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Should you become a LinkedIn Open Networker?

maximizing your LinkedIn network, building your LinkedIn network, should you become a LinkedIn open networker, LION,
Becoming a LinkedIn Open Networker can help
you network your way into target companies.
A LinkedIn Open Networker (LION) is a member of LinkedIn who invites and accepts invitations from hundreds, even thousands of other LinkedIn members who they don’t know personally to expand their network. 

About being a LION

LION participants usually type the abbreviation LION or the open networking group name they belong to and their email address on their profile page to let others know they are willing to connect.

LIONs typically agree to not click the "I don't know (NAME OF PERSON)" button in response to an invitation or mark the invitation as spam. Doing either can cause LinkedIn to impose restrictions on the inviting person. It is relatively risk-free to invite a LION you find in an advanced search into your network, but some LIONs require people to write personal invitations explaining why they want to connect with them before they accept. Review every LION’s profile and contact details before inviting them to connect. If you don’t want to connect with a particular person, simply archive the invitation.

There are several open-network groups on LinkedIn. Most are free, but require that you show its group name or logo on your LinkedIn profile. Doing so makes it easier for other open networkers to find you. To find the top open network groups, type “LION” in the LinkedIn Search Groups box. To learn more about each group, click the magnifying glass next to the Search Groups box. I will talk more about these groups in another post and provide specific guidance on how to become an open networker.

When LinkedIn began, there were no limits on how many invitations one could send. Today, new LinkedIn members can have a total of 3,000 connections, which is usually more than enough, but it is possible to request more invitations in blocks of up to 500. Originally the number of connections a person had was visible for all to see. Now, when anyone gathers more than 500 connections, only "500+" is displayed instead of the actual number. (The account owner can see the actual total). LinkedIn has quietly clamped down on LinkedIn open networkers who connect with more than 30,000 people by preventing them from adding any additional new connections.

Should you become an open networker?
While I am not an open networker myself (but may become one someday), I have asked several open networkers about their experience and have yet to hear one say they have been spammed or bothered by annoying emails from open networking groups. The reason? If these groups spammed members, they would be banned from LinkedIn. Tools are also in place so you can easily contact LinkedIn customer service if such a problem did occur.

Some view open networkers as helpful people open to assisting others in their job search and networking opportunities. They are also seen as a bridge that links people, providing 2nd degree connections for everyone within a person’s connection group. Others see them as opportunists looking to leverage their connections to spam, annoy, or sell to unwitting strangers.

Ultimately the decision to open network is up to you based upon how useful a large network can be in your job search. There is value in being able to interact with people from the same industry or profession, or to build relationships with key people (including recruiters) who may help you some day. On the other hand, exponentially expanding your network takes work and a willingness to help people within your network (by providing advice or connecting them to people you know).

Think about your network philosophy before you decide whether to be an open networker. While I haven’t taken the leap yet, I do typically accept invitations from people who are members of the same LinkedIn groups because we have mutual interests and could be of help to each other in the future. I also accept invitations from people who read my blog or attend my job-seeker workshops. If you have read this far in my blog, please feel free to invite me to connect with you! I am the Kathy Bernard in St. Louis, Missouri.

Questions to consider before you become an open networker:
• Will you connect with anyone who invites you or will you have a more limited acceptance strategy?
• Are you interested in nurturing relationships with people with whom you connect or do you just want to add contacts to build your network with no interaction?
• Are you willing to put in the time and attention required to accept many invitations and archive those invitations you don’t wish to accept?

Build Your Network before Your Choose to Be an Open Networker
Even if you are hesitant to be an open networker, expand your LinkedIn network through other means:
• Invite people you know who are already on LinkedIn. Find them using the tools LinkedIn provides. LinkedIn can search your Yahoo!, AOL, Gmail, or Hotmail address book for LinkedIn participants. Also download the Outlook toolbar. With it, you can see this list from your LinkedIn dashboard in Outlook. Anyone who is already on LinkedIn will likely accept your invitation. For best results, write a brief personal message and, if need be, remind them who you are.
• Expand your network by inviting people in your industry, former coworkers, classmates, residents in your city, etc. Also accept those who invite you to connect. In the years I have been on LinkedIn, I have never encountered a problem due to accepting a stranger’s invitation.
• Invite people in a LinkedIn group in which you are a member. Also, invite people on a local group or association mailing list, for which you are a known member.
• Connect with power networkers (those with 500+ connections) who you know personally or who are known to be open to accepting invitations. For best results, contact the person directly or through InMail or via an introduction before you send them a direct invitation request.
In next week’s blog, I will share specifics about how to become an open networker and what wording you should use to invite people to connect. In the meantime, take steps to expand your LinkedIn network … doing so can help you land a job or a better one!

Have you found open networking to be beneficial or a bust in your job search? Or, do you have questions about open networking? Share your comments via the Contact page.

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