Effective Linkedin Connections – Building Your Network

Social Media Empowerment
(Last Updated On: May 31, 2017)

Effective Linkedin Connections

Building Your Social Media Network

How to Effectively Communicate

(Version 0.4)

This Empowerment Doc is for all those who are using Linkedin, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and other social media tools build a professional network, seek out opportunities (i.e. jobs),  reach out with “cold calls,” and connect with other humans.

Effective Linkedin Connection Connections Starts with Empathy

We live in a new world of communications. The days of faxes are over. Email our common denominator, but it is not primary. The “primary” human interconnection tools will always be linked to the human’s social and work network. That will evolve and change all the time. These mediums may or may not work as a means to make new connections. What will work are the adjunct forums. These are Social Media forums like LinkedIn, Facebook, and others. There are other adjunct forums that are specific to the field. For example, in Animation, the 11-Second Club would be a forum Animators hang out, watch, and interact.  

Empathy is the critical first step! Remembering human empathy is the first step to being a more effective social media networker. Social media is not about technology. Social media and all the other communications tools are created to help human interaction, communicate, share, feel, and synergize more effectively. The technology is driven from the core of the human experience. That is why the first step is to always remember you are working to “connect” with another “human.” How you express yourself as a first impression is critical. Reaching out to a new human connection requires investment. It requires research to seek out the potential common elements for which you and the other person are really “connected.” It requires you find concise expressions of your possible “shared interest” and then reach out another human. It is prudent to remember that a “social media connection” is not a robot. It is another human with all the wonderful complexities.

Possible Workflow for Job Hunting

One of the key mistakes people make when job hunting is to only apply for the job. Today it is easier to get to know a company, do the research, and “reach into” to people inside the company. Here is one possible workflow that someone applying for a job would do:

1. Homework – Know the Company

Read the company’s page. Do a search on “news” to see what news is there around the company. Look for any new projects, products, or other investments. You use this information to 1) Update your cover letter to best match the company’s interest and 2) Use it for the “conversations” that you will use to “reach into” the company. Then explore the job position you are going to apply for and make the best guess about who would be the lead in the department. For example, look for the ‘creative director,’ ‘chief animator,’ and ‘senior animators’ if you are an animator applying for an entry level animation role.

Recommendation: Take notes while you do your research. For example, use a notepad or “notes” in Apple to put down your observations. These will be useful when updating your cover letter and the “reach in” conversations.  

2. Scope your “Connectedness” to the Company 

How many #1 connections to you have? How many #2 connections do you have? Are you following the company? If not, follow the company on multiple forums. Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are the three minimal.  If this is a company that you are really interested in joining, then it is worth to track them over time.

3. Do you have any #1 connections? 

These are people in your network who work at that company and are #1 connections, friends, or other direct connections. You reach out to them to:

  • “Reconnect” as another human.
  • Comment and compliments on the great work the organization is doing
  • Point out admiration and desire that you would like to work with the team.
  • Let them know you are going to apply for a job and will add them as a “referral” (they get bonuses if they hire you)
  • Ask if there is any specific skills they are looking for,  advice to get notices, and other people they should be talking to.
  • Ask if they are willing to physically meet up (if they are nearby)

The objective is to be human to your “connection” inside the company. This is an investment message. You may or may not be a good fit for the current position, but this “human outreach” is important for future interactions (jobs, help, them asking you for help, etc).

4. Check your School Connections 

Social Media Tools like Linkedin allows for a “list everyone that works at the company” and then “list the school.” This will give you all the people at the company who are Alumni from your specific school. The objective is to do the same sort of “Connection invitation” in 300 characters to people who are from your own school.

5. Craft your Cover Letter

Don’t wait until you are halfway through your application to write your cover letter. The application session is likely to timeout before you finish tuning the cover letter.

6. Apply for the Job

Now it is time to apply for the position. You have a better understanding of the company, have reached out to your #1 contacts, and have updated your cover letter based on your research. All of this would help you tweak your application in a way to stand out during the review.

7. Send Connection Invitation to at least 3 people who are #2 Connections

Do not stop after you apply for the job. Look for people who are #2 connections and might be related to the position within your field. For example, if you are a 3D Animator, look at all the people who are working @ the company, narrow the search with “Animator” and look for the #2 connections. Pick a couple to connect, BUT DO NOT JUST CONNECT!

Craft a special message to send to the person. This would be a personal message. It would be an outreach to make a human connection. It would not be a “hey let us connect” message. Just like the research done for the company, you explore what the person is doing. Look at the side professional groups to see if you are already connected.

It will be a challenge to make the “human connection” with only 300 characters in a Linkedin “connection invitation,” But it can be done. One example would be:

  • Sentence #1 – How are we connected.
  • Sentence #2 – Compliment on the individual’s work or companies work.
  • Sentence #3 – Welcome a chance to learn, connect, and perhaps meet-up

For a 3D Animator, you might have something like:

Hi Liz,

We’re both members of the 11 Second community. The scene in your real with the wrestlers was intense. It would be wonderful to learn how you did that scene, connect and meet up. I applied for a 3D animators’ roll in your group, so I hope to get a chance to work with you.


That is 287 characters.[1]  The object is the human connection. There are lots of ways of phrasing it. My recommendation is to keep focused on the craft, with each “invitation to connect” improving on the next.  The results you are looking for is a #1 connection, a reply (you would be surprised at how many replies), and perhaps meet up for a phone call.  

8. Look for the “Recruiters,” “Talent Scouts,” “Hiring Managers,” and others who look for Talent

Organizations are always looking for the “right people” that fit with their purpose, the culture, and the business needs. One of the mistake jobs hunters make is ignoring the “Recruiters,” “Talent Scouts,” and others whose job it is to find the candidates. On Linkedin, list everyone in the company, put in a keyword for “talent” or “recruiter,” then look through the list. These would be the people to connect using the same approach as connecting to #2s. These “invitation to connects” would be a human connection using the research on the organization – all in 300 characters.

  • Sentence #1 – What your company is doing is awesome.
  • Sentence #2 – Working for a group like your is one of my goals, hence my application.
  • Sentence #3 – Welcome a chance to learn more about the company culture, connect so you can see my future work, and perhaps meet-up

Notice the “human” connection is a bit different. Here, you are focusing on the human connection to the talent scout’s job function.

9. Explore the Industry Specific Sites to See if there is Anyone from that Company

There is a range of other professional groups for expanding the range of industries. Take some time to explore who in the organization might already be a connection outside of Linkedin. Using the same 3D Animator example, an exploration of the 11 Second Club, SIGGRAPH, Artella, The Rookies, The Animation Buffet, CG Meetup, and other groups. While this is a 3D Animation example, the approach applies to any professional group. These professional communities are a way to establish a common experience. They can be used as a connection tool (they all have messaging tools) or in an introduction in a tool like LinkedIn.

10 . Cold Call E-mail/InMail to a Key Person in the Company 

Push yourself and reach out to key people in the company you are applying for the role. Think big. Even the CEO, CTO, Creative Director, Founder, etc. If you do not push yourself, then you will never know.

Elliot Bell’s story How a Simple LinkedIn Message That Took 2 Minutes to Write Landed Me My Dream Job is a good modern example of how the being brave pays off. One that I’ve told for years was from 1994.

My nephew in Singapore was 10, doing a school science report on Jupiter, and asking for help (the library was closed). We sat together and connected to the Internet and started exploring the NASA sites for the Galileo Mission. Later as he was reading he shouted from another room “Uncle Barry, how” with a blur of a question. It was the end of a long day so I shouted back “look at the bottom of the web page. Look for the person’s name and E-mail. E-mail that person your question.” Yes, it was one of those ‘not very helpful’ moments. The next day my nephew had a print out saying “Uncle Barry I got the answer to my question.” It was 10 pages long with pictures and references to other reports. Shocked, I looked at the signature block. It was the Mission Chief for the Galileo Probe. They key boss at NASA took the time and effort to help a 10 year with their science project in Singapore! All because my nephew was brave enough to ask a question.

This technique has been valid for decades. The worse that can happen to you is silence.[2] It is easier with Linkedin and other social media networking tools. The ability for the receiver to use the social media tool to do a quick background check has transformed these cold calls. It is a capability that I drive with my mentees.

In 2013-2014 the company I was at was racing to design, build, and deploy a 4G upgrade. Yes, at that time was a 25-year network architecture and operations veteran. But, I was new to the whole 3GGP world. That didn’t stop me from asking questions. Every day the vendors would push something that did not sound right. At night I would RTFM (doing my research) and then use Linkedin to do keyword searches on the top looking for my peer engineers who know 10x more about the topic and have deployed it in their network. I would ask the question seeking clue. 80% of the time I would get a response. Why? Because they could all see who I was, details of my background, did my homework and was now a direct competitor. The next day I would walk into the vendor meeting, with vendors freaking out at how I obtained “overnight clue.” The technique was simple:

Empty your cup, admit you have now clue, do your homework, assume there are many clueful people in the world who will help you, then craft a respectful message and ask for the clue. 

What are the Results?

This “surround the opportunity” approach takes more work. Some might push back as say it is too much work. But, when you think about it, the jobs you are applying for in companies that interest you are companies with people who you want to build connections. It might not be this opportunity, but others in the future might be the right fit.  For now, the benefits are worth the investment in time. With this approach, when you have completed is a job application you have achieved:

  • Better insight into the organization and the industry. You are now following the Company so that you are connected to any future new opportunities. Collaterally, you will get ideas for the next organizations to check out to see if there are opportunities.
  • You have reconnected with your contacts in the organization. You have also expanded your contacts by reaching into the organization and connecting with people in your field, the talent scouts in the organization, and even key leadership in the organization.
  • You have taken a “brave step” by sending a “cold-call” E-mail/InMail to a key leader in the organization whom you wish to follow and interact.

What if is there are no Job Opportunities?

These same cold call techniques are effective for general interest. There are many times I feel like reaching out and connecting when I’m reading an article, a book, an academic paper or some other article. The authors or the people quoted in the work often have insightful knowledge that prompt me to want more. Looking up that person on Linkedin and other social media forums then crafting a meaningful connection message is easier in these cases. You have context, have consumed their knowledge and know how you wish to connect to gain more knowledge, express how their knowledge impacted your thoughts, and seek out a dialog.

Don’t Take Your Connections for Granted

If a “connection” is really a “human connection” then that connection requires human investment. Social Media makes it easier to service your connections by sharing, posting, and curating materials that enrich your connections. Think of this as a “connection bank account” that requires investment. This Social Media Concept pulling from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits where an Emotional Bank Account is essential to human relationships. The approach is to take the extra time and invest. If you look at the most successful “networkers” and “social media networkers,” you will find that a common theme with all of them is that they do not take their “network” for granted. They invest, curate, and service their network. This builds good will in their “connection bank account” that they are able to leverage.

Required Reading List

There is really good “connecting” wisdom being shared in the community. Some would have you buy and read books as a first step. My recommendation is to start with these articles. They provide excellent advice.

[1] I use tools like Grammarly to craft these messages within the 300-word limit.

[2] Although there could be worse. I had one person UUENCODE a BSD code dump as an e-mail dos back in 1993. It took two days to clear my dial-up E-mail queue. But that was an exception.