Once you’ve built a completely optimized profile, it’s time to build a smart network. But how can you build a smart LinkedIn network? It doesn’t just occur naturally. Although LinkedIn attempts to help you build a smart network, you must do your part to cultivate relevant and valuable connections. The more mindful you are, the more valuable your network will be.

  1. Invite existing contacts to connect

LinkedIn allows you to import your existing email contacts from your Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook and other email accounts into the platform, so start by connecting with people you already know and trust.

When you import your contacts to LinkedIn, make sure that you don’t select the option to send all of them a generic invitation to connect. Instead, work through your contacts one by one and write a personalized invitation.

Take this opportunity to consider which member s of your network you want to focus on. Once you’re connected, review your contacts’ profiles to gather more intelligence about them – current role, interest, recent activity. Then determine how you can add value to them and review their connections for future relationship-building.

After you’ve expanded your network to include connections you already trust, LinkedIn will better understand the types of people you have as official contacts. In turn, LinkedIn will find more relevant people to suggest to you for building your network through its “People You May Know” feature.

  1. Use discretion before accepting invitation

As your LinkedIn network expands, you’ll likely receive new invitations to connect. Use discretion with these invites, so you’ll be able to better control the quality of your network. A high quality LinkedIn network will serve you much better than a larger, less relevant network.

For example, one big rule is not to accept invitation from people who don’t have a picture associated with their profile, unless you know the person very well or they have a very good reason. You may not want to accept invitations from complete strangers unless a common thread exists. However, it is possible for people to know who you are and want to connect with you without you knowing them. It is perfectly reasonable to sent them a message prior to accepting their to ask them about how they know you and the reason why they want to connect. Based on their response, you can decide whether to accept or not. Likewise, you should always provide a good reason for connecting with others when you send your invitations.

Set up your own discretionary rules for who you’re going to accept invitations from on LinkedIn. It’ll save you time and make for a strategic LinkedIn network.

  1. Leverage unique network

Whether you’re new to LinkedIn or have been developing your network for a while, you’ve likely seen various “clusters,” or groups of connections.

Here are some logical network clusters that summarized by Social Media Examiner to focus on building a smart LinkedIn network:

  • People in the city or town where you live and work
  • Industry connections from current and past work experience
  • Your high school, college or university alumni group
  • People who are members of affinity communities that you belong to
  • Influencers in your community and industry

Your network clusters represent your unique market opportunity. Identify your own network clusters and then dig deeper within each one. View the networks of your connections to find more relevant people to invite to connect. Also, look for opportunities to introduce people you know within a network cluster or between your network clusters.

  1. Use LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn groups are great way to build your network. But do not use LinkedIn groups for the sole purpose of marketing yourself. Use them for discovering and connecting with the people who fit into your smart LinkedIn network.

If you share a group membership with someone, send a personal message saying that you would like to connect with them on LinkedIn and let them know that you’re in the group together.

Do your research to find relevant and high-quality groups based on your personal interests, expertise or the interests of your ideal clients. Utilize them as a gateway for discovering and connecting with relevant people to build a smart network.

  1. Use (advanced) search

With LinkedIn’s recent revamping of its search engine to improve speed and relevance, it can help you strategically expand your network. One of the primary ways that LinkedIn is making search better is by showing results based on your network connections.

Use LinkedIn filters to search by keyword (for example, job titles), location, company, and more. Within your search results, you’ll see how many connections you have in common with each person listed, as well as the identities of those common connections.

LinkedIn Advanced Search is an underutilized tool for discovering great people who logically fit into your LinkedIn network.

It’s who you know that will help you advance your business more than anything else you can do online. So work on it a little each day. The results are definitely worth the time you spend cultivating it.

We all understand the importance of building our network by attending events, conferences. Today, it is important to see the value in leveraging online channels to cultivate relationships and build a brand.