Open networking means that you’re open to receiving connection requests from people you don’t know.
While your objective as an open networker is to connect with many people, including people you do not know, you aren’t required to accept all invitations to connect. However, as an open networker, you will never flag a person as someone you don’t know, causing him or her to be penalized by LinkedIn. I discuss the case of a spammer below.
Many open networkers use the acronym LION, standing for “LinkedIn open networker,” on their LinkedIn profiles and join special LION groups on LinkedIn. I am an open networker and belong to several LION groups but have chosen not to put the term LION on my profile.
Online Networking Risks
The Internet is potentially dangerous. Online social networking poses risks that range from spam and invasion of privacy to harassment, identity theft, and even physical harm. Open networking, especially if attempted haphazardly, increases your exposure and risk.
When a person connects with you, new information about you and your contacts becomes accessible. Managing that accessibility with security in mind is an essential aspect of online networking. If you plan to be an open networker, leave your phone number and address out of your profile “Contact info,” and in “Privacy & Settings,” choose “Only you” can see your connections.
No security system is foolproof; you have to display an email address to connections. Hopefully, all the spam email you receive will be good or at least benign. I will suggest ideas for identifying potential malicious spammers below.
To be or not to be? The choice to be an open networker or not is yours alone. Let’s look at some issues to consider.
Why Become an Open Networker
One reason to be an open networker is to maximize your reach and visibility on LinkedIn. With more connections, you can see more people, and more people can see you. Profiles within three levels or within shared groups show up in LinkedIn searches.
You can pay LinkedIn to be able to see more people, but doing so will not increase others’ ability to see you.
Another reason is that more people will see your updates. This is especially useful now that LinkedIn is giving all members access to its publishing platform. Your connections instantly become followers when you begin publishing.
Why Not Become an Open Networker
LinkedIn states: “connecting to someone on LinkedIn implies that you know them well: They’ll have access to people you know, others may ask you about them and vice versa, and you’ll get updates on their activity.”
In theory, by connecting only to people you know and respect allows you to build a trusted network. If you subscribe to this theory, you might not want to be an open networker. According to author Lavie Margolin, “By having Open Networkers in your contact list, you are diminishing the value of your network. No longer are their infinite possibilities for connections just one level away from you; they are just people that no one actually knows.”
As an open networker, inviting new connections can backfire. “Recipients can indicate that they don’t know you. If they do, you’ll be asked to enter an email address with each future invitation,” says LinkedIn. If people complain, you end up in the dog house.
As an open networker, you should only invite people who will welcome your connection request, since a slap from LinkedIn would greatly restrict your ability to invite, as you’d need an email address every time.
Invite people you know or with whom you have had recent online contact. Beyond that, invite only people who’ve declared themselves open networkers or who belong to LION groups, such as TopLinked.com, Lion500.com or LION™ Worn with Pride.
Keep in mind too that you don’t need to connect with everyone who invites you. You can always click “Ignore.” However, if you’re an open networker, never indicate that you don’t know a person. That wouldn’t be right.
Dealing with Spammers
There are more and more spammers of the worst type on LinkedIn. Their only objective is to harvest your personal information so that they can sell it or use it for evil purposes. In many cases, I think they’re selling the information to recruiters. But don’t count on that being the rule.
While spammers’ profiles are becoming more and more convincing looking, something will “feel” wrong about each one. If you get a funny feeling about any profile, click “Ignore.” Please don’t let the number of connections or mutual connections fool you. If you are totally sure that the profile is bogus, report it as spam, so that LinkedIn can take action.
Targeting Open Networking Invitations
A good way to target your open networking invitations is to do an advanced search. In addition to your desired targeting criteria, add membership to a LION group as an additional criterion. That way you can invite people in your area, in your trade or in your target market.
Since I head up marketing at watch company Gevril Group, I target people in luxury and retailing. I also try to connect with people who live within 10 miles of me.
Since I’m a LinkedIn Open Networker
Unless your LinkedIn profile looks bogus, feel free to invite me to connect. If you think you don’t know me, check out my profile and read my other posts. Then you’ll know me. You have the option of following me as a last resort. 😉