I salute LinkedIn for creating a groundbreaking metric that seeks to "quantify" the breadth and presumably the clout of individuals from a business perspective. The more Connections someone has, the more important or far-reaching their influence. What matters, the number of Connections you have, or the value they are delivering to you? Cultivating business through your Connections is viable and the upside is tremendous, but it won't occur by the simple fact that you have a lot of Connections.
The degree to which there is a correlation between the number of Connections someone has and their actual business acumen / success is not the focal point of this article, but could be excellent fodder for a future piece. Instead, the point I want to make here is that what is more critical than your actual Connections tally is the degree to which you stay strategically in contact and engaged with those individuals.
Short of being able to reach someone should you need them, LinkedIn's main value from a business development perspective is providing an opportunity to be in front of your Connections in a consistent, yet tasteful manner. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including:
- Write personalized messages to Connections to let them know you are thinking about them, have an idea for them, will be in their area and could stop by, etc.
- Post links to content (articles, videos, etc.) that you (or your firm) have produced as a means of educating and informing your Connections and reinforcing your credibility. Use a url shortner like bitly so that you can track how many people actually read the content you post. Adjust future posting ideas based on what the data shows your Connections are most interested in.
Having a lot of Connections can be a great asset, but its value will be largely boosted through consistent engagement and by being viewed as a resource to them.