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What is the difference between connecting and following on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn gives you two ways to keep in touch with your contacts: connecting or following. Learn the differences, and which is most appropriate.

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linkedin connecting following

What is the difference between connecting and following on LinkedIn?

When using social media platforms like Facebook, you can connect with a relative, but also choose to follow a brand. On Twitter and Instagram, you can only follow an account, whether it’s your best friend or a high profile company.
LinkedIn works in a slightly different way.  It allows you to do both, follow people and brands, but also connect to make valuable relationships. But why would you choose to follow a person rather than connect? There’s similarities between both, but fundamentally, connecting and following on LinkedIn represents two important ways of engaging. 

What is connecting?

As LinkedIn itself says, connections are “members who connected on LinkedIn because they know and trust each other.” This way, you’re both able to see each other’s posts, job updates and anniversaries, photos, public and private shares on your LinkedIn homepage. You can also easily send messages to your connections. When you accept someone’s invitation to connect, you become their 1st-degree connections. Their LinkedIn connections then become your 2nd-degree connections, and vice versa.

What is following?

Following lets you see another LinkedIn member’s posts and articles that they share without being connected with them. This way, the sharing is only moving in one direction, as opposed to the mutual following that a connection brings. Of course, someone could view your page and see some of this information, but they won’t get any alerts or find it on their news feed. 

How do I know how many LinkedIn connections I have?

It’s pretty easy. Just go to your Linkedin profile, and you will see the number of connections displayed. If you have more than 500 connections you can click on that link, and it will show you the exact number of connections you have
LinkedIn Connections

How do I know how many LinkedIn followers I have?

You will get a notification when you get a new follower, but it’s also really simple to find out how many followers you have. Click onto the ‘Me’ dropdown in the right-hand corner below your profile picture, and select ‘Posts and Activity’, as below: 
Linkedin Followers
This will then take you to your activity page, where you can see how many followers you have. You can then click onto this and see your most recent followers, and also who you have followed recently.
how to find your linkedin followers
A key point to remember is all LinkedIn connections are automatically followers, they do not have to press any follow button. This means if you want to see how many pure followers you have, you must subtract the number of connections from number of followers.

How do I follow someone?

This varies depending on what type of account the user has.
If they are a public figure or company all you need to do is go to their profile page and click the ‘Follow’ button. LinkedIn has now given all users the option to display a ‘Follow’ button as your main Call to Action on your profile page, instead of the ‘Connect’ prompt which is there by default. This may be on a users page, in which case, it’s that simple!
If not, you’ll need to go onto their profile as if you were going to request to connect, click on the “more…” tab, and click “follow.” 
How to follow someone on Linkedin

Why would I follow someone rather than connecting?

You might think there’s no reason to specifically follow someone when you can connect and reap the same benefits. But there are some instances where following might be really ideal:
1 – You’re interested in the content that a member shares but you don’t consider them a personal or professional contact.
2 – They do not have connect options available. Usually this happens when they are a public figure, a brand, or someone with high privacy settings if you’re not a 1st connection. For instance, Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, requests people to enter his personal email address to verify they know him. 
How to connect on Linkedin when asked to verify the member
3 – You would rather not establish a connection as you don’t want to share your personal and professional information with that person.
4 – You want to gain access to someone’s posts quickly without you having to wait for them to accept you as a connection.

Expanding your network

With 645 million professionals and counting, on LinkedIn there’s a huge variety of people out there for you to connect and follow with, to grow your knowledge, opportunities and interests.

How do I grow my LinkedIn connections?

1 – If you’re looking to connect with someone you haven’t previously spoken to before, it’s a good idea to add relevancy by personalising your connection response. Even LinkedIn advises you to do so, saying that LinkedIn members are more likely to accept requests that include a personal note. 
2 – Post often. 91% of execs rate LinkedIn as their first choice for professionally relevant content. Posting more, whether it be your thoughts on industry updates or sharing content your LinkedIn connections might be interested in, creates additional opportunities for exposure and engagement. If one person comments on your post, one of their connections might see it, find it interesting and request to connect.
3 – Engage with your current connections. If someone you know writes an interesting post, comment! Others will see this, and increase engagement and exposure even more. 
4 – Promote your LinkedIn account on other social media platforms, and when you’re speaking to business prospects. Got a public speaking gig? Make sure you put your LinkedIn account at the end of the slide, so people can note it down. It’s easier than giving every attendee your business card and better for the environment! 

How do I get more followers on LinkedIn?

1 – Optimise your LinkedIn page. Did you know you can optimise your LinkedIn page like you can other pages for SEO with keywords? Take a look at LinkedIn’s own suggestions for optimising your page for maximum success. 
2 – Join relevant conversations, by posting hashtags. LinkedIn suggests using between three and five relevant hashtags in your post to reach new, relevant followers.
3 – Share job postings on your page. LinkedIn is one of the largest job-sharing sites in the world, with 100 million applications being submitted monthly. By sharing job postings on your page regularly from either your own company or roles you think might be relevant for your audience, people will be more inclined to follow you to see the latest role updates.
4 – It can be overwhelming to receive hundreds of connection requests from people you do not know. To enable them to read your content and posts and share your insights with people interested in what you have to say, you can encourage them to follow you instead. To make ‘Follow’ your choice of prompt, you should click on “Settings & Privacy” on the dropdown. You will then be taken to a new window, where you should scroll down the Privacy tab until you find “Followers.” From here, you can make the change.
Linkedin Settings and privacy

Is it worth connecting with your LinkedIn followers?

Is it worth reaching out to your followers who aren’t connected? This really does need to be considered on a case by case basis. If you see a follower who could be an excellent prospect for you, the fact that they have decided to follow you is a good sign and could be a great starting point for you to contact them on LinkedIn. However, you will need to weigh up why they have chosen to follow you and not connect with you.
If you would like support with your social media strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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