Why 30,000? Because that’s the max number of connections LinkedIn allows you to have. Once you hit that limit, you can try to add more connections but it won’t work unless you remove another one. After you hit that magic number of 30K you can continue to attract “followers” but that’s a topic for another day and another post. Today, let’s focus on how to get those 30,000 connections, but before I show you how, I’ve got to answer the other question troubling you…
Why Do I Want 30,000 Connections on LinkedIn?
Whenever I survey LinkedIn users about what they want from the network, the #1 answer I receive is “meaningful connections.”
What is a meaningful connection?
A meaningful connection is one where value goes both ways, you know, like a real-life, normal relationship. In a normal, healthy relationship you give and you get, and typically the more you give, the more you get. Notice I don’t use the phrase “give and take,” because if you have to “take” in a relationship, it’s probably not a healthy relationship, or what anyone would call a “meaningful connection.”
Some of the things you might expect to give within the context of a meaningful connection on LinkedIn could include:
And some of the things you might expect to get could be things like knowledge, advice, and introductions, but also:
- Job, career, investment, or other related opportunities
Now here’s the $20M question–all other things being equal, would you rather have a few leads, or a lot more leads?
To those saying, “Well, I believe in quality over quantity, so I’d rather have a few quality leads than tons of junk leads.”
Yes, that’s what I mean by “all other things being equal,” of course we’re talking about quality leads from quality connections. Did you really think I would take the effort to type up this post just to teach you how to generate junk leads? That would be so lame. I’m offended you even thought that. 😜
So…do you want to give and get great value from LinkedIn? Do you want a lot of value going both ways? Then the more (high quality) connections you have the more you’ll accomplish your objectives.
The way it works is pretty simple, and while I may be oversimplifying this example a bit, it’s only a slight oversimplification to illustrate the basics of how content marketing on LinkedIn works:
If you have 300 connections on LinkedIn, then when you post content to LinkedIn it will pop up in the feeds of a (small) percentage of your 300 connections. If one of your connections likes or comments on your content, then that content will also display in the feeds of a (small) percentage of their connections, and so forth. The more connections you have, the larger the number of people who will see your content.
If you want more people to see your content and get value from it, and perhaps give value back to you, then you want an audience that is:
Extra points if the connections of your connections also have audiences that are large, relevant, and active.
Ideally, if you want to give and get maximum value, you will max out your connections at 30,000, and each of your connections will also be maxed out at 30,000 connections. All those connections, whether your 1st connections or 2nd connections, will be your target audience, and will be active on LinkedIn. This way, whenever you share content lots of people will engage with it, and it will spread far and wide, providing value and bringing value back to you.
Where to Start Making Quality Connections on LinkedIn
Chances are you have anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousands connections on LinkedIn already. Where should you start to get from where you are today to that 30,000 goal? You should connect to the following types of people, in the following order:
- People you already know
- 2nd connections who are like you
- 2nd connections you want to be like
- 2nd connections who are members of your target audience
You may be wondering why you shouldn’t simply jump to making connections with your target audience. There are a few reasons why you should wait, and perhaps this imaginary scenario will help to illustrate.
Imagine you receive a connection request on LinkedIn. You’ve never heard this person’s name, so you look at his profile to see if this is a meaningful connection. You notice he is a 3rd connection, meaning you haven’t got a single mutual friend. You notice he only has 117 total connections, and you think, “Why would he connect to me, someone he doesn’t know, before connecting to all the other people he must know? Why would he be connecting with me before all the other 2nd connections he could go after?” You might very well decide it’s a fake profile, or a sales person, and decline to accept the connection.
Compare that to this example:
You receive a connection request on LinkedIn. You’re not sure if you know this person, but her name looks familiar. Perhaps you’ve seen her name come up in your feed? Yes…that’s right, one of your connections commented on her post the other day, and you read the post and it was interesting. You look at your mutual connections and see that you have 67 friends in common. You see that she has 8,352 followers on LinkedIn. This appears to be someone who is very active on LinkedIn and knows a lot of people you know, and you’ve already seen her content before. It’s a no-brainer–you accept the connection request.
Which of these two scenarios do you want to be your reality?
People accept connection requests from people they know, like, and trust. People you know are the ones most likely to accept your connection requests and it’s also very easy to connect with them, so start there. For the rest, you’ll be building up trust factors (number of connections, number of mutual connections, relevant content, etc.) so as you move through the groups towards connecting with your target audience they’ll be as likely as possible to accept your requests.
I’ll now walk you through how to connect to each of the four groups of people who will ultimately get you to the 30,000 goal on LinkedIn.
1. How to connect to people you already know on LinkedIn
Chances are you have an email address book with a few thousand email addresses in it. These are people you already know, and you can connect to them quickly, easily, and they’re highly likely to accept your connection request. They may not have large audiences themselves, they may not be relevant to your focus, and they may not be active, but it’s the best place to get started.
To import your contacts, go to https://www.linkedin.com/mynetwork/import-contacts/intro/, which looks like this:
Put in your email address, and follow the steps to connect instantly with everyone in your address book. Maybe you can add a few thousand connections in a few days this way. This will dramatically increase your pool of 2nd connections and take you to the next step.
2. How to connect to 2nd connections who are like you
Why would you want to connect to people who are like you? Are these people your competitors?
In fact, they may be your secret weapon.
If you want to get paid to speak, how do you find the most opportunities and the best opportunities? Develop relationships with other speakers who can refer you to the event organizers they know.
If you want to land a book deal, connect with other authors who may have advice and connections that will be valuable to you.
If you want to be a social media influencer, connect with other influencers with whom you can collaborate.
Some of the most meaningful relationships I have on LinkedIn are with direct competitors, but instead of competing, we cooperate.
How do you connect with these connections who are like you? Think about how you would like to have someone like you connect with you. It can be as simple as composing a message like this:
Hi [first name], I’m a [role] like you, and I’m looking to build my network in the industry. Would love to connect!
You can get more detailed in your request (as long as you stay under the 300 character limit for LinkedIn connection requests), and even propose ways to collaborate. Sometimes I include a giveaway in my connection requests, like this:
Hi [first name], I’m a [role] like you, would love to connect!
Also, since you’re on LinkedIn, you may be interested in my list of 13 LinkedIn profile optimization tips. You can download it for free at https://www.joshsteimle.com/linkedin-optimization.
Once you’ve connected to all the people you already know, and a healthy number of 2nd connections who are like you, you should have 5,000-10,000 connections, and you’re more than ready to connect to 2nd connections you aspire to be like.
3. How to connect to 2nd connections you want to be like
I’ve heard it said that when you buy a house, you want to buy the smallest, junkiest house in the neighborhood, because the value of that small house gets pulled up by the larger, nicer houses around it. I don’t know if that’s true, but there’s something to that logic when it comes to LinkedIn. I’m not saying you should only connect to those people who can lift you up to their level, but I’m saying it doesn’t hurt to make some strategic connections with LinkedIn power-brokers.
“How do I ever know who I want to be like?”
Some of these people you may know of through other channels outside of LinkedIn. Perhaps they are well-known executives in your industry, maybe they’re authors you’ve read, or perhaps you’ve seen them speak at events or on YouTube.
You may know them because you’ve seen them on LinkedIn writing engaging posts, sharing valuable articles, or posting interesting videos. These people are especially valuable to connect to, because they wield outsized influence within the LinkedIn network.
If these connections are already over the 30,000 limit, it will be quite difficult to connect, because they’ll have to go through the process of removing a connection in order to connect with you. I recommend shooting for LinkedIn influencers who have fewer than 30,000 followers listed on their profiles to increase your success rate.
When it comes to composing your connection request, it’s not much different than connecting to 2nd connections you’re already like, but perhaps you might customize your request to recognize the role they play.
Hi [first name], I read your book [title] and it’s helped me a lot, would love to connect!
Hi [first name], I just read your article on the Forbes about [article topic] and it was really relevant to me, would love to connect!
You can also shout out the content they’re producing:
Hi [first name], I’ve been following your posts on LinkedIn and love what you’re sharing about [influence focus] and it’s helped me a lot, would love to connect!
Additionally, if you share that person’s content on LinkedIn and tag them, this can increase your chances of them accepting your connection request, since you’ve now given them value and they may recognize your name and appreciate the favor you’ve done them.
Pro tip: One other way to find those you want to be like is to look at the “People also viewed” section on profiles. Any profile you visit will have this box on the right, which looks like this:
If you’re looking at the profile of someone you want to be like, there’s a good chance the people showing up in this “people also viewed” area are also people you want to be like.
4. How to connect to your target audience on LinkedIn
You could easily get up to 10,000 to 15,000 connections focusing on the prior three groups, but I’d recommend you begin the process of connecting to your target audience well before this, perhaps as soon as when you have 3,000 connections.
A member of your ideal target audience will match what you want in more ways than one. For example, I have a few different roles:
- I’m the founder of MWI, a digital marketing agency.
- I’m the CEO of Influencer Inc, and we offer a done-for-you LinkedIn service for busy executives and entrepreneurs.
- I’m an executive coach on the lookout for more coaching clients.
It would be pretty sweet if I could connect with executive coaches who would sign up for my LinkedIn done-for-you service, refer executive coaching clients to me, and also hire my marketing agency. Hey, I can dream, right? Here how I might go about making those connections (as a reminder, we want to find 2nd connections who have large audiences, are relevant, and active).
a. Search for “executive coach” on LinkedIn
I also added some filters to narrow down the audience to those with whom I share mutual characteristics. Everyone in these results below, for example, is an alumni of BYU, the college I graduated from, which makes them more likely to accept my connection request.
b. Examine each profile.
I’m not ready to connect yet, I want to see how active these folks are and how large their networks are, so let’s look at the first one for Brent.
Brent looks like a nice enough guy, and his profile is professional, but there are a few key things to notice, or rather a lack of certain things.
First, Brent’s profile isn’t showing me how many followers he has. Yes, it shows 500+ connections, but there’s a separate area, where one’s activity (posts, comments, articles, etc.) are shown and down there it will show the number of followers, like this:
Since Brent’s profile is showing neither activity nor follower counts, what that tells me is that he’s not very active on LinkedIn. That means he’s not an ideal connection for me, because he’s not really there. He’s not going to interact with my content and help spread it around, nor is he going to get value from my content, since he won’t see it.
Now, just because Julio’s profile is showing me followers doesn’t mean he’s ideal either, after all, he hasn’t posted anything since 2015, so he’s pretty inactive as well.
Compare that to Richard, who has over 11K followers, and who recently liked a post that is a week old (I clicked through to his most recent “like” to get this info), so I at least know he was active on LinkedIn within the past week.
Richard is more of an ideal connection for me than either Brent or Julio. I would qualify Richard as a high quality connection for me, worth connecting to.
c. Make the connection
Here’s what I sent to Richard:
Hi Richard, I’m a fellow BYU grad and I’m also an executive coach. Would love to connect!
BTW, I’ve created a PDF with 13 ways to optimize your LinkedIn profile. If you’d like me to send it to you just let me know and I’ll send it over. Thanks!
At this point I could go into how to nurture the relationship by providing value to Richard and looking for ways to collaborate, but since this post focuses on making the connections we’ll leave that for another day.
Another Way to Find Connections: Content
So far, I’ve showed you how to find high quality connections on LinkedIn by searching for people. Did you know you can also search LinkedIn for content? When you find relevant content you can also see who is creating it, and engaging with it, and this show you people you want to connect with who will be likely to engage with the content you create.
I’m going to continue with the search for executive coaches by looking for coaches who are actively engaging with content on LinkedIn.
To start out simple, let’s do a search for “executive coaching” and see what comes up. First I do the search, and then on the search results page I’m going to click on “content” to only see results within content, rather than matches to people and groups and such.
The first few results don’t appear relevant, but then I come to this post that seems like it’s potentially relevant.
I see that Averil Maher has commented recently, which tells me she is active on LinkedIn and comments on posts. I also see that she’s a “business coach” which is more relevant to me than a life coach or various other types of coaches. Let’s take a closer look by clicking through to her profile.
There are five things I notice here:
- She’s in New Zealand, which isn’t my target geography. Nothing wrong with New Zealand, I’d love to go there, maybe even live there, but it’s not where I’m focusing my attention right now.
- She has a very small number of connections/followers. Still, the silver lining here is that if I connect to her then I’m a big fish in her small pond.
- Her focus as a coach is pretty relevant. On a scale of 1-10, I’d put it at a 6 or 7.
- We only share 2 mutual connections. I’d have a much better chance of her accepting my connection request if this number were 30+.
- She seems to be active commenting on content, which is good, although what she’s commenting on doesn’t seem to be super relevant. Still, there’s value in connecting to people who comment a lot, regardless.
Can I help Averil by being part of her network? Yes, I believe so. Can she help me? Yes. While I wouldn’t rate her as my ideal target connection, I’d certainly accept a connection request from her if she contacted me, but I may or may not be inclined to reach out to her. Regardless, this is how you can search through content to find people you want to connect with.
In this third example, I’m going to still look at content, but I’m going to get there using a different path.
I know that Marshall Goldsmith is one of the foremost business coaches in the world, so I’m going straight to his profile, and then to his content. I scroll down his profile and click on the “see all activity” link.
I can then click on “posts” to see only the posts Dr. Marshall has made, without having to filter through every single like and comment he’s made.
Note: I almost entirely ignore Articles on LinkedIn because LinkedIn also ignores them. Once upon a time, you could post articles and get tons of attention, now it’s just crickets, so it’s not an effective place to find commenters compared to posts.
As I scan down his posts, I’m looking for one that seems relevant to my audience, and has a lot of comments. I find one, and then start looking at who’s commenting on it and find this fellow, John Baldoni.
He’s a 2nd connection, he’s an executive coach, he follows Marshall, and he comments on posts, so he’s already looking like a good connection. Let’s look closer.
- He’s in the US.
- His bio is highly relevant.
- He doesn’t have a ton of followers, but it’s not a tiny following either.
- We have 73 mutual connections, so he’s highly likely to accept my request.
- He seems to be active on LinkedIn.
John strikes me as someone I’d definitely like to be connected to, with a high chance of mutual benefits.
Connecting Through Comments
Another way to find valuable connections is to find people who comment on the content you’re posting, regardless of whether they’re 2nd or 3rd connections, or how many followers they have.
Whenever I post content, I engage with those who comment. I respond to their questions, I comment on their comments where I feel I can add value, and otherwise act human. I’m grateful for their interaction, because their comments are not only often informative and helpful to me, but they are helping me spread my content. Those people are providing me with a valuable service, so whenever someone comments I check to see if we’re already connected, and if we’re not, I send a connection request directly from the comment, like this:
What are the chances Drew will accept my request? Nearly 100%, because he already is familiar with me. I don’t even need to customize my connection request.
Once I connect with Drew, I know there’s a good chance that when he sees my content pop up in his feed, he’s going to comment on it, because he’s already shown me he’ll do it.
Automating Your LinkedIn Connecting Game
There’s just one problem with doing things like I’ve showed you above–most of these techniques are super slooooow. What if you could do this 99% as well, but 1,000 times faster? Let’s automate things to make these types of connections FAST.
Before we start, you’re going to need two things:
- Sales Navigator – It’s going to cost you $80/month, but it’s worth it. I use this tool a TON.
- LinkedHelper – Yeah, I know, it looks a little suspicious at first, and seems clunky, but I’ve spoken with the developer a number of times, it’s legit, and I use it with all my clients. I’ve tried other similar tools out there (like MeetLeonard) and I can’t find anything that works as well. It’s $15/month.
I’m not going to make this a full tutorial on how to use LinkedHelper because they provide those themselves, I only want to show you what it’s capable of so you know what’s possible should you choose to go that direction.
First, let’s revisit my goal–I want to connect with lots of executive coaches who are active on LinkedIn, right? With LinkedHelper this is sooo easy.
I’ve already got it installed with Sales Navigator, so I go into Sales Navigator and I do a search for executive coaches in the US, who are 2nd connections, and I can play around with all sort of other filters as well. This screenshot is a little blurry because I’m taking it from a remote server I use to run this software (you don’t need to worry about that as a single user, I only run it on a server because we do this for a bunch of clients).
I want to point out three things:
- The basic filtering I’m using to get this list.
- This is important–if someone hasn’t posted on LinkedIn for 30 days, they’re not very active, so I use this filter to only show me active LinkedIn users.
- Within LinkedHelper I then create an audience, and I’m going to collect all these folks into that audience.
Once I’ve created the audience, then I can prune and refine it to make sure I’ve got just the folks I want to connect to on it. I’m going to send out the same message to all of them, so I don’t want to say “Hey, I see you’re a coach like me!” if there are people on the list who are no longer coaching. I want to be 100% sure everyone on this list matches who I think I’m reaching out to, otherwise the message will fall flat and they’ll reject my connection request. You prune the list by clicking on that “view collected” button once you’ve finished collecting contacts into an audience.
The next step is to compose a message. You can get fancy with this and use your connection request to build an email list (we’re doing that with a client right now), you can fill an event (I’ve done it), or you can just connect. I’m going to connect, but include a free download in my connection request, just to add value and perhaps make some stronger connections.
I then set LinkedHelper to send out 185 of these requests each day. My success rate varies between 30-50% acceptance, although sometimes it’s much higher.
Note: If you’re starting from a small base of a few thousand connections, you want to ramp this up slowly over time. If you jump straight to 185 per day you risk LinkedIn thinking your account has been taken over by nefarious types. So start with 36 one day, then 52, then 77, then gradually work your way up over a few weeks to 185, which is the max I’ve found will work consistently.
Automation isn’t perfect. Sometimes I connect to someone I didn’t intend to. Sometimes a person gets into an audience who doesn’t match the message I’m sending out. But 99% of the time it works like a charm, and allows me to make thousands of connections each month with people who are very relevant to my focus.
I’ve intentionally left a LOT of technical details out of this, because my intent isn’t to show you every single detail about how to do this, but to show you what’s possible with a little time and some relatively inexpensive tools.
Ok, ok, maybe I’m exaggerating when I say a “little” time. You are 100% capable of figuring out how to do all this yourself and managing it, but it can eat up your time. One of the annoying things is that every time someone accepts your connection request on LinkedIn, they send you a confirmation message in your inbox. These confirmations can pile up and crowd out other messages that actually require a response. Archiving these confirmation messages can take 30 minutes a day by itself, and unfortunately there’s no way at the moment to change LinkedIn settings to turn them off.
Sounds Great, But I Don’t Have Enough Time For This
If you’re a scrappy growth hacker, you’ll love this process and have fun with it, time suck notwithstanding. If you’re a busy executive or entrepreneur, chances are you’re going to say “This is great…but I don’t have time for this.” If that’s the boat you’re in, check out my “done for you” LinkedIn service, which I mentioned above. We not only take care of this entire connection process for you, even archiving those annoying connection request success messages, we also optimize your profile (which you should do prior to jumping into making lots of connections), we create original content for you 5 days a week, and we generate leads through direct messages. It’s a serious social selling service.
Got questions about anything to do with making meaningful, high quality connections on LinkedIn? Ask in the comments below.
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