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Networking without LinkedIn

“Lemme just add you on LinkedIn.”

This week I attended a conference for the first time in years—for the first time since I quit LinkedIn—and I was completely unprepared for this simple request.

I think I landed on a pretty good response. But first, let’s consider what it means to “just add someone on LinkedIn.”

The word “just” is instructive here. “Just” adding someone on LinkedIn is, statistically speaking, meaningless.

They’ll bump your follower count by one … cool. If they’re active on the app, they might like your posts … great.

It’s possible that you’ll interact again, and technically speaking you might end up working together or falling in love as a result of being LinkedIn mutuals.

But in most cases, you’ll never interact again.

At least that was my experience. When I quit the app, I had about 1,000 connections. After reviewing them manually, I found that at least 900 were people to whom I had nothing to say—in many cases because I couldn’t even remember who they were. (Almost all of the other 100 were folks I already interacted with outside of LinkedIn.)

So if adding a connection is usually meaningless, what should you do instead?

Here’s what I said:

Actually, could I send you an email? I really appreciate what you said about {topic}—it’s got me thinking, and I’m going to try {action}. If you’re open to it, I’d like to reach out in a month or so and let you know how it goes.

Everyone I asked said “Of course! That’d be great.” And gave me their email address.

Now it’s on me to (a) make a change in my life based on their input and (b) actually follow up. Way harder than tapping a button on your phone!

But here’s a prediction: I’ll remain in contact with, and continue learning from, all four of the people who gave me their emails.

You read that right: just four people.

If I’d focused on adding connections, I probably could’ve racked up 20 or more! But based on my LinkedIn exit math, that would’ve led to about 0.2 sustained relationships. And maintaining them would require me continuing to use LinkedIn, which … I don’t know about you, but it made me miserable.

The one thing I’ll do differently next time is come prepared with some “email me” cards. For instances where I don’t want to commit to a followup, but do want to invite someone to stay in touch. Something like this:

Speaking of which … you’ve read this far. No pressure, but I’d love to hear about how you use LinkedIn. How many connections do you have, and how many would you estimate represent actual relationships? If you’re willing to share, email address is up there ☝️

    © 2024 Brian David Hall