What is a LinkedIn Open Networker (LION) and how to use it for LinkedIn outreach?

9 mins

If you’ve been looking for a way to grow your Linkedin network or improve your outreach and lead generation strategy, you’ve probably come across the term LION and you’re probably wondering what it means.

No, it doesn’t have anything to do with animals. It’s about the concept of Linkedin open networking, which is not new, but maybe you didn’t know there was a name for it.

Whether you want to add LIONs to your network or become one yourself, this article will help you do that. Keep reading to find out how Linkedin open networkers can help you with outreach.

Lion gif

But before we begin…

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What is a LinkedIn open networker (LION)?

Let’s start with the definition. The term LION stands for Linkedin Open Networker, which means a person who wants to expand their Linkedin network and has a high number of connections.

They do so by accepting (most) connection requests, even if they don’t know the person sending the request or have no mutual connections.

The positive side of adding a LION to your network is that they’re unlikely to report your profile as spam or click on “I don’t know this person”. The chances of getting penalized by LinkedIn are minimal.

Another positive aspect is that you get access to their network as well. When you add a LION, chances are you’ll immediately get connection requests from their network.

People with a large network often act as a bridge to connect people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see each other on Linkedin.

As you may know, Linkedin users can have three degrees of connection:

  • 1st connections – your connections, people you’re directly connected with
  • 2nd connections – people that you’re not directly connected with, but your connections are connected with them; 1st-degree connections of your connections
  • 3rd connections -people that are connections of your 2nd-degree connections

Now, this explanation should help you understand the importance of having a LION in your network. Thanks to one LION, you’ll suddenly be able to connect with thousands of other people because they’ll become your 2nd or 3rd-degree connections through them.

And if a LION comments on your post – Bingo! Their connections will see your post in their feed, and you may get likes, comments and requests from other LIONs. LIONs can even make your post go viral!

Some open networkers have the term LION in their profile headline, which makes them easy to distinguish. Some of them may put it in their bio or the About section. However, not all of them have it.

Another way to recognize a LION on Linkedin is to visit their profile and check the number of connections. LIONs will often have up to 20.000 to 30.000 connections.

The pros and cons of LION

You’ll now get an honest review, exploring both the positive and negative sides of being an open networker or having them in your connections.

The good side

The biggest advantage of becoming a Linkedin LION is that your visibility on Linkedin will grow, and more potential clients will get to see you.

As your network quickly grows, so does the reach of your posts and articles. Joining the Linkedin club open networkers means you’ll get more views, likes and comments on your posts, without having to pay for Linkedin ads.

Also, connecting with LIONs will allow you to use Linkedin search more effectively if you’re a recruiter or a business owner.

Did you know that when you do the search you get to see only people that are your 1st, 2nd or 3rd connections, but not those that you’re not connected to in any way (except if you’re both in the same Linkedin group)? Can you imagine how many qualified leads or talents are you missing just because you don’t have a large network?

The bad side

However, you should know that all of that comes with certain risks. Accepting a connection invitation from someone you don’t know puts you at risk of privacy issues and spam.

Your new connections get to see the public info on your profile and the info reserved for your connections. And you never know how they are going to use that data. But, don’t worry, because you’re the one that gets to decide which information to display.

If you want to become a Linkedin open networker, we urge you to remove sensitive information like your phone number or your address from your profile.

You may add the name of your company but not the location. You may add the university you graduated from, but not your graduation year. Things like that.

Unfortunately, you can’t remove your email address from Linkedin, which puts you at risk of spammers. Some of them will just send you junk mail promoting their offers or put you on mailing lists that you never actually subscribed to, but others may try to sell your data to third-party companies.

The best way to protect yourself from spammers and harassers is to filter every connection request. Before you accept a connection request, make sure that their profile seems genuine and that they have a profile picture of themselves.

How to find LIONs in the search

There are three ways to find LIONs on Linkedin. You can either join one of the LION groups or find them in search results or the Linkedin sales navigator.

You can simply open your search bar, type “lion”, and get hundreds of people you can connect to. But if you want to be more intentional with building your network, you can perform an advanced search instead.

You must type the term “lion” and then add a relevant keyword to your industry or job title. For example:

  • marketing lion
  • IT lion
  • healthcare lion

It doesn’t have to be your job title. You maybe want to connect with LIONs from your hometown or your university. In that case, you can search for “Stanford lion” or something similar.

Remember that the goal is to grow a quality network, so make sure that you use some filters when connecting with new people.

If you want to find even more LIONs, here’s the trick. You can do a similar search, but instead of the term lion, use the term “open networker”. The two terms are virtually the same, everything depends on how each open networker prefers to be called.

Another way is to search for people from your industry, but add membership in one of the LION groups as a search criterion.

Finally, the quickest way to meet Linkedin LIONs is to join their community. Groups with the highest number of LIONs are LION™ and Lion500.com where you can meet other networkers.

Start an automated connection campaign to LIONs to warm up your Linkedin profile

By now, you should have a list of LIONs in your industry that you want to connect with. 

Don’t worry, there’s no need to send them connection requests manually. Here’s how Linkedin automation tools like Expandi.io can help you save a lot of time.

The first step is to import a CSV file with the names and profiles of people you’d like to connect with.

Now it’s time to create an automated connection campaign. Here’s how to do it on Expandi.io:

  1. Go to the settings to select the type of campaign and select “connector campaign”.
    Create a new campaign Expandi
  2. Create a new campaign and give it a name so you can distinguish it easily (LION campaign or something like that).
    Name Expandi campaign
  3. Write a short automated message that will accompany your connection requests.
  4. You can also write a follow-up message as well if you want. Don’t forget to set the time when you’d like your follow-up message to be sent.
    Write an automated connector message
  5. Save the campaign.
  6. When you’re ready to run this campaign, you should change the status of the campaign to “ON”
    Activate the campaign in Expandi

There’s one more step before you can start connecting with LIONs. You need to add prospects to the campaign you’ve created. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the Search bar in Expandi.io and start a new search.
    new search Expandi
  2. Click on “Import contacts from CSV”.

    upload the csv file Expandi
  3. Upload a CSV file if you haven’t done it already.
    upload CSV file Expandi
  4. Click on the Search button. The search may last a couple of minutes, depending on your file size.
  5. When it’s finished, select the people you want to send a connection request to and assign them to the campaign you’ve previously created.
    assign selected contacts to campaign Expandi

There you have it! You can now connect to hundreds of people without wasting time sending all those requests one by one.

And if a Linkedin ban is something that’s bothering you, don’t worry. Expandi.io is a cloud-based software that’s completely safe and can’t be detected by the Linkedin algorithm.

Another good thing about this tool is that it allows you to send a connection request followed by a message, and messages drastically increase the chances that people will accept connection requests from you.

Why warm up your LinkedIn profile?

Linkedin is a great online platform for building professional relationships. If you’re not actively building your Linkedin profile, it can start to become a liability to your career.

One of the first things that you need to do is warm up your profile. This means that you need to write some content and add some information. You should also make sure that your profile is set up correctly so that it is easy for people to find and use. You can do this by following the guidelines in your account settings and ensuring that everything is up-to-date.

The next thing you need to do is work on your Linkedin connections, which includes sending messages to people who are connected with you and connecting with new people who might be interested in working with you. Doing this will give you more opportunities, which will help keep your income up.

The list of the LIONS you can use to get more 2nd/3rd degree connections which gives you a greater reach with connection requests

If you’re unsure where to start, here is a list of Linkedin super connectors or people with the LION status that will make Linkedin networking easier.

Keep in mind that the goal is not to add any LION and it would be great to focus on those that are related to the same industry as you. That’s why we tried to include LIONs from different industries and target markets (although most of the people from our list are based in the US).

  1. Stacy Donovan Zapar – With more than 300.000 followers, Stacy is a keynote speaker specializing in talent attraction. She is also a consultant, trainer, and LION you should have in your network if you’re interested in talent acquisition and sourcing.
    Stacy Donovan Zapar LI profile
  2. Ron Bates – Ron Bates is one of the most popular Linkedin LIONs. He’s a leadership coach and a global executive coach. If your ideal clients are people on the executive level, Ron is the person that you should have in your connections.
    Ron Bates LI profile
  3. Gerald Haman – Gerald is the most connected innovator in the world on Linkedin and a go-to person if you want to connect with other innovators. He’s managing 50 Linkedin groups that have more than 1,000,000 members. It’s no wonder that he was recognized as one of the “Most Influential People Online” by FAST Company magazine.
    Gerald Haman LI profile
  4. Shally Steckerl – Shally Steckerl is a talent sourcing and recruiting pioneer in the early stages of the Internet. He’s among the most popular Linkedin influencers and the Godfather of Sourcing.
    Shally Steckerl LI profile
  5. Christian Mayaud – Christian Mayaud is the founder and director of multiple finance companies, including a Venture Capital firm. However, the reason we decided to put him on this list is not only his business success. Christian is one of the founders of the first Linkedin LION group. He became an open networker long before it was popular, so he deserves a special mention.
    Christian Mayaud LI profile
  6. Thomas Power – Thomas Power is an experienced open networker that’s active on multiple platforms, Linkedin included. He posts useful content and engages with his audience daily. He even has his social network website for business leaders, called Ecademy.
    Thomas Power LI profile
  7. Stan Relihan – If you’re interested in the Australian or Asian market and want to expand your network there, Stan Relihan is a go-to person. Based in Australia, he specialized in headhunting and recruiting. He also has the most Linkedin connections in the Asia-Pacific region.
    Stan Relihan LI profile
  8. Neal Schaffer – Neal Schaffer is an author and consultant specializing in influencer marketing. If you’re looking for a social media marketing LION, Neal is the first person to add to your network.
    Neal Schaffer LI profile
  9. Chris Brogan – Chris Brogan is a go-to LION for those interested in e-commerce. His strong network consists of e-commerce professionals; chances are you’ll be able to find new business partners among them.
    Chris Brogan LI profile
  10. Christopher Penn – Christopher Penn is a LION that can connect you with many people who work in data science. He’s also specialized in machine learning, data-driven marketing and analytics.
    Christopher Penn LI profile

Note: This is the updated list of Linkedin LIONS that are active at the moment, in 2022. If you want to search for a similar list online, make sure to check the date when the list was created. Linkedin has been there for two decades and LIONs are not a new thing, although maybe they have been called by other names. Some LIONs that were popular a few years ago are no longer active on Linkedin, so always check their profile before sending them a connection request.

Multiply your efforts

You don’t have to become a Linkedin open networker to get all the benefits. It’s enough to be smart when doing your outreach and multiply your efforts by reaching out to people with a LION status.

Remember that adding one new open networker on Linkedin can bridge networks and connect you with thousands of other people. We can even say that you’re one LION away from your next big opportunity! Use it wisely.



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