As a small business owner myself, I know that LinkedIn can be an incredibly valuable tool for networking and growing your business. But the connection levels like "1st" can be confusing at first. What exactly does 1st mean, and how do you leverage those vital connections?
In this beginner‘s guide, I‘ll draw on my own experience to explain what 1st connections are all about and how to use them to your advantage.
A Quick Refresher – LinkedIn‘s Connection Levels
Before we dive into 1st connections, let‘s do a quick recap of the different connection levels on LinkedIn:
- 1st degree connections: People you are directly connected to
- 2nd degree connections: People connected to your 1st degree connections
- 3rd degree connections: People connected to your 2nd degree connections
- Out of network: No connection path between you
As you can see, your 1st degree connections are the foundation for expanding access to the wider LinkedIn network.
What Does 1st Mean on LinkedIn?
When you see "1st" next to someone‘s name on LinkedIn, it means they are one of your first-degree connections. Specifically, it signifies either:
- You sent them an invite to connect and they accepted
- They sent you an invite to connect and you accepted
So in other words, 1st degree connections are people you are directly linked to on LinkedIn.
A 1st degree connection on LinkedIn
These are the people you likely know fairly well already, whether they are colleagues, classmates, mentors, or friends.
Why Your 1st Connections Are Valuable
As a small business owner, your 1st degree LinkedIn connections can be hugely beneficial:
- Exposure: Your activity and posts appear directly in their feed, increasing your visibility. I‘ve directly gotten clients through my 1st connections.
- Referrals: 1st connections can refer you to business opportunities, partners, employees, or investors. Referrals convert at a much higher rate.
- Insights: Your closest connections can provide business advice, industry introductions, or even funding if they believe in you. I turned to my 1st connections when starting my business.
- Trust: 1st connections help build credibility through endorsements and recommendations. One study found 79% of consumers trust online recommendations from people they know. 1
- Direct access: You can directly communicate with 1st connections without needing their contact info. I message my 1st connections to set up meetings and partnerships.
Basically, your 1st degree connections are your most engaged network and powerful advocates. Keep them active!
How to Grow Your 1st Degree Network
Here are my top 7 tips for connecting with more quality 1st degree connections on LinkedIn:
1. Personalize Your Invitation Notes
Don‘t use LinkedIn‘s generic invites – add a custom message addressing the person directly and explaining why you want to connect. I get 80%+ acceptance rates when I personalize.
2. Engage With Your Existing Network
Comment on your connections‘ posts, share their content, and congratulate their wins. This raises your visibility and keeps you top of mind.
3. Join LinkedIn Groups
Join groups related to your industry and engage in discussions. Connect with members who provide valuable insights. Just don‘t spam!
4. Follow Companies You Admire
Follow companies you want to work with and connect with their employees – especially founders, sales teams, and recruiters.
5. Attend Events and Follow Up
Maximize in-person events by connecting after with professionals you meet. Reference your conversation to jog their memory.
Establish yourself as an authority by posting original research, how-to articles, and unique insights your connections would find interesting.
7. Offer to Help
Message your connections asking how you can assist them. Add value without expecting anything in return. Good deeds pay off down the road.
Maintaining Your 1st Connections
To keep your 1st degree connections engaged once connected, make sure to:
- Congratulate them on work milestones and comment on their updates. Show you pay attention.
- Share articles and content relevant to their interests. Become a trusted resource.
- Catch up periodically and ask thoughtful questions to nurture the relationship.
The more you engage with your 1st degree network in a personal way, the more you gain from the connection.
- On LinkedIn, "1st" indicates someone is one of your first-degree connections who you are directly connected to.
- Your closest 1st degree connections can provide exposure, referrals, advice, credibility, and access for your small business.
- Personalize connection invites, engage with your network, and provide value to build your 1st degree community.
- Maintain your 1st connections by interacting and supporting their endeavors. Relationships need nurturing to thrive and bear fruit!
At the end of the day, quality trumps quantity when growing your 1st degree LinkedIn network. The stronger your genuine connections, the more benefits you reap!
What has helped you expand your 1st degree network as a small business owner? I‘d love to hear other effective strategies and advice in the comments!