and that is sufficient for most. Do not, however, randomly select your targets; pick those that are of relevance to what you are actually doing. Key 2 is all about piggybacking off Key 1 and get you to …

KEY 3: Groups

Groups are party platters filled with a wide range of potential contacts. Participate in the conversation, pick out the conversation leaders and engage them until they check your profile. Once they do, engage them once or twice more and then send an invite. Most leaders have egos and want to be asked instead of asking themselves. The more power you gain, the more this will begin to act in the same way. As with selecting key contacts, select groups that match their sector, industry or interests. Your professional network should basically belong to the same groups as you do; if not, you are doing things wrong and wasting time. If you are too lazy or afraid to communicate in groups, feel free to skip to …

KEY 4: Ping pong

Pick someone of interest – again someone who belongs in your professional network – and check their profile. Do this until they check you out. Wait a few days, then check them again. If you manage to send the ball 3 times back and forth, send this: “Hi [NAME], I’m very interested in [A SUBJECT THE OTHER LISTS] and am wondering if you would mind me adding you to my LinkedIn network?”  It’s always a good idea to retain the ‘LinkedIn’ part of the invite. First, it brings the recipient into the LinkedIn realm with its own set of rules; second, it does not appear as spam. These four keys work well but are rather slow. The fastest way is …

KEY 5: The Uzi

The LinkedIn smartphone app is the fastest way to get a network past 500 in a matter of days. The behavior of the app differs from the web version in one very important way, but be very careful exploiting it … it can get you permanently banned from LinkedIn. Try it and you will soon learn what Key 5 is and why it is so effective.

If you found this helpful, please share with others that might benefit from it. Also, if you have discovered effective methods to grow LinkedIn networks, that’s what the comments section is all about – I’d love to learn what you find most effective. I have been asked to write something about how I use LinkedIn to drive business forward (over 90% of my business happens over LinkedIn and has done so since 2008  despite the network being considerably smaller) and that may well be the next post here. If we don’t share our bits and pieces of understanding, we learn less.


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