There are many resources on the web for finding people to follow on Twitter. Just do a search for any particular type of person you want to follow (student entrepreneurs? job seeker advice? etc.) and chances are you will find a list. But why none for LinkedIn? Well, just as I have been the first to write on other things LinkedIn-related, I think it is important to introduce people on LinkedIn that I think you should invite and/or connect up with. These people are either LinkedIn LIONs or “Super Connectors”, people with lots of connections that are open to receiving new invites as well as helping people connect and pay it forward.
The importance of connecting with LinkedIn LIONs and Super Connectors on LinkedIn cannot be understated.
LinkedIn LIONs help you build out the virtual network that you will need for LinkedIn networking, and it also improves your visibility when searching for others as well as when they search for you.
Now, I do need to point out that LinkedIn caps the number of connections you can have at 30,000. So those LinkedIn LIONs listed below that have over 30,000 connections can receive your invite but cannot accept it. I still think it is worth sending an invite with an introductory paragraph about yourself in the hopes that someday this limit will be lifted and they will be able to accept your invitation.
As a final disclaimer, I am personally connected to all of these people but when I originally wrote this post I had yet to meet any of these LinkedIn LIONs. That being said, I have had various communications with each of the people I recommend either directly or indirectly, and over time have had the chance to personally meet in person 4 of these LinkedIn LIONS! When you send them your invite let them know that Neal Schaffer sent ‘ya ;-)
(guide: LinkedIn LIONs Name – Worldwide Ranking – # of Connections – Location)
Ron Bates – #1 – 41,000+ Connections (San Francisco)
Ron Bates is a retained executive search expert and is also the most connected person on LinkedIn. Perhaps it is his proximity to LinkedIn headquarters in the Bay Area that helped him along the way, but Ron is a great person who I happened to hear speak on a free webinar for executive job seekers several months ago. Intelligent and passionate, if your company is looking for a retained executive recruiter or if you are an executive looking for guidance, Ron is your man to connect with.
Steven Burda – #4 – 37,000+ Connections (Philadelphia)
Steven is currently employed at The Boeing Company in a financial analysis and management role. But he is better known for being the “Mother Teresa of Networking.” Some people love him, others hate him, but I can tell you from my personal experience that Steven is the ultimate pay-it-forward Windmill Networker. He has been featured in the press of saying controversial things about LinkedIn’s practices and limitations, but like myself, I can not think of anyone else out there who evangelizes LinkedIn more than Steven does. And, if you don’t believe me, look at the 2,000+ recommendations he has from real people that have been touched by him. Please reach out to him and experience the warmth of his connection yourself. If you think that Steven can ever help you, ask him, as I am sure that he will take the time out of his busy schedule to listen and lend a helping hand ;-) There are many who rant against LinkedIn LIONs, but if you were to have a conversation with Steven you would see a completely different side of the picture…
Marc Freedman – #5 – 31,000+ Connections (Dallas)
I have never met Marc but I have heard the fascinating interview he had on Stan Relihan’s Connections Show. Some of you who have been around on LinkedIn hopefully remember the original MyLink500.com database, which allowed us all to openly add our information to a huge database of LinkedIn users for the purpose of open networking (this has now been moved to http://mylinknetwork.com). Marc is also the founder of the Dallas Blue LinkedIn Group, which has over 25,000 members and has traditionally been one of the largest LinkedIn Groups. And if that wasn’t enough he also created the excellent MyLinkWiki which contains loads of documentation about LinkedIn. The amazing thing is that this is someone who apparently had his 20,000+ connections LinkedIn account removed for “spamming” (he was trying to raise money for charity) and then rebuilt it from scratch to be the #5 most connected person on LinkedIn today! Amazing!
Stacy Donovan Zapar – #9 – 29,000+ Connections (San Diego)
Stacy is located just an hour away from me in sunny San Diego and yet we have never had a chance to meet. She is in the recruiting industry, but more importantly she brands herself as a “Pay It Forward Open Networker”, a fundamental characteristic of Windmill Networking. I have recommended friends in San Diego who were in transition to contact her, and she has answered every one of their emails and phone calls. Stacy, I hope to meet you some day!
Shally Steckerl – #13 – 28,000+ Connections (Atlanta)
Shally is a leading recruitment speaker and consultant, and he is also Chief Cyber Sleuth of what used to be called The Job Machine and is now called Arbita. I subscribe to his newsletters because he truly is a pioneer in using the Internet to source for candidates. If you are in transition, doesn’t it interest you to see how recruiters “source” or find you on the Internet? Reading the announcements of the webinars that he does for recruiters blows my mind. Definitely on the leading edge of understanding social media for recruiting and a must person to connect with.
Christian Mayaud – #26 – 24,000+ Connections (New York City)
Christian is the founder of a Venture Capital firm. But more importantly, he is the founder of the original Linkedin LIONs Group. What else can I add? He is the grandfather of the LinkedIn Open Networking movement. Please pay him your respect.
Thomas Power – #27 – 23,000+ Connections (United Kingdom)
Thomas is the Chairman of Ecademy, one of the premier social networking sites for business people with 500,000+ members worldwide. I have exchanged some tweets with Thomas on Twitter, but it is the power of Ecademy that makes his connection so valuable. I once met an entrepreneur from New Zealand in Japan who was on a several week tour of Asia looking for partners. He was able to attain all of his appointments and meet many people solely through networking on Ecademy! Ecademy is a place where there is some serious Windmill Networking occurring, and Thomas is at the helm. Please connect with him and check out Ecademy as well.
Barack Obama – #28 – 23,000+ Connections (Washington D.C.)
That’s right, President Obama, the first President of the Social Media era has a presence on LinkedIn. He doesn’t seem to be very active on LinkedIn, but you have to admit he has a busy job. Will he answer your messages? Probably not. But wouldn’t it be cool to have the President as your connection? I thought so. Heck, I even wrote a blog post last year regarding how to connect with Barack Obama. Let me know if that address doesn’t work anymore, OK?
Stan Relihan – #30 – 22,000+ Connections (Sydney, Australia)
It was a sad day when I heard that Stan was no longer going to be doing his Connections Show podcast. This is someone who I got to know through my ipod and his frequent podcast, and I truly have learned a lot about social networking, Web 2.0, and LinkedIn from him. Stan, by the way, is a headhunter and is Asia-Pacific’s most connected person. Whenever I meet someone from Sydney, I always ask if they have ever met Stan, and I always get the “Yes!” answer. He is a great guy who completely understands the value of Windmill Networking…I do hope to have a chance to meet him someday!
Neal Schaffer – #60 – 16,000+ Connections (Orange County)
OK. We are probably already connected, but just in case ;-)
Some time after publishing the above post I added 10 more LinkedIn LIONs I recommend you connect with, so here they are!
Note that the following LinkedIn LIONs are all based in the United States and industry stats are based on U.S. rankings as of the time writing this post:
1. Gerald Haman – #9 – in United States
Gerald is better known as the “Solutionman” on LinkedIn as well as the creator of tens of “Innovator” LinkedIn Groups, including his largest “Innovative Marketing, PR, Sales, Word-of-Mouth & Buzz Innovators” which has over 100,000 members and is at present the 14th largest group on LinkedIn. Gerald is also an adjunct professor of innovation at Northwestern University, but he is most famous for the company he founded called SolutionPeople. He is recognized by clients as “Solutionman” because of his ability to quickly help people develop breakthrough solutions. Since launching SolutionPeople in 1989, Haman has helped clients generate more than three million ideas valued at over two billion dollars. SolutionPeople has helped over 160 of the Fortune 500 companies and customers in 26 countries. One person I’d love to have a chat with someday at a Starbucks…
2. Thubten Comerford – #65 in United States
Thubten is someone that I am proud to say I had a chance to meet last year in Portland, Oregon. Someone who has deep spiritual experience (his past experience includes being an ordained monk for a Tibetan temple) as he does a successful track record in business, Thubten is one of the most genuinely nice and caring individuals you will be lucky to meet. A social media consultant, he is one of the LinkedIn LIONs you should definitely check out should you have a chance to get to Portland.
3. Gary Zukowski – #78 in United States
Another top connector who I have had the chance to meet is Gary Zukowski. We both presented at the Gov 2.5 conference put on Bob Fine, who’s social media case studies book I contributed to. I had a chance to hear the whole history of Gary’s company, TweetMyJOBS, came into existence as well as how Gary himself is personally trying to help so many through their job search by paying it forward in a variety of ways. TweetMyJOBS, by the way, is the largest Job Board and Recruiting Solution on Twitter. With worldwide presence, it is said to be the most effective solution to reach candidates in the twittersphere. Connect with Gary, then check out his website.
4. Chris Brogan – #19 in Marketing and Advertising
Chris and I seem to always miss each other, because whenever he’s in Orange County I’m out of town! I assume that you already know who Chris Brogan is, so I believe no introduction is necessary. Although I haven’t had a chance to engage with Chris on LinkedIn, I have had the chance to tweet with him a few times where he clearly pointed out that he was a “promiscuous connector” on LinkedIn. After reading a lot of Chris’ blog posts on LinkedIn, I think he is a closet Windmill Networker ;-) Regardless, Chris is a genuinely intelligent and awesome open networker who you would be foolish not to want to be part of you network. Chris, that offer to send you my book is still on, by the way ;-)
5. Chris Perry – #32 in Marketing and Advertising
Career Rocketeer is one of the leading personal branding and job search blogs that exist. The site was founded and run by Chris Perry, and Chris is one of the brightest Gen Y branding strategists out there. Connect up with Chris and check out his website for the latest career tips. I personally look forward to meeting him for the first time next time I am in the Big Apple.
6. Olivier Taupin – #6 in Internet
Linked:HR is the largest of the more than 850,000 LinkedIn Groups that exist, boasting a membership of over 350,000 professionals. If you have ever created your own social media community, you can only imagine that this was not an easy task. I have never had the chance to meet or speak to Olivier, but I plan to be in Seattle this summer and hope to have the chance to have a cup of java with him at Pike’s Place Square and absorb his knowledge.
7. Christopher Penn – #44 in Internet
I have never met Christopher in real life but feel like I have already had lots of conversations with him through his newsletters. Chris Brogan recently wrote a blog post on newsletters that he’d pay for, and Christopher’s was one of them. His newsletter also influenced the recent revamping of my own which earned me my highest click-through rate ever! If you haven’t joined my own social media strategy newsletter you should, but more importantly you HAVE to join Christopher’s newsletter, which covers advice on all things marketing and social media, if you are a reader of this blog. Christopher’s a true open networker who even goes out of his way on each newsletter to include the following text:
As always, if we’re connected on LinkedIn, I will gladly forward any job connection request to anyone else in my network that I can help you reach.
I haven’t met Christopher yet, but seeing how popular of a speaker he is, I’m sure I’ll be meeting him sometime soon somewhere in the near future…
8. Jay Deragon – #34 in Online Media
The name Jay Deragon might seem familiar to you if you remember my post on 10 new social medial bloggers to follow in 2011 which mentioned him. He reached out to me for the first time after publishing that post, and I realized that Jay is on a mission to change the way we all fly with an exciting new venture called Social Flights. I won’t go into details here, but Jay is an incredibly intelligent, savvy and thought-leading social media strategist who I highly recommend you connect with as well.
9. Vincent Wright – #80 in Online Media
Early in LinkedIn history, there was a powerful Yahoo Group community created for professionals on LinkedIn who wanted to engage in active open networking called My LinkedIn Power Forum. That strong community still exists and is now called Brandergy, but even more vibrant is the founder of the group Vincent Wright. Vincent is someone who has personally touched the lives of many networkers in a positive way, and when I reached out to him recently knowing that I was going to be in his home base of Hartford, CT, he responded to me as if we had known each other for years even though we have never met. Vincent reminds me of how real the people are behind so many LinkedIn profiles…
10. Miles Austin -#32 in Professional Training & Coaching
Although Miles and I have never met, a discussion in a LinkedIn Group prompted a phone call from him as if we were childhood friends. This gave us the opportunity to get to know each other, and allowed me the opportunity to understand how Miles is helping so many businesses through his consulting and speaking with effectively maximizing their use of web tools (his nickname is “The Web Tools Guy”), one of them being social media. In fact, Miles is recognized as one of the leading authorities on web tools for sales and marketing success. Miles is for real and is a great example of an open networker who is both intelligent and understands the value of being open and connecting with others.
The minute I post this, some of you are going to start recommending other LinkedIn LIONs & Super Connectors that did not make my list. I welcome all suggestions! If you want to be on this LinkedIn LIONs list, I do plan to post updates, so please, connect and communicate with me! I look forward to hearing from you.
Happy Networking Everyone!
Note: It has been brought up to my attention that Barack Obama is no longer open to receiving invitations…
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