Connecting vs Following On LinkedIn (part 2)

I wrote one of my newsletters a few weeks ago (October 6th) about how LinkedIn seems to be gently pushing us towards a “Follow First” strategy instead of just connecting with anyone we come across. I received some comments and messages pointing out that for all practical intents and purposes, following is just as good as connecting.

While you may not think there is much of a difference, there are some differences you should consider in whether you would rather be a connection or a follower.

Some interesting characteristics of connecting and following:

  • In order for me to connect with you, you have to accept me as a connection. Following someone does not require such permission. I can follow you and there is nothing you can do about it. Oddly, as the follower, I am in control of our relationship (such as following constitutes a relationship).
  • As a follower, I can’t send you messages. If we are connected, I can send you a message. Whether you welcome that message and wish to respond to it is another story. These days, having messaging privileges is a double edged sword. People accept connection requests more easily these days than five years ago on LinkedIn, but being connected does not mean you have a collegial relationship with your connection. You still have to establish that.
  • In most cases, you won’t even know that I am following you. You can see a list of your followers by clicking on the number of followers when you look at your activity. Most LinkedIn users don’t ever have a look to see if anyone is following them
  • You can’t search your followers. I search my connections at least once a week. People are always asking me if I know someone with a certain skill or experience. I have over five thousand connections so out comes the LinkedIn Search tool. I also have around five thousand followers. I can see a list of them, and scroll through them one by one, but that list can’t be put in any order and is not searchable.
  • Another aspect of this that is kind of backwards is what we see in our homepage feeds. Typically, you follow someone in order to see their posts and content. And LinkedIn has talked about this. But there is a difference between appearing in our homepage feed and appearing prominently in our homepage feed. At any given time you or I will have hundreds of posts of all types in our feed. What’s important is what is at the top where we are more likely to see it. LinkedIn tells us what we see featured prominently in our feeds is largely based on our Connection Strength Score, which is based on the interactions we have on LinkedIn with our various connections. To my knowledge, there is no Follower Strength Score. And how would you measure it?

The bottom line? If you want to see the person’s content, follow them. Following tends to be a one way street. The person you are following sends information your way. I say “tends to be a one way street” because you can always comment on their content.

If you want to connect with someone on LinkedIn, then by all means do so. But realize that in order for you both to benefit that you will need to put some work in.

And a suggestion for LinkedIn: get a move on with the implementation of the LinkedIn Newsletter to everyone. If I subscribe to your newsletter, I know I will be notified when you publish your next issue. Following is nice, but I think subscribing is better.

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

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