One of the most often asked LinkedIn questions I receive is: “What do the various degrees of connections mean?”
For clarity purposes, people in your LinkedIn network are called connections. Your network is made up of 1st degree, 2nd degree and third degree connections and members of your LinkedIn Groups.
By sorting your network by “degree of connections” LinkedIn has consciously introduced the concept of “Relevance”. This is important as LinkedIn sorts all 225 million Profiles by “Relevance” and a 100% complete LinkedIn Profile makes you most “Relevant”!
With all due respect to the comedy team of Abbott and Costello, here’s how LinkedIn defaults to “Relevance” when you conduct a search:
- Who’s on 1st: 1st degree connections are people you are directly connected to because you have accepted their invitation to connect or they have accepted your invitation. The LinkedIn 1st degree icon appears next to their name in search results and on their LinkedIn Profile.If you are conducting a LinkedIn search your 1st degree connections, with a 100% complete LinkedIn Profile, and have the most in-common connections and shared groups with you, show up first. The order is ranked in descending order according to number of connections and shared groups.
- What’s on second: 2nd degree connections are people who are connected to your 1st degree connections. The LinkedIn 2nd degree icon appears next to their name in search results and on their LinkedIn Profile. These connections are ranked in descending order by LinkedIn Profile completeness.Under normal circumstances you could send 2nd degree connections an invitation by clicking Connect or contact them through an InMail or an introduction.
Some firms allow their FA’s to “Connect” by clicking the “Connect” button, others don’t. Before doing so it is always best to check with your firms Chief Compliance Officer, or designee, to determine the rules governing you in this instance.Most firms have a policy against the use of “InMail”. Again, best to check with your firms Chief Compliance Officer, or designee to determine the rules governing you in this instance.
Asking for an introduction from someone who is a 1st degree connection to the person you would like to connect with is generally accepted and is preferred.
- I don’t know’s on third: 3rd degree connections are people connected to your 2nd degree connections. The LinkedIn 3rd degree icon appears next to their name in search results and on their LinkedIn Profile and they are ranked in descending order by profile completeness.
- If their full first and last names are displayed, you can send them an invitation by clicking Connect (see caveat above).
- If only the first letter of their last name is displayed, clicking Connect is not an option, but you can still contact them through an InMail or in introduction based on your firms policy governing InMail.
- Members of your LinkedIn Groups – These connections are considered part of your network because you’re members of the same group. A Group icon appears next to their name in search results and on their profile and they are ranked in descending order by profile completeness. Although these connections may appear out of your network, as they are not 1st degree connections, you can contact them by sending a message on LinkedIn or using your group’s discussion feature.While some firms allow for their FA’s to use the LinkedIn message feature, few allow for their FA’s to participate in the Group Discussion feature. It is prudent to check with your firms Chief Compliance Officer, or designee, to determine the rules governing you in this instance.
- Out of Network – Any LinkedIn members who fall outside of the categories listed above. These members will be ranked in descending order by profile completeness.You are allowed to contact these members through an InMail. Again, your firm’s policy regarding the use of InMail should provide you the guidance needed here.