To support a strong LinkedIn profile, you need a strong network.  When it comes to building a network, you can pitch as well as catch.  This means that you shouldn’t rely only upon the invitations that you receive; you should proactively send invitations to those with whom you would like to be connected.

A LinkedIn network works like a big circle, with you in the middle.  First-degree connections are direct connections.  These are the people you have accepted and who have accepted you.  Second-degree connections are friends of these friends.  Third-degree connections are friends of second-degree connections.  Your level of visibility into third-degree connections is limited, and a request to connect must be routed through the second-degree connection that controls the relationship.

“The quality of your network is important,” said Nugent.  “If you accept too many random invitations, your network, although large, may not be sufficiently useful.  If you accept (and send) too few invitations, you won’t be able to use the database as it was designed.

“Before accepting any invitation,” said Nugent, “ask yourself if this person is potentially a client or a source for the kind of work you really want to do. Strive for balance between the quantity and the quality of the invitations you accept.”

When vetting an invitation, check out the inviter’s profile.  Is the invitation from a real and (apparently) respectable individual?  Does the inviter have quality contacts that might prove valuable?  Does the inviter have a large number of contacts?  Did the inviter include a personal note with the invitation?  “Rely on these factors to determine if it makes good sense to connect,” said Nugent.

When sending out your own invitations, start with your existing contact list.  Include your firm’s partners, associates and staff; members of professional, business and industry groups that you belong to; and referral sources, clients and friends.

“Never allow your network to stagnate,” said Nugent.  “It should grow continuously.  When you meet a new contact, follow up within 48 hours with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn instead of (or in addition to) an email or a written note.  To facilitate this tactic among those you meet, consider including your LinkedIn address on your business card.”

This is part three of a four-part article.  For the entire article:

LinkedIn (or left out) for lawyers