Yes, there is a difference between following and connecting on LinkedIn.
You MIGHT see the status updates of someone you only follow on LinkedIn and their long-form posts (LinkedIn’s blogging equivalent).
Some LinkedIn Users Won’t Connect With Strangers
One of the biggest debates by LinkedIn users is who you should connect with. People have different opinions.
“We recommend only inviting people you know and trust because 1st-degree connections are given access to the primary email address on your account.”
As a result, many users will NOT accept invitations to connect unless they know you. Conversely, some people are LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers) and will connect with anyone who invites them.
If you really want to stay in touch with someone these are a couple of workarounds.
Two Ways to Get Updates and Stay In Touch With Someone On LinkedIn
If you want to connect with someone you don’t personally know, try either of these options.
1) Always customize your invitation to connect.
Explain why you are interested in connecting with someone in your customized invitation. It isn’t a guarantee that your invitation will be accepted, but it may increase the chances. Learn how to customize your invitation on LinkedIn’s desktop and mobile app.
2) Follow the person on LinkedIn.
This is how LinkedIn describes the differences between following and connecting.
Connections are two-way relationships of trust between people who know each other. If you’re connected to someone, you’re following them and they’re following you by default.
Your followers will receive your posts, articles, and shares in their LinkedIn homepage feed. Members don’t have to be connected to you to follow you and receive these updates.
You’ll only be able to follow if the person has either published articles on LinkedIn’s blogging platform or changed their privacy settings to enable updates to be publically follow-able.
Follow Influencers & Media
So if you want to follow some of LinkedIn’s Influencers you’ll now have to search for hashtags.
If you want to follow people, who have written articles on LinkedIn, go to their LinkedIn profile, click on one of their posts, and you will see the FOLLOW button.
A sure fire way to follow someone’s public updates on LinkedIn is to go to their profile and click on the down arrow next to the CONNECT button and select the FOLLOW option (if the user has made this available).
Publishers, Speakers, Business Owners, etc.
If you are a speaker, writer or business owner, you may be receiving a lot of requests to connect. One option is to allow/suggest people follow your public updates- but be sure you change your privacy settings.
LinkedIn’s Help Center post Managing Who Can Follow Your Updates explains how:
While your 1st-degree connections automatically follow your updates and long-form posts, anyone can follow you, even if they’re not in your network. You can limit followers to only your 1st-degree connections from the Privacy & Settings page.
- Select Settings & Privacy from the dropdown.
- Click the Privacy tab at the top of the page.
- Under the Blocking and hiding section, click Change next to Followers.
- From the dropdown, select one of the following options:
- Everyone on LinkedIn – All LinkedIn members, in and outside your network, can follow your posts.
- Your connections – Only your 1st-degree connections can follow your posts.
How To Handle Requests To Connect From Strangers
In an interesting discussion thread on Facebook, people were discussing how they handle requests from strangers. Some said they send a reply to the invitation, requesting the sender to explain how they know each other or why they want to connect. The response rate to those emails was mixed. As a business owner, accepting invitations from people you don’t know may not bother you, these are leads, right? But even LinkedIn is seeing it’s share of spam accounts, so be aware.
You may choose to send a reply message in which you’ve copied the instructions above. Your message might also explain your logic for not connecting with people you do not know.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.