LinkedIn connect experiment

The relentlessly helpful® blog by John Espirian

30 November 2020
LinkedIn connect experiment

Since October 2018, all non-connections of mine have seen the Follow button when visiting my LinkedIn profile.

This has led to excellent growth in my follower count. I’ve talked about this before in my followers versus connections article.

I wanted to see what happened if I were to switch back to Connect mode for a month. So, that’s what I did throughout November 2020, and here are the results.

How to turn on Follow first mode.

Go to this Followers settings screen and set Make follow primary to Yes.


I tracked:

  • How many connection invitations I received
  • How many invitations arrived with a note of any kind
  • How many notes were generic
  • How many notes were personalised
  • How many notes mentioned the secret word in my profile’s About statement
  • How many invitations I accepted

The results.

I received 364 invitations during November 2020. Here’s how that breaks down:

Note Generic Personal Secret Accepted
Yes 105
No 259

This is what the table columns mean:

  • Note: did the invitation come with any note?
  • Generic: was the invitation note one that could have been sent to anyone?
  • Personal: was the invitation note personal to me?
  • Secret: did the invitation note include the secret word mentioned in my profile’s About statement?
  • Accepted: did I accept the invitation?

This is what happened to my connection and follower count during the experiment, which lasted for the whole of November 2020:

Connections Followers
Start 7267 30,709
End 7500 31,009
Change 233 300

It’s no surprise that the change to Connect first mode meant my rate of follower growth slowed down a lot.

I added only 300 new followers throughout November 2020. And to go from 30K followers to 31K took me 53 days.

Compare this with my average period for adding each new thousand followers throughout the rest of 2020, which was only 19 days.

In other words, it took almost 3× as long to add a thousand followers in Connect first mode as it did with Follow first mode.

In fact, the situation is worse than that if we focus only on the follower growth during the experiment. Adding 300 followers in 30 days means it would take 100 days to add 1000 followers.

If my previous average was 19 days to do the same when using Follow first mode, that means that Connect first mode is 5× slower in helping me build my follower count.

Given that I’m a content creator who thrives on people seeing my posts, I’ve changed back to Follow first mode.

Follow first mode doesn’t stop me receiving invitations to connect. Here’s how I’m handling an increasing proportion of generic/blind invitations:

Examples of good invitations.

Some of the personalised invitations stood out, so I decided to share them (with permission!) to show you what good looks like:

LinkedIn invitation from Adrineh Der-Boghossian
Adrineh Der-Boghossian
LinkedIn invitation from Luis Maruenda Terrés
Luis Maruenda Terrés
LinkedIn invitation from Jason Marx
Jason Marx
LinkedIn invitation from Georgina Fradgley
Georgina Fradgley
LinkedIn invitation from Dawn Blizard
Dawn Blizard

I also have to give an honourable mention to Victoria Buylaert, whose banner image really made me smile!

LinkedIn banner by Victoria Buylaert
Victoria Buylaert

Personal invitations work.

In a 2020 test, LinkedIn expert Bruce Johnston sent 100 invitations to people working in operations.

50 the invitations included personalised notes; the other 50 contained no note.

The results were:

Personal invitation No invitation
Accepted 39
Rejected 11

Bruce’s test shows that personalised invitations are more than twice as likely to be accepted than invitations with no note.

So, make an effort if you want people to add you to their LinkedIn network.

(Some people think you can do this only on LinkedIn desktop. Not true! Here’s how to personalise invitations on the LinkedIn mobile app.)

See Bruce’s LinkedIn article Should You Include A Message In Your LinkedIn Invitation To Connect? to learn more about his own connection test.

Let’s wrap up.

Negative takeaways:

  • Most people don’t personalise their invitations – boo!
  • Connect first mode slowed down my follower growth by at least a factor of 3 (probably more like 5) – boo!

Positive takeaways:

  • Those whose invitations stood out were the ones with whom I had better conversations – yay!
  • Invitations are more than twice as likely to be accepted when personalised – yay!

Overall, I think presenting people with the Follow button first is the best option for regular content creators on LinkedIn. It’s the fastest way to get more eyeballs on your content. And if you’re producing the right sort of stuff, that will ultimately lead to more business.

How to turn on Follow first mode.

Go to this Followers settings screen and set Make follow primary to Yes.


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John Espirian

I’m the relentlessly helpful®️ LinkedIn nerd and author of Content DNA

I teach business owners how to be noticed, remembered and preferred.

Espresso+ is a safe space to learn how to ethically promote your business online and get better results on LinkedIn.

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