Dispelling a LinkedIn Myth

Do you only connect with people you know on LinkedIn?

If so, you’re making yourself far less visible than you need to be and you’ll get fewer interviews as a result. I know, I know – the LinkedIn people say you shouldn’t connect to people you don’t know. Plus tons of social media “experts” all agree that connecting with strangers is bad form. But here’s why they’re wrong:

1) LinkedIn’s search capability is based on the individual user’s network. So when a recruiter searches for a ‘marketing manager’ she will first see all her 1st degree connections, then all her 2nd degree, then her 3rd degree etc. etc. This is replicated for every individual who searches on the site. As a result, the more connections you have, the more often you will appear in search results. This is good news if you’re looking for a job. But also if you’re using LinkedIn for other networking purposes.

2) Networking is about making connections with people you don’t already know. That’s the point! Would you go to a networking breakfast and then turn away when a stranger approached you?

“But,” some of you are asking, “What if I connect to someone I don’t know and then he/she asks for an introduction to someone I do know? I don’t want to recommend someone I can’t vouch for.”

I agree. Again, compare it to in-person networking. You’d be happy to talk to the stranger who approaches you at the networking breakfast, and to exchange business cards, but you wouldn’t recommend him for a job or a contract until you know a lot more about him. The same applies on LinkedIn. There’s nothing wrong with politely explaining that, while you’re happy to connect on LinkedIn, you can’t recommend people that you don’t know.

Only you can decide how you want to use the system, no matter how many experts tell you their perspective, but to make an educated decision, you need to know that more connections = greater visibility and greater opportunity. I think it’s nuts not to make the most of that. What do you think?

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