Do you want Followers or Connections on LinkedIn?

There was an interesting addition to the site functionality that LinkedIn has just announced and which I spotted a couple of weeks ago in the Settings area. It’s all about the difference between “connecting” with and “following” someone – you see, you can do both (which is the norm) or either (‘follow but not connect’ or ‘connect but not follow’) or neither of course.

Confused? Well, let me help.

When you connect with someone on LinkedIn(which is the norm, by the way), it is a reciprocal action – you both have to agree for the connection to happen. In doing so, you both essentially confirm that you’re happy to be able to send each other messages, see each other’s posts in your respective homepage newsfeed, make your respective networks visible to each other and see additional information in the Contact Info area.

Nice … and a meeting of equals, so to speak.

However, when you follow someone, it is purely one way and only in respect of being able to see their posts in your newsfeed. It’s like following on Twitter – there is no reciprocal action (ie the either person doesn’t automatically follow you) but they do get notified that you have followed them and so receive the proverbial nudge to get them to look at your profile and perhaps initiate further contact.

What this doesn’t do is allow any of the other elements I mentioned which would result in a true communication between the two parties.

So what has changed?

Well, despite appearances, we have always had the ability to either Follow or Connect to anyone on LinkedIn, the links to do so are on everyone’s profile. Exactly where they appear depends on how closely connected you are to the person.

Under normal circumstances, you will see a ‘Connect’ button when you go to someone’s profile if they are a 2nd level connection as below:

The ‘Follow’ option in this instance is in the pull down menu that you’ll find in the ‘3 dots’.

NB – if you are a 3rd level connection then both the ‘Connect’ and ‘Follow’ options are in that pull down menu and the big blue button will be “Inmail” or “Message”.

The option that LinkedIn has now given us is t change those around – if we activate the control in the Settings then instead of a “Connect” button appearing on your profile, a “Follow” button appears instead and the option to ‘Connect’ switches to the menu as shown below:

So, they are all still there, it’s just a change of emphasis.

So why make the switch?

I personally believe that connecting is still my preferred route – ultimately the goal is to talk to people and that can only really happen when you are connected and not when you are simply following someone. However, I will check who is following me because there is most certainly value in that and you may want to then follow them or – my preference – ask them to connect.

You can find a list of the people following you at your list of followers – this is a list of those who just follow you, by the way. Here is where you will find your list of connections.

However, there may be occasions when it is preferable to follow someone rather than connect:

  • Following someone is certainly the path of least resistance – it’s much easier to follow someone than connect and it’s instant. If so, then perhaps people would be more open to following you, which in turn would allow you to be notified of their interest and then make the decision if you the wish to take that to the next step by asking them to then connect? Certainly a potential benefit to be had there.
  • Equally, you may not want to connect with someone but happy for them to receive your information, so again it would be preferable to highlight a “Follow” button if that was happening frequently to you.
  • As the inviter – the person may not agree to connect in which case you will not be notified of their content. Following gets around this as you do not need to be ‘Accepted’ by the person but it is one sided, very much in he same way as on Twitter.

Did I mention how to do so?

It all happens – as does so much of what goes on in LinkedIn – from your Settings page. In the Privacy tab section, there’s a Followers section right at the bottom of the page which will show you:

Just make the change at the bottom and you’ll have a ‘Follow’ button instead of a ‘Connect’. [Quicklink to that page is]

So there you have it – something to try out perhaps or something to consider as a strategic decision which you hope will increase the amount of interaction on your profile and on LinkedIn in general. Of course you still have to be active and encourage people to come to your profile on the first place to see this change … but that’s for another post.

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