LinkedIn Open Networkers (or LIONs) are the rebels of the LinkedIn world.
To preserve the value and integrity of the site, LinkedIn is adamant about making sure people who extend invitations for connections have some form of pre-existing relationship with the contact. Users who randomly invite total strangers to connect with them are penalized with mechanisms that make it harder for them to extend invitations.
But some LinkedIn users vehemently oppose LinkedIn connection philosophy. Instead of limiting their connections to existing relationships (or generational relationships), LIONs believe they should be able to invite connections with as many people as possible. For them, online networking is all about interacting with new people, even total strangers – and they have created some unique strategies to do end-runs around LinkedIn's efforts to shut them down.
If you're concerned that LIONs threaten to overwhelm your inbox with connection invitations, don't worry – you're safe. LIONs have a "pride" mentality; they mainly focus on connecting with one another. When LIONs target average LinkedIn users, the site's protection mechanisms kick in and prevent them from becoming a nuisance.
Is Open Networking Right for Me?
There are a number reasons why a LinkedIn user might become a LION. We've already mentioned the philosophical argument, i.e. that open networking reflects the true nature of social media. However, open networkers also have business-related reasons for pursuing a high number of connections. In their minds, more connections translate into more business opportunities. This approach can be useful for business professionals who sell or represent products with broad appeal and need to generate as many leads as possible. Others just enjoy participating in as many relationships as possible, even if those relationships are shallow or tentative.
How To Become A LION
LIONs communicate their desire to receive invitations from strangers by including the word, "LION" in their description or username so they stand out in searches. Since LinkedIn requires aggressive networkers to know the email address of prospective connections, LIONs post their email address on their profile for everyone to see.
The cardinal sin for LIONs is to click "I don't know this person" when they receive a connection invitation because it triggers LinkedIn's protection mechanisms. Several LION groups have also sprung up to bypass LinkedIn's refusal to identify more than 500 connections on individual profiles. In groups, LIONs share the number of their connections directly with other users.