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How Big Is Too Big? December 15, 2008

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Networking.
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I’ve been using LinkedIn for a long time, at least six or seven years.  In that time, I’ve accumulated 270 links in my network.  In all but a few cases, I know each person, why I linked to them, and what relationship I currently have with them.  Certainly, some links are stronger and more robust than others, but they all were created from an initial meeting of some sort that justified the connection.

Some people are compelled to collect links and compete to see who has the most.  Some of these people even include their link counts in their LinkedIn account names, as a sort of badge of honor.  I’ll confess: I do not understand this behavior, beyond some natural desire to compete and win at something.  Certainly, the network that results from this kind of link-hunting is effectively useless.

Network connections have value because you leverage the trust relationship for a mutual benefit.  That might be some advice, or a job reference, or a quick answer to a question.  You know to whom to turn in your network because you actually know these people and know what they can offer.  My recent post on “knowing who knows” expands on this.

When requests are sent to me through my network, I know that I can trust them and deal with them with some level of confidence.  The original goal of LinkedIn was to replicate the traditional face-to-face business network with its semi-formal model of introductions and references.  That whole practice only works when knowledge and trust is part of the network.  If you don’t know the person at the other end of the connection, the interaction is worthless.

I routinely ignore requests to connect with people I don’t know.  No offense intended, but my network is valuable to me.  That value is diluted when anonymous connections begin to accumulate.  Honestly, my rejection improves the quality of the requestor’s network for the same reason: if they don’t know me, why would they want to trust me?

I feel sorry for those link hunters that you see on LinkedIn.  Their network is worthless, and everyone else (except for the other link hunters) knows it.

There is far more value in a small, carefully maintained network than in a large, unkempt one.  Guard your network closely and grow it carefully.  You’ll reap the benefits for years to come, and its value will grow immensely over time.

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Comments»

1. Laurel - December 15, 2008

I’m always curious so I joined the Global Open Network on linkedin, and immediately got quite a few people requesting to link with me. Perhaps I will ask them what they want to do for me.

2. Chuck Musciano - December 15, 2008

Not a bad idea… I’d be interested to hear what they say, and what value they will bring to the relationship.

3. Marc Sirkin - December 15, 2008

I have found zero value in the open groups on LinkedIn so far… that may be because I’ve built a large and personal network of my own though. I give LinkedIn high marks in many areas but the spam and open groups aren’t one of them. I’m willing to be wrong on this though!

4. Sherry - December 19, 2008

I’m a Linkedin purist, too, and I intend to keep it that way. In fact, I recently “removed” some connections that I only marginally knew and couldn’t wholeheartedly recommend. I’m not sure what happens on the other end (do they get an email letting them know they were removed? Ouch!) or does it simply set up a one-way connection (they’re connected to me but I’m not connected to them)? In either case, I make no apologies. Without some personal responsibility for the quality of the connections, the whole point of Linkedin becomes useless in the end.

Chuck Musciano - December 19, 2008

Sherry, I completely agree. Networks are most valuable when we maintain and prune them.


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