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LinkedIn works best when you connect with the right people.

It may sound like I’m stating the obvious in saying so, but on LinkedIn who you connect with is everything. You’d be surprised how many people I meet that don’t even give this a moment’s serious thought.

The key point here is that the most powerful aspect of LinkedIn is understanding that it’s not so much about who you already know and are connected to, but rather who they in turn have in their network. These are your “second level connections” (your first level being those you connect with on the platform). Your second level connections are where the major opportunities lie.

So what do I mean connect with the “right” people? Well, in order to unlock a healthy pool of second level connections, two things need to be in place.

First, your first level connections need to be people with whom you already have a good relationship. They should be people who you know and understand, like and trust. And this trust should be reciprocal. This is vitally important because trust is a key ingredient in passing business opportunities to each other.

The second thing you need is an understanding of who you want to connect with at the second level in your network. Again, this may sound obvious to some, but most people get this wrong. And the answer is that you should go against your instincts.

Human instinct drives us to look for and be attracted to similars. So we naturally look for “people like us”. In the context of LinkedIn, this is a mistake many people easily make. But the focus should be different when you are thinking about the second level connections you seek. Instead, you should be focusing on people just like your existing happy clients. After all, they are the ones who present the best opportunities to help you get the results you are looking for.

So “connecting with the right people” has two key parts to it. Connect only with those you already know, and then look for second level connections who are just like your best clients.

You might want to read my previous blog about “Why connecting with everyone may cause you to lose out” before you start connecting.