Should You Be A LinkedIn LION? (LinkedIn Open Networker)

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If you are were not currently aware, over the past decade there has been a growing group of individuals on LinkedIn that call themselves LinkedIn Open Networkers (aka LIONs). There are several groups and other names such as Top-Linked, Power Networkers, and Black Belt Networkers among many others. These individuals pride themselves in connecting with nearly anyone on LinkedIn in order to grow their primary connections. These LION and Open Networking groups are enormous, with hundreds of thousands of users in groups and maybe even a million total profiles designating their LION status. 

These users connect with almost every other account out there, until their 30,000 connection limit has been reached. This includes individuals that they have never met, from countries they have never heard of, and even with potential spammers or scammers. Many LIONs are from developing nations but I'd say the majority are still from North America or Europe.

Most people believe that the practice of being a LION is the antithesis of what the LinkedIn platform was meant for and also generally just a horrible idea for professional networking purposes. Many of the individuals that are LIONs are entrepreneurs, recruiters, or involved digital marketers. Some of them are only practicing open networking for email harvesting, spamming, or scamming purposes.

However, there are plenty of high quality connections out there. I have been able to connect with many industry-relevant influencers, or appear on other influencers’ radars by association. You also do come across a decent amount of connections from large corporations such as IBM, Microsoft, Citi, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, AT&T, and Coca-Cola just to name a few (albeit some of them are very low on the food chain at these companies). You’ll find everyone from CEOs and doctors to cashiers and farmers. And yes there are definitely some unemployed or just plain fake users. Over the years I have found some of these connections annoying and some of them inspiring. It's a mixed bag to say the least. 

But I do know one thing after a couple decades of entrepreneurship:

You rarely want to turn down the chance to connect with someone if there is even a chance that it could be beneficial to you. These days you never know exactly what could be your ticket to that next website visit, lead, referral, sale, client, introduction, interview, or job. That connection invitation that looks like it could be spam? It could end up being a game-changer for your entire career and life. You just never know these days with our growing globalized economy. 

So how do I know so much about LinkedIn Open Networkers?

I actually became a LION in my early days of LinkedIn (2009-2010) before I really understood what I was doing. I didn’t have a plan or rationale really, I was 23 years old with my own personal training and online business and I figured more connections were better than less (like with Facebook or Twitter at the time). I connected with as many people as I could in Boston and New England, even those that I barely knew or didn’t know at all. I raced to the coveted 500+ connections quickly and people paid a little bit more attention to my business. My website traffic grew a bit and I had a few more email inquiries. I then decided that if 500 was good, then 2,000 would be even better. I began connecting with individuals in other areas of the United States and again got a bit of increase in website traffic and more followers on social media. 

In 2014 as I was consulting and looking for a career change I decided to take my LinkedIn LION status up a notch and reached the 30,000 connection limit. It was unleashing Pandora's Box in terms of spam emails, messages, and invites but I did make thousands of very valuable connections that provided me with website traffic, book sales, advertising revenue, endorsements, article inclusions, interviews, consulting gigs, and even job offers.

Since then I have gotten smarter and know that quality matters much more than quantity. I've deleted about 10,000 of the spammy connections and replaced them with very high quality connections, including top executives and influencers in my industry. And just as importantly, I removed my email address from being viewed on my profile! About every month I go through a lot of my connections and remove the ones that are spammy or irrelevant to make room for higher quality profiles.

In hindsight I'm not sure if I would have become a LinkedIn LION back in 2009 and then later in 2014. There are pros and cons, but experimentation is a big part of social media marketing and career building.

After my experiments and experiences, I have determined which primary scenarios would make the most sense for aspiring LIONs:

1) Online / Global Based Business 
2) Recruiter / Headhunter
3) Job Seeker / Consultant / Freelancer
4) Group / Company Page Building 
5) Author / Media Personality

Pretty much anyone who has a website or global brand could benefit from being a LinkedIn Open Networker if you do it right. 

While being a LinkedIn Open Networker might not be worth the time and effort, you should keep an open mind regarding your social connections. A specific and high quality network is usually best, but sometimes more can end up being better. That's your decision to make and there are plenty of people vehemently opposed to being a LION. Happy networking!

I hope you enjoyed this article about whether you should consider becoming a LinkedIn Open Networker.

Interested in more articles about social networking?

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