LinkedIn has never been more important than it is right now – not only because it has nearly 700 million users globally, but because during this time of social distancing, and this pause in in-person networking –social media is the most effective (and efficient) way to build your brand and business.

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

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 greatly increase their connections with a strategic plan.

Join me in spending the month of August strategically building your LinkedIn network. Aim to get to at least 501 connections (which will add the coveted 500+ connections mark right on your profile instead of your actual number of connections – some believe those LinkedIn users with 500+ connections are somehow more accomplished). I know all of you know more than 500 business professionals out of the millions who are using LinkedIn. If you’re already at the 500+ mark, aim to increase your connections by 10 percent this month. Here’s a plan for how to do this for business professionals of all levels and in all industries.

When it comes to strategically building your LinkedIn network. There are four primary ways to do it:

  1. Reach out
  2. Accept connection requests
  3. Connect to people who are suggested by LinkedIn
  4. Use groups – they are among the most powerful networking feature in LinkedIn

If you are starting from scratch or building a profile from a low number of connections, start by adding everyone in your professional life as a connection, current colleagues, former colleagues, clients, referral sources, former classmates and certain friends and family members who make sense from a professional standpoint.

Then incorporate these steps:

  • Actively add connections to tap into LinkedIn’s powerful network of who knows who. 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, theirconnections have the potential to see that update. This is a major reason why is it so important to actively add connections rather than to just sit back and accept connection requests and to post content regularly.
  • Use LinkedIn’s connection tools. LinkedIn’s People You May Know tool really does work – and the more connection you have, the better its suggestions will be when it comes to the people it recommends with whom you should connect. It will provide you with connections based on your geographic area, past educational institutions and workplaces.
  • Get in touch with former colleagues and classmates. Trust me – people want to hear from you, especially now in this unprecedented time of social distancing. Don’t be shy or concerned about reaching out to someone with whom you haven’t been in touch in many years. I will guarantee you they will be happy to hear from you and you will very likely reignite a dormant relationship.
  • Like and comment on others’ posts. This makes you more visible to your network and the networks of your connections’ connections, and can help you be seen as a thought leader. Of course you should carefully craft your responses and always use the @ sign to tag the author in the post to ensure they see your response.
  • 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. You can curate or create content.
    • 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.
    • Regularly write content that is valuable to your connections and share it on social media with brief introductory text on why they should read it. Highlight a few key points in your synopsis, use the @ sign to mention anyone in the post and always use an eye-catching visual and the right hashtags to accompany your post.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Become 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 expands your network. Perhaps most importantly, belonging to a group instantly grants you access to sending connection invites to every other member within that group.
  • Request to join the alumni groups of any of your former places of employment and reconnect with former colleagues with whom you’ve lost touch who are also members of those groups. Each time you add a company to your list of prior jobs in your profile, you automatically follow that company but not its accompanying alumni group. So, you’ll need to manually find the corresponding alumni group and request membership.
  • Also join the LinkedIn alumni groups of each educational institution you attended. Search for contacts through these groups and add them to your network. Make a list of individuals with whom you lost touch and once you connect with them, reach out to touch base – this is the perfect time to reestablish connections.
  • Review your connections’ connections. Whom do they know that 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 and we shouldn’t – oftentimes this is a source of potential business opportunities.
  • Connect with anyone who engages with your content or content in which you’re mentioned. You already know they liked what you had to say, so the likelihood of them wanting to connect with you is high.
  • Connect with anyone who follows you. Note that a “follow” is different than connecting – an individual can choose to follow you (without connecting to you), depending on your settings, in order to receive your posts. I always take it a step further and invite someone 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.
  • 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 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 is 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.