The Difference between Following and Connecting on LinkedIn

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

The Difference between Following and Connecting on LinkedIn

What is your go-to social media platform? We typically use the large social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to share content and engage in fights over trivial subjects. But social media can also be a helpful method of marketing your skills, gaining employment or connecting with other like-minded folks in your industry. And the best platform for this goal is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn possesses approximately 675 million monthly users, but fewer than half of them are active daily users. The company's objective is to attract 3 billion people, which would be a little less than half of the planet's population, and effectively serve as a hub for all professionals worldwide. Since about one-fifth of its userbase are senior-level influencers or reside in decision-making positions, and it is the most used social media platform among Fortune 500 companies, LinkedIn users can utilise the platform to their advantage.

While some may think there is no difference between it and the myriad of other social media outlets, the statistics prove that LinkedIn can be the best weapon in your arsenal when it comes to finding work or implementing a B2B marketing strategy.

So, it's essential to familiarise yourself with LinkedIn, and this starts by getting to know the basics, like the difference between following others on LinkedIn and connecting with them.

What is connecting and following on LinkedIn?

On a website like Twitter or Instagram, you can only follow an account without making any connections. And this is how LinkedIn separates itself from the rest of the industry competitors. For a lot of people, LinkedIn is superior to its rivals because you can both follow people and brands while also connecting with them to initiate fruitful relationships.

But is there such a chasm between connecting and following on the platform?

Connecting on LinkedIn means that both parties (you and the other person) can see each other's posts, employment status, job anniversaries, public and private shares, and images. It should also be noted that there are levels of connections:

  • First-degree connections: When you accept an invitation to connect, you instantly become a first-degree connection.
  • Second-degree connections: The connections of the accounts you connect with become your second-degree connections.

Following is slightly different. The process allows you to view another member's posts and articles without being connected to them. This essentially means that it is a one-sided affair, and you will not, for instance, receive alerts or come across it on your news feed.

How do I check my LinkedIn connections?

So, how exactly do you determine how many connections you have? The simplest technique is to log in to your LinkedIn account, go to your professional profile page and you will find the number of connections displayed on the left side of the page under your name and job title. When you discover the total figure, you have the option of growing your network (see below).

How do I check my LinkedIn followers?

Once again, the process is straight forward:

  • Log in to your account.
  • Click on the 'Me' dropdown menu on the right-hand corner underneath your profile picture.
  • Hit 'Posts and Activity'.
  • You will see the number of followers on the left-hand side of the page.

Moreover, if you click on the number, you can see your most recent followers and individuals who you have recently followed.

How do I follow a user?

You are interested in following someone on LinkedIn, but you are unsure how to do so, be it a colleague, an industry leader or a celebrity figure. It is important to note that it will depend on what kind of account the user maintains.

For the most part, if it is a company or a public figure, you only need to visit the profile page and click the 'Follow' button. The other option is to head on over to the user's profile, click on 'More...' and hit 'Follow'.

LinkedIn recently modified its design, providing all users with the option to have a 'Follow' button as their primary call to action on profile pages. For years, the main feature had been a 'Connect' prompt.

Should I follow or connect with someone?

By now, you might be wondering why you would choose to follow someone over connecting - and vice versa. Let's explore some of the reasons why you would follow a user rather than connect:

  • The account does not have any connection options, and the public figure or brand has high privacy settings.
  • You like the content that the user shares, but you do not consider that person to be a personal or professional contact.
  • Instead of having to wait for your connection request to be accepted, you can receive access to that account's posts almost immediately.
  • You would prefer not to share your personal and professional information with the user.

Indeed, following and connecting have their own sets of similarities and differences. You also have the option of hitting the 'unfollow' button when you no longer feel like staying in touch with a person or organisation.

How do I expand my LinkedIn connections?

With more than half-a-billion users, LinkedIn is a gold mine for a diverse array of opportunities, whether it is for being approached by head-hunters or connecting with industry peers. Suffice it to say, the bigger your reach and audience, the greater your presence on LinkedIn will be – and this is a positive for your career goals. Therefore, you might want to build up your current number of connections.

Here's how:

  • Be active on LinkedIn by posting more content, liking others' posts, replying to comments on your posts and sharing your thoughts on your current list of followers' content. Posting often is the best method of growing your connections.
  • Are you interested in connecting with someone you have never spoken to before? LinkedIn recommends that you add relevancy and a personal note to a connection response. The website says that more members are likely to accept requests if they contain some type of personalisation.
  • Try to promote your LinkedIn account whenever possible. Whether it is on another social media platform or if you are delivering a presentation to business prospects, ensure that you give your LinkedIn account a plug.

This is how to effectively accumulate connections to one day control the world, er, LinkedIn.

How do I increase my followers on LinkedIn?

Now that you have mastered the art of connecting on LinkedIn, you now want to become the ruler of followers.

Here's how to have more followers in the coming months:

  • Did you know that you can optimise your LinkedIn page? It's true. LinkedIn has a series of suggestions for optimising your profile page, much like you would with search engine optimisation (SEO) on a website through keywords.
  • One of LinkedIn's primary functions is for job postings. Therefore, you will need to share employment opportunities on your page, particularly the ones that are relevant to your occupation or field.
  • Participate in relevant conversations by posting with hashtags. It is suggested to use between three and five relevant hashtags for each new post in order to find relevant followers.

LinkedIn is one of the best social media platforms around. From the content to the user experience to the website's job hunt purpose, LinkedIn feels like a more productive endeavour compared to other platforms.

If you have yet to incorporate it into your career development strategy, it would be an opportune time to start exploiting every facet of LinkedIn.

Who knows? Perhaps, one day Elon Musk will come across your LinkedIn profile and send you a connection request with one simple word: 'Hey'.

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 27 January 2016.