The Mid-Career GPS Podcast

223: When to Connect or Follow Someone on LinkedIn

February 13, 2024 John Neral Season 4
The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
223: When to Connect or Follow Someone on LinkedIn
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you felt as if the game is changing on LinkedIn regarding whether you should connect with someone or follow them? 

Whether the algorithm is working for you or not, LinkedIn is just like any other social media platform. There is a game to be played and if you aren’t playing it correctly, you will be left behind. 

One of the most frequently asked questions I get asked by clients and potential clients is whether or not they should be connecting or following people on LinkedIn.  

Each has its advantages and some disadvantages. 

So, it’s time we settle the debate. Should you connect or follow someone on LinkedIn? In this episode, I'll answer that question for you and the one thing you should absolutely do whether you connect or follow someone. 


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John Neral:

Have you felt as if the game's changed on LinkedIn, whether the algorithm is working for you or not? Linkedin is just like any other social media platform there's a game to be played, and if you aren't playing it correctly, you'll be left behind. One of the most frequently questions I'm asked by clients and potential clients is whether or not they should be connecting or following someone on LinkedIn. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so I'm going to help you settle the debate. Should you connect or follow someone on LinkedIn? I've got an answer for you and the one thing you should absolutely do, regardless whether you connect or follow them, let's get started.

John Neral:

Hello, my friends, this is the Mid-Career GPS podcast. I'm your Jo hn Neral. I help mid-career professionals find a job they love, or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. As my friend Ronda Sher says, if you're not on LinkedIn, you might be left out. I'm going to interview LinkedIn expert Ronda Sher soon, but for now, I want to take this moment and break down the difference between whether you should connect or follow someone on LinkedIn, to set the ground rule or the basis for this conversation.

John Neral:

When you connect with somebody, you are requesting that you both be first-level connections for each other. But when you follow someone, you don't need their permission. You aren't directly connected to them, but you will see their feed. That means you'll see what they post, what they comment on, but you are not a first-level connection to them. So there are advantages to both and you will want to connect with somebody if you have a professional relationship with them. These are your colleagues, your clients, your industry peers and, again, you are welcoming them into your network. That's important. Additionally, when you connect with someone, there is a mutual benefit for having that connection and that mutual benefit might be opportunities to network, collaborate, even share professional insights. But lastly, there's a personal connection. You know them and you feel comfortable connecting with them on LinkedIn. When I wrote my book your Mid-Career GPS Four Steps to Figuring Out what's Next, I asked Rhonda to review the LinkedIn section of my book and I was so grateful that she did that. One of the things I love how Rhonda phrases it is that when you connect with somebody, if you didn't feel comfortable meeting them for a cup of coffee or inviting them into your home, you shouldn't really connect with them. And admittedly, I am seeing more and more that there's a lot of third level connections that are reaching out and they feel very spammy. I've done episodes before about reasons why I block people on LinkedIn or why I choose not to accept connections. If your radar goes up and you start smelling something fishy here, don't connect with them. That would be my advice or guidance to you.

John Neral:

Now, whether or not you wanna follow them is a different story. When you follow someone, you have a limited interaction with them, so what that means is that you haven't directly worked with them, but you're interested in their posts and updates. You might like what they post on LinkedIn because it's motivational, inspirational, thought-provoking. You also may follow particular influencers or thought leaders, and these are people whom you don't know, but you really do like getting their stuff and following them right. Their content aligns with your professional interests. And, lastly, you follow someone because you want their information in your feed. You wanna stay informed about their activities without establishing a direct connection. So how do you differentiate?

John Neral:

Well, here are some factors. First, look at their profile. Look at their profile and check to see if you understand their professional background, interests and industry relevance. One of the things I particularly look for when I make a decision about whether or not I follow or connect with someone is. I look and see how optimized their profile is. Do they have a headshot? Do they have a clear headline? Do they have an updated LinkedIn banner? That is not one of the defaults that just kind of LinkedIn has, that's out there. Do they have a well-written about section and experiences where they go into detail about what they've done at their job and what results they've gotten? And also I look for recommendations. Additionally, I'm also going to check their LinkedIn activity. How active are they? And you can do this even with the free version of LinkedIn. You're going to look at their activity feed on their profile and you're going to see when was the last time they posted something or they engaged with somebody. Right, it may say one day, three day, one week, one W, three W, seven months, nine months.

John Neral:

I want to connect with people who are relatively active on LinkedIn. The more active they are on LinkedIn, the better of a connection they are for me. So you want to look at that. Additionally, look to see if you both share some mutual connections and look and see how those mutual connections are. Those mutual connections may be people you know really well, or they may be people for whatever reason you connected with on LinkedIn. It is okay to go back to one of those connections and say, hey, so-and-so sent me a connection request. How well do you know them? I've shared before here that your profile is your network. It is reflective of your brand. Protect and promote it every single time.

John Neral:

Don't allow someone into your network that's not going to be respectful of the people who are in your network. For example, I don't want people coming into my network and soliciting every single person in my network, trying to sell them something or being like hey, I have this opportunity, can I talk to you? What's your WhatsApp number? No, right, Protect it. So my general rules are this I'm going to connect with somebody If I know them, I know their work, I know I can add value to them by being a first level connection and they make my network better and I'm gonna make their network better by being a first level connection. I'm gonna follow someone when they're a little bit bigger than I am. They're a thought leader and influencer. So there are certain people who I follow that I am not directly connected with, but I still get their feed, I still get their information, but they have 50, 100, 200,000 followers. They're not gonna make a first level connection with me and I'm okay with that. But when I follow them and I get their feed and now I start adding value to their posts, I tag them in comments, I ask them questions and what they're posting out there, they'll get to know me. And when I build that no like and trust factor, if there's a time down the road I wanna send them a connection request and be a first level connection. Maybe they accept. But, just as before, regardless as to whether you connect or follow someone on LinkedIn, add value, be a great connection. Add value to their posts by thoughtfully commenting on what they're sharing.

John Neral:

Connecting is a more direct form of networking, while following is a way to stay updated without a direct connection. If you are making a personal connection request and maintaining a professional approach, always, always, always, add a note to that meeting, invite and sharing with them specifically why you wanna connect with them. Make it relevant to them. Don't make it some kind of overly general hey, I'd like to add you to my network. People aren't gonna respond to that usually. Be specific about why you wanna connect, where you can add value. Most importantly, how you may be able to help them. Choose the option, whether you choose to follow or connect. That aligns directly with your networking strategy and objectives and the nature of your relationship with that person. Both options are good. Linkedin has certainly made it easier to follow people and get the benefit from them, and having that so in that case, maybe you hit the follow button a little more than you hit the connect button over the next few weeks, see how it goes for you. But whatever it is, make sure you're connecting or following with much more intention than ever.

John Neral:

All right, my friends hope this was helpful. If I can help you further, I've got some free resources that are located on my website, including my mid-career job seekers checklist that has everything you need to do in order to help navigate your next career transition in an edible PDF to go through each part of your career transition as you go and build your mid-career GPS to create your next advancement opportunity. You can get that free checklist right on my website at https://johnneral. com. So until next time, my friends, remember this You'll build your mid-career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day.

Connecting vs. Following on LinkedIn
Mid-Career Job Seekers Checklist and Resources