While quality is always better than quantity when it comes to your LinkedIn network, most individuals can increase the number of connections they have on LinkedIn as well as their professional brand on the platform.

In fact, when you get to 501 connections, your profile will display 500+ connections, and every business professional should aim for that. When you have some downtime, focus on increasing your contacts and maximizing your professional network:

  • Join the LinkedIn alumni groups of your former firms and educational institutions. Look through the members and send connection requests. When you make new connections through these channels, send personalized notes to key contacts asking how they’re doing. This will renew relationships.
  • Connect to people who are suggested by LinkedIn by utilizing the “People You May Know” feature. The more you use it, the stronger your professional network will be and the more targeted your future connection suggestions will be.
  • Look at the contacts of your connections (current colleagues, clients, referrals, former colleagues and former classmates) and add anyone to your network who you also have in common.
  • Follow the social media company pages of your competitors so you know what they’re writing and speaking about and celebrating. Did you know that companies are unable to tell who their actual followers are? So don’t worry about your identity being revealed.
  • When a connection likes, shares or comments on your status update, their connections are more likely to see your original post in their feed. If your content seems relevant to them, those 2nd degree connections may send an invitation to connect with you. Posting more often creates additional opportunities for engagement, and broadening the reach of your content across other LinkedIn users’s home page feeds. This is how content can go “viral.” Don’t be concerned about annoying people by posting every day. LinkedIn’s algorithms are complicated, and your network is not likely to see every post.
  • Using images on social posts can significantly increase engagement with your existing network and exposure to potential connections – so use images, but ensure they are right sized and high resolution. I am not a graphic designer and I use canva.com to create all of my images for myself and my clients. Also, remember to resize images for each social platform – the image you use for Instagram must be resized from the one you use for LinkedIn.
  • Email blasts will always be a powerful way to reach business professionals if your contact information is up to date, so take the time to reconcile your LinkedIn contacts with your email address book and customer relationship management (CRM) system to ensure they still receive client alerts and invites. In addition, ensure that you are connected on LinkedIn to the contacts in your address book.
  • Beware of LinkedIn’s mass “Import Your Contacts” feature and don’t click on the prompts to upload your address book or send a LinkedIn invite to your email contacts. You can wind up inviting every single person in your contact list from the history of time, including your confused grandma. It is much better to strategically invite individuals on an individual basis.
  • Engaging with existing connections puts your profile directly in front of their networks; and all it takes is a “like” or comment on their posts. A simple comment such as “great insights” or “thanks for sharing” can help expand your reach and build relationships. It’s also the considerate thing to do when someone’s content resonates with you. Commenting with your personal insights or questions will increase engagement and exposure even more.
  • Claim your vanity URL. If you don’t customize your URL, your LinkedIn URL will have a bunch of exraneous characters in it, which isn’t optimizing it. Don’t forget to add your LinkedIn profile link to your email signature as another personal branding opportunity.
  • If you are on a group Zoom happy hour or networking event, screenshot the participant list so you can connect with each person afterwards on LinkedIn. Just because you aren’t attending events in person doesn’t mean that you can’t still network. Instead of exchanging business cards, you will simply send a connection request.
  • Groups are a great way to expand your network on LinkedIn. They have gained traction since the pandemic and give you access to many other business professionals who are interested in the same topics as you. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 100 groups. I regularly share content I write and information about upcoming webinars I’m hosting – this greatly helps with building my own brand and business, and it can help you too. To be strategic about building your network through LinkedIn groups, click through the members of the group until you see those who are not your first-degree connections and send a personal message saying that you would like to connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • The Advanced Search tool on LinkedIn is another great way to strategically expand your network. Use LinkedIn filters to search by keyword, for example, job title, location, company, school and more. Premium LinkedIn accounts enable you to conduct more searches, search parameters and saved searches; however, you still can get some of these benefits with a free LinkedIn account.
  • Staying top of mind is the key to success on LinkedIn. Provide status updates on a regular basis. It keeps you visible to the people in your network.
    • Like and comment on LinkedIn posts that you think are valuable and share the posts with your connections and in your groups.
    • Curate content from news sources you trust – this is a great way to ease the burden on having to create a piece of content. You can instead scour news sources such as Forbes, Fortune, the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company or the Huffington Post and add introductory content saying why you think it is valuable and expressing your point of view about the piece you’re sharing.

When you connect and engage with the right people on LinkedIn, professional opportunities will emerge despite today’s challenging economy.

Adding value to your network will help establish you as a subject-matter expert and help you make new connections. It’s not enough to create a strong LinkedIn profile, you must cultivate your network, add and accept connections and stay top of mind with your network by providing content of value.

It’s never been more important to use LinkedIn than it is now in this new world of social distancing, so learn everything you can about it, and embrace it, because it’s here to stay.