LION, in the LinkedIn world, stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. LIONs are basically open to networking with people that they have never met before, and they can help you be successful on the site because they bridge networks of closed people by finding a potential connection that would have gone ignored otherwise.
Open networkers are unique to LinkedIn because of the degree of connections system that it has.
If we all follow the standard rule of this social network and say “I Don’t Know” for all of the invites that we receive from someone who we have never personally met, it would be hard for closed networks to grow into each other and evolve into the great networking community that LinkedIn is today.
So LIONs, in general, accept invites from anyone or at least will not give you the dreaded “I Don’t Know” as a response to your LinkedIn invitation. With this in mind, it is relatively risk-free to invite a LION that you found in an Advanced Search into your network if you are looking into how to get more LinkedIn connections.
How Does Being an Open Networker Work?
Understanding the history of LIONs will help you understanding what being an open networker means.
I believe the term “LION” was first coined by the gentleman that began a networking group called the Lions’ Lair at The Meta Network (now defunct), Christian Mayaud, who is a top networker himself and to this day includes LION as part of his profile headline.
That being said, there is no authority that governs LinkedIn (other than LinkedIn itself, obviously), and thus if a LION (someone who puts LION in their profile on their headline, for instance) responds to an invite with an “IDK”, they are not penalized. You are.
I have received IDKs from “LIONs” who put the term next to their name on their headline. I even wrote them with a Wikipedia definition of what LION means (note: Wikipedia has since deleted said page) and asked them to invite me into their network to cancel out their “mistake”, but it was to no avail.
In conclusion, while it is relatively safe to invite a LION into your network, there is no guarantee that you will not receive an IDK each time you do. That is why it is important to review every LION’s profile and contact details to confirm whether or not they really do welcome your invite or not.
What is LinkedIn’s Policy on Open Networkers?
“Does LinkedIn discourage LIONs?” is a question I have received from many over the years.
LinkedIn apparently _originally_ did not like LIONs, and that is why they only display up to 500 connections per person, as well as limit the number of invitations that you can send out. I believe that they wanted to keep a community of professionals which would be full of high quality, trustworthy networks without people getting spammed.
I think that some people who just wanted to connect with everyone in the early days or perhaps some spammers may have ruined this for others, but I don’t know. LinkedIn wants people to know each other when they connect, and that is why they give you an option to send a seemingly innocent “I Don’t Know” as a way to turn down an invite from other users.
Over the years LinkedIn has allowed LION groups to exist, so they have taken a more neutral stance. In fact, the ability to search for LION groups in the groups section has made it easier to join LION groups. However, they still place limitations on those who have a large following and send out lots of invites over a short period of time.
So, in the end, I would say that LinkedIn originally discouraged users from sending out large numbers of invitations from people they do not know, but now they are more neutral towards LIONs.
How the Open Networker Movement Has Evolved
Since I originally wrote post, the LION movement, and LinkedIn, have changed quite a bit, to the point where many Internet Marketers and for-profit users simply see becoming a LION as an easy way to acquire email addresses to either sell or to opt you in to mailing lists you did not actually agree to subscribe to.
Because of this, and other ways of engaging openly in social media with others that have evolved over the years, I am no longer representing myself as a LinkedIn LION. In fact, I believe that the movement has become synonymous with a lot of spam and have even called for the end of the LinkedIn LION movement.
That being said, in the spirit of open networking, should you 1) personalize your invitation to me and 2) explain your purpose for connecting, I will most likely accept your invite (click here for my profile).
This is actually a best practice for inviting anyone with whom you are not familiar or closely tied.
Being a LinkedIn LION Today
Because being a LION has become something of a casting call for spam as mentioned above, you may want to opt out of being a LION at this time.
Although being a LION was once considered the most efficient way to connect with other networkers who wanted to improve their connections through honest means, expanding the number of people you connect with on the site can be accomplished by other means, including joining groups, and developing a network with people in your immediate circles and through in-person meet ups and groups.
Recruiting efforts from LinkedIn spam can be frustrating, and can actually stymy your attempts to grow your network. Instead of using the term “LION” in your information, consider expressing your interest in connecting in another way, such as indicating that you are open to exchanging information and connecting with people who are nearby you, in the same industry as you, or by some other criteria that best suits you and your needs.
Are YOU a LION now or were at any point in time? What has your experience been with the open networking movement? Please chime in in the comments below!
Hero photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash