Following is different to connecting in a couple of main ways. Fundamentally, connecting and following on LinkedIn represents two different ways of engaging. A good analogy would be to think of connecting as more like becoming a friend with someone on Facebook, and following as more like following a person or organisation on Twitter. In some instances it is therefore more suitable to use one method over the other.
What Is Connecting?
LinkedIn Help states that “Connections are two-way relationships of trust between people who know each other”.
Connecting on LinkedIn means that both parties are happy to share their personal information, as well as their photos, posts, updates and so on. When you accept someone’s invitation to connect, you become one of their 1st-degree connections, their connections become your 2nd-degree connections and vice versa.
What Is Following?
Essentially following is an alternative to connecting that creates a one way link. It allows you (as the follower) to view another LinkedIn member’s posts without having to connect with them. The sharing only moves in one direction; the individual you are following does not see your content. The ability to be able to follow all members on LinkedIn is only a fairly recent development, being previously preserved for public figures and industry leaders, but it is now universal.
Connections Are Followers by Default
A key point to remember is that all your connections are automatically followers, so if you want to find out how many followers you have (who are not also connections) you need to compare your total number of connections with the number of followers. For instance if we take a look at Susan’s profile, we can see she has 3,296 connections and 3,331 followers:
How Do I Find Out How Many Followers I Have?
It’s really easy to find out how many followers you have. Simply click onto your profile page, hover over the arrow next to the “View profile as” button and click on “View recent activity”, as below:
This will then take you through to the following page, with the number of followers given in the selected tab – it also includes an interesting breakdown of the industries, regions and seniority of your followers. As you can see from my example, I have the same number of connections as followers, meaning that I don’t have any sole 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:
For regular LinkedIn members, you can either use the same method as finding your own followers (View recent activity), and then click on the follow button on that page. Or from their profile page you can select the “See more” option on their Posts section which takes you through to the same page, where you can then click the “Follow” button:
Should I Follow or Connect?
Instances where you should follow rather than connect:
1. You’re interested in the content that a member shares but you don’t consider them a personal or professional contact.
2. You would rather not establish a connection as you don’t want to share your personal and professional information with that person.
3. You want to gain access to someone’s posts quickly without you having to wait for them to accept you as a connection.
Is It Worth Connecting with Your Followers?
So you’ve discovered that you have a number of followers who are not actually connected to you, is it worth reaching out to them? 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.