While quality is always better than quantity when it comes to the number of LinkedIn connections you have, most business professionals who use LinkedIn can increase the number of connections they have on the platform.

LinkedIn is a great place to network with other professionals who could become business partners, referral sources, clients or even employees.

For every first degree connection you add to your LinkedIn network, you instantly gain hundreds of 2nd-degree connections and thousands of 3rd-degree connections. And if one of your connections likes one of your posts, their connections have the potential to see that update, so when you increase your connections by one person, you’re actually increasing your network by thousands. This is why it’s so important to actively add connections rather than to just sit back and accept connection requests from others.

Here are some ideas on how to create a strategic connections plan to find contacts and maximize your network.

  • While you automatically follow the companies of any companies past and present you list in the experience section of your LinkedIn profile, you’ll need to request to join the alumni groups of these former companies and reconnect with former classmates/colleagues with whom you’ve lost touch who are also members of those groups.
  • There is tremendous value in being a member of key industry groups on LinkedIn where you can find like-minded professionals, and share content that establishes you as a subject matter expert and expand your network. Perhaps most importantly, belonging to a group instantly grants you access to sending connection invites to every other member within that group.
  • Each time you add a company to your list of prior jobs, you automatically follow that company but not its accompanying alumni group, so you manually need to find the corresponding alumni group and request membership. You should join the LinkedIn alumni groups of each educational institution you attended and prior law firm (even defunct firms have robust alumni networks and gatherings).  Then search for contacts through these companies/groups and add them to your network. Make a list of individuals with whom you haven’t been in touch from law school and former employers and once you connect with them, reach out to touch base – this is the perfect time to reestablish connections.
  • Review your connections’ connections – who do they know who you know? This is why it’s a good idea to link in with colleagues and former colleagues so that you can see their connections and then add them to your network.
  • Look through your competitors’ connections – this is a great source of CI and shared contacts.
  • Consider connecting with certain friends and family members. We often overlook mixing our personal and professional lives together and we shouldn’t – as oftentimes this is from where potential business opportunities come.
  • Connect with anyone who engages with your content or content in which you’re mentioned.
  • Connect with anyone who follows you – note that follow is different than connecting – an individual can choose to follow you (without connecting to you) depending on your settings in order to follow your posts. I always take it a step further and invite them to join my network if they’ve elected to follow me.
  • Utilize the “People You May Know” feature. The more you use it and choose to connect with the potential connections it suggests for you (based on your connections’ connections, past education, employers, education and interests), the more targeted your future connection suggestions will be.
  • Reconcile your LinkedIn contacts with your Outlook address book and CRM system. Most people today don’t send an email to let you know that they are leaving their job along with their new contact information/vCard. They usually just update the information on LinkedIn, so it’s up to you to do the due diligence to find out where they landed and then most importantly, to update their contact information in your CRM system to ensure that they still will receive client alerts/invites, etc. (What’s the point of having all of these great professional contacts if they aren’t getting your mailings? At the very least, make sure to share them on LinkedIn.)
  • Beware of LinkedIn’s mass “Import Your Contacts” prompt. I recommend that you never click on any of the prompts on LinkedIn where it asks you to upload your address book or send a mass LinkedIn invite to your contacts. You can wind up inviting every single person in your address from the history of time. Like your gardener. Your grandma. Your high school boyfriend. Only do this if you really want to be in touch with these people and field their confused questions about why you’re adding them to your professional network. Unfortunately there is no way to invite everyone from your address book in one mass invite to connect with you on LinkedIn.

Building your LinkedIn network takes time – but I promise it’s well worth the effort especially now in this time of social distancing. LinkedIn will be the most important tool for business networking for the foreseeable future.