• Josie Hadley

How LinkedIn is just like BNI

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

There is a lot of synergy between your online and offline networking which is quite simple when you think about it. So I’m going to use the Core Values of BNI to show the similarity between the two mediums and show you how LinkedIn is just like BNI – and how you should approach it just like networking! There is particular emphasis in this blog too on what you can do during the Coronavirus too.

Givers Gain®

Givers Gain is the underlying philosophy of BNI. We exemplify that by giving business to others; you will get business in return

Within BNI this is a huge mindset and for many people, who aren’t members, they don’t always understand this simple concept which is why they may not succeed in BNI. The theory of reciprocity means that people reward kind actions and punish unkind ones. We all have a reciprocity style – Givers, Takers and Matchers.

So, applying this to LinkedIn, how are you with your connections? Do you send them a sales message straight after connecting without getting to know them first (Takers) or do you like to Match and build a relationship where you can; helping them consciously hoping that they will remember that kindness and want to repay it. Or are you a Giver and help without strings attached because you can and want nothing (not even recognition) in return? We may consciously or unconsciously flit between these styles depending on who the person is, what our marketing strategies are and our aims and objectives. However, on the whole, we should aim to be Matchers and Givers. The Takers of the world will always bemoan how useless LinkedIn and networking is without having the emotional intelligence to realise that it may actually be them and not the 675 million people on LinkedIn or the 255,000 BNI members worldwide (as at April 2020).

Traditions + Innovation

Tradition in an organization tells us where we come from and lays the foundation of who we are, but we must always be looking for ways to innovate.

Every BNI meeting – across the world - follows exactly the same agenda which forms part of its traditions. The Coronavirus crisis has clearly demonstrated how BNI can innovate and adapt its worldwide structure by taking all meetings online within a matter of days.

LinkedIn also has its own traditions in so much that everyone has exactly the same profile and access to a business page to showcase the work they do and what they are doing during this crisis. Conversations can still take place and profiles are active so utilise this ability while you may be working from home and able to take advantage of quieter times. The use of LinkedIn has decreased during the pandemic; however, this is where you may be able to take advantage - get your message heard and make new connections while others aren't.

Building Relationships

Networking is more about farming connections with new contacts than hunting for them. People want to do business with people they know and trust. It’s about cultivating those relationships.

When we meet people, we inherently want to be liked by them and find a common connection. The Stereotype Content Model is a theory that people judge us based on our warmth and competence and this applies to both the real and digital world. So if we thrust a business card in their hand and expect our new connection to buy from us straight away then we won’t get very far. We have to build up a relationship and use the BNI mantra of ‘Like, Know, Trust’ – we have to like someone first, get to know them and then trust them enough to refer to our connections and clients.

This principle is magnified on LinkedIn as we don’t have the use of our other innate abilities such as reading body language, being in the right frame of mind (we wouldn’t go to a BNI meeting in bad mood but we can dip into LinkedIn at anytime and may not be always be receptive) or having a trusted member to give us a warm endorsement. So, if the first touch point is a badly spelt, is an aggressive sales pitch or is based on wrong assumptions, then we are automatically on the defensive and won’t want to build a relationship.

During this lockdown, review how you are building relationships online – are you copying and pasting a hard sales message or are you ‘farming’ and building relationships over time?

The following image was sent to my Direct Message from a LinkedIn 'expert' without any prior research into my profile or . My reply was quite 'direct'... (Please note the over use of the word "I" and the misspelling of LinkedIn).


It’s important to recognize those who are contributing.

Recognition comes in various guises in BNI – recording a ‘Thank You For the Business’ or passing a Testimonial mean a lot to those members. On LinkedIn you can do the same by sharing Endorsements to people who you want to recognise. This could be part of the way you can build relationships and be a ‘nod’ to Givers Gain®. This shows again how LinkedIn is just like BNI - consider who you have worked with recently and (after making sure you are connected as it does happen!) give them an endorsement and hopefully, under the theory of reciprocity, they may do the same for you.


If you would like to read of 5 LinkedIn Tips to get a Great Personal Profile, please pop over to a previous blog here.


Lifelong Learning

We believe in the continuous improvement of personal and professional skills. BNI provides a variety of opportunities to support lifelong learning.

Members have anecdotally said that they have grown on a personal level with BNI – whether that is their confidence and self belief, their business acumen or their soft skills – which is a fantastic benefit not only to them but their business as a secondary benefit of their BNI membership.

Through LinkedIn, you can also develop your skills and during the Coronavirus, LinkedIn have reported that "In the first week of April, people watched 1.7M hours of learning content on LinkedIn Learning vs. 560K hours in the first week of January -- a 3X increase in time spent learning."

The fact that these courses are also free has made a huge difference and is something to take advantage of at this time.

Positive Attitude

BNI provides an environment that enables you to surround yourself with people who want to help you succeed.

BNI members want their fellow members to succeed and it can make a huge difference to a member when they need support. It may be that they need some legal advice or a quick chat about a social media issue which they can have – free of charge – during a meeting. We give our expertise and support willingly to help grow the success of each other’s businesses.

So during Lockdown, take a look at what people are asking for on LinkedIn and is there anyway you can help them succeed. Is there a grant you know they can access? Is there a contact you know who could help them? Develop a reputation of helping others and they will then surround you with people who want to do the same - again another demonstration of how LinkedIn is just like BNI.


If you want to have a powerful personal network, you must have accountability. Otherwise, it becomes a social group.

There are certain rules which BNI members must abide by – attending every week or sending a sub, doing ‘check backs’ to ensure that they are fully committing not only during the meeting takes place but with referrals too and bringing along visitors. Without this level of accountability, fellow members will not feel confident in that persons ability to fulfil referrals (if they don’t turn up to meetings then how can we be confident they will turn up to a client) and each member cannot track their Return on Marketing Investment.

On LinkedIn you are accountable for your own reputation to your network. Are you creating a network of people who you can call on at any time? Are you confident enough to be answerable for the things you say and the opinions you share? Are you sharing on a regular basis and developing a reputation of being knowledgeable in your field of expertise?

As you can see, the principles of attending a BNI meeting (or any networking event), also apply to LinkedIn. By remembering these at all times, your LinkedIn presence and use will develop grow and you will reap the rewards.

If you would like to attend a BNI meeting (they are free and online during the lockdown), please call Josie on 07534 268664 to book on.