So What Is LinkedIn And How Exactly Do “Connections” Work?

LinkedIn is the “business social network” and is mainly focused on social media with a more professional look. Member profiles comprise present and previous job titles, businesses, publications, networking groups, connections, etc. The best way to think about it is as an online, social resume. 

Though Facebook popularized “friends” as well as the “like” button, LinkedIn made its mark with "connections” and the “connect” button. And these LinkedIn connections should be considered as the modern day “degrees of separation”. 

Divided into three levels based upon if you're already connected to a person or if there are some connections between the two of you, connections are seen as the focal point to employing LinkedIn to it’s fullest. After all, a social resume is only as effective as the number of connections that can see it.

In reference to connections, as outlined by LinkedIn:

“...people in your network are called connections and your network is made up of your 1st-degree, 2nd-degree, and 3rd-degree connections and fellow members of your LinkedIn Groups.

1st-degree - People you're directly connected to because you have accepted their invitation to connect, or they have accepted your invitation. You'll see a 1st degree icon next to their name in search results and on their profile. You can contact them by sending a message on LinkedIn.

2nd-degree - People who are connected to your 1st-degree connections. You'll see a 2nd degree icon next to their name in search results and on their profile. You can contact them through an InMail or an introduction.

3rd-degree - People who are connected to your 2nd-degree connections. You'll see a 3rd degree icon next to their name in search results and on their profile. You can contact them through an InMail or an introduction.

Fellow members of your LinkedIn Groups - These people are considered part of your network because you're members of the same group. You'll see a Group icon next to their name in search results and on their profile. You can contact them by sending a message on LinkedIn or using your group's discussion feature.

Out of Network - LinkedIn members who fall outside of the categories listed above. You can contact them through an InMail.”

To employ LinkedIn to it's fullest potential, your goal will be to build as many connections as you possibly can. The higher the number of connections the more liable it is that you'll locate the  information or person you are searching for. Likewise the more inclined your profile will be found. Take note, this IS NOT a campaign for quantity over quality. If you prefer, you could reword the past statement to sayyour goal will be to build as many connections , in your own desired or target industry, as you possibly can.” The more relevant your connections are the targeted your results will be.

How Do You Massively Build Your Connections On LinkedIn.
There are a few strategies to build and grow your connection network effectively on LinkedIn. The first is to connect with other individuals who are already well connected themselves. I don't suggest just a few hundred, I mean thousands, and hopefully tens of thousands or more (not sure if that's possible yet). By including a person like this to your LinkedIn network you'll quickly expand your searchable network since their connections will now be your 2nd-degree connections, and their 2nd are now your 3rd.

An alternate strategy is to harness the power of industry groups. By connecting to these highly targeted groups you happen to be joining a community of well matched experts who'll discuss industry relevant news, posts, tips and tricks. This is a terrific way to grow your credibility by posting and sharing often so as to showcase your expertise. Be sure you target groups which have large numbers of members and are also in your target industry. If a popular group has 15,000 members, then you're connected to all 15,000 of the members through that group. That's golden!

How To PROPERLY Invite Somebody To Your LinkedIn Network.
If you discover someone you think might be a great addition in your network you’ll have to invite them to connect. The easy way out is to just click the “Connect” button and say you’re a colleague, classmate, or group member. LinkedIn will auto-populate “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. - [Your Name]” to send to the would-be connection and then you cross your fingers that they think you’re worthy of the connection.

Fear not, there is a better and more effective way to build your LinkedIn network though. By adding a brief, yet personal message your odds of them accepting your LinkedIn connection request skyrockets. A successfully used message is “Hi [First Name], I came across your profile (great by the way) and I’d be honored if you’d join my network ~ [Your Name]” . It's substantially less likely a connection will turn down your request when utilizing this straightforward method. 

These are only a couple of simply strategies to understand and improve your network on LinkedIn. As you experiment and figure things out on your own I’m sure you’ll find other ways to take advantage of this amazing social network and use LinkedIn to the full potential.