Following Versus Connecting On LinkedIn

Lately LinkedIn seems to be trying to shift the focus away from connecting and towards following. For example you can now change the default button from “connect” to “follow” on your profile. And there is talk that this will soon not be an option but that “follow” will be the default.

But while LinkedIn may be hyping following, here are three good reasons that given a choice, I prefer connecting over following. When you are connected with someone on LinkedIn:

  • you can send each other messages directly over LinkedIn. This doesn’t replace email, the phone or whatever messaging system you use, but it does come in handy for LinkedIn-centric messages such as referencing someone you know mutually on LinkedIn, or drawing their attention to someone or something of interest on LinkedIn.
  • you rank higher in your connection’s search results on LinkedIn. As LinkedIn is one huge database full of people, an obvious application is to use that database for searches – for suppliers, vendors, experts, new staff, information or discussions on specific topics, practically anything. And one of the things you will find is that LinkedIn wants search results to be relevant to the searcher, and if one or more connections get found in a search, LinkedIn will tend to list them at the top of the search results. If you are looking for a WordPress expert, it makes sense for LinkedIn to list WordPress experts you are already connected with first.
  • connections show pathways to other people on LinkedIn that you didn’t know exist. You may find a prospect on LinkedIn and see the little “2nd” postscript after their name and then the person or people both you and that person are connected with on LinkedIn. You can use this information in two ways. The first is to name drop the mutual connection’s name in a message or invitation to connect. The second is to use that mutual connection or one of your mutual connections as an intermediary, and ask them to introduce you to the person of interest to you.

With these in mind I always choose connecting over following. I think of connecting as “following, with privileges”. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Someone ignores your connection request, so you then just…follow them.

Obligatory boilerplate: 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. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like today’s, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: