Facebook is for friends, Twitter for broadcasting thoughts, Instagram for favoured aesthetics, and LinkedIn, the most work-driven network. Well, more or less. LinkedIn has emerged as the go-to place to job hunt, recruit talent, and suss out relevant connections to take your career or business to the next level. You catch our drift. It’s for professional networking.
If you’ve been on the platform for a while, chances are you’ve received the odd invite or more from a stranger in human resources, a university graduate, or even a seasoned professional. Now here’s the question: do you accept it, hit decline or leave them hanging?
Surely broadening your social circle helps put you on people’s radar, so that can only mean pros with negligible cons. And it’s not like you’ve got any drunk party pictures that need concealing, right? Maybe.
LinkedIn releases an annual list of Power Profiles to showcase business leaders and other professionals who have generated high levels of engagement on the platform. This means many profile views and having top profiles from various industries that stretch across finance, technology, and marketing & advertising. Power Profiles are touted as a celebration of members who are not only great at what they do but have also invested in building up their professional identity. We speak to two pros who we reckon know a thing or two about leveraging the platform’s key benefits when building a network.
Photo: Val Yap
Val Yap, founder and CEO of insurance management fintech PolicyPal, has been deemed one of LinkedIn’s Power Profiles and started using it three years ago when she moved back to Singapore from London and was working at a local bank. Today, her connection count is almost 10,000 (fun fact: she has also been named on Forbes 30 under 30).
“LinkedIn enabled me to reach out to industry networks when I first started PolicyPal. It allowed me to connect with people in the startup, fintech, and insurance industry to discuss work-related topics. As we grew, LinkedIn became a great channel for us to scout for new employees and reach out to like-minded individuals,” reflects Val. Her strategy has been to search for connections in specific industries to reach out for business opportunities.
Possessing a large network increases her reach. “It gives me the opportunity to influence the connections on my thoughts and ideas on the industry or career development,” she says. For her, LinkedIn discussions tend to offer a clear direction on business collaboration or opportunity. “I’ve met like-minded industries from the UK, US, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries through LinkedIn. This enables me to learn more about what others are doing in the industry and my particular fintech segment, and adapt it to the local market.”
Having said that, she still tends to check who she accepts on the network to ensure that it will give rise to a meaningful connection and later develop into interesting work-related discussions. Connection requests that get approved have to come from people within her second network if not the same industry. “People who have added a note to share why they would like to be connected helps me to understand the purpose of the chat as well.”
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Photo: Dione Song
Similar is the approach that Dione Song, chief commercial officer at Love, Bonito and fellow active user adopts. “LinkedIn’s mainly to connect existing and new business connections so you’re open as well to connecting with individuals you may not know personality, but are connected via two to three degrees of separation, because you see a potential to build a long-lasting synergistic partnership.” This is unlike how she uses Facebook, on which she’s more private. "I’ll only accept requests from friends - I believe my profile’s still private right now!”
With around 5,770 connections, Dione is using LinkedIn mainly to scout for new potential business partners and talent recruitment. But quality over quantity - always. Word of mouth and credibility still matter today, she tells us, which is why she remains selective by reaching out to and accepting invites from people she knows personally or whom share mutual friends. In order to strengthen the quality of each connection, what she does is she interacts with close connections - typically taking the conversation offline via WhatsApp or Telegram. “ When new connections reach out with a thoughtful message or question, I’d always make the effort to reply them with a personalised message,” shares Dione. Social media etiquette 101, “it’s only polite when someone makes the effort to do so. I’d also typically connect with new partners that I have interacted with offline to continuously build my network on LinkedIn.”
The consensus we get is that it makes sense to accept an invite if someone goes the extra mile by crafting a personalised message, if their industry is relevant to yours, and the profile strikes you as someone you would want to meet up with in the future. And it’s not just about first impressions but more importantly, how you sustain the relationship and build something worthwhile.
In the similar vein, think of it as an open address book. Whether you like it or not, you’re also granting them closer access to your existing connections as people are more likely to accept invites from those with mutual contacts.
We turned to Roger Pua, senior director of Asia Pacific and China’s brand and communications department for the insider verdict. Should you accept every invitation to connect that comes your way?
“Yes and no, actually. It really depends on what you want to get out of, or give back to your network on LinkedIn. Generally though, you can build a meaningful online network by connecting to people who may be professionals in similar roles as yourself, work in the same industry, or identify with similar interests.”
While it may be tempting to accept as many invitations in trying to expand your network, it’s not a numbers game unless you want it to be. “By being a little more selective in curating your network, you can get connected to others who more accurately reflects your professional identity, interests, and that helps to improve the relevance of content you see in your feed."
At the end of the day, reach matters but not if you forgo engagement.
Your LinkedIn feed can be an eye-opening exchange hub for insights, ideas, and perspectives, so share articles and make comments to boost engagement. Plus, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who and what’s going on in everyone’s lives if you’re being promiscuous rather than selective. Curate your feed and your “little black book”. There’s no point if your so-called connections are indistinguishable - just another face in the crowd - or a bunch of half-hearted profiles whom you’re never going to spend effort in building a relationship with. Rather than think “more is more”, create content to spark talking points and express interest in what they’re doing so that there’s a two-way communication.