If this site hasn’t made it obvious, I’m a LinkedIn open networker, or LION, as some of us refer to our selves. In layman’s terms I’m willing to connect to anyone. So, you know where I stand on this topic. However, I’m the first to admit what work’s for one, may not work for the other. Side note: that’s what I love about LinkedIn – the culture of people helping each other out to figure out what works. So I’ll try to objectively list the pros and cons of having either a small network of only your trusted and familiar contacts and a much larger network of diverse contacts. Then I’ll shamelessly tell you why I’m such a promiscuous networker.
Small Trusted Network
- It’s a trusted network. You know everyone you’re dealing with. You pretty much know what line of work they’re in and that they’ll probably interact with you in a way that you’re comfortable with.
- Less emails and time dealing with account maintenance. You won’t have to deal with the inevitable invites to join this or that group, read e-book pitches or get notified of the next big thing in the multi level marketing world.
- Network updates are relevant and thus probably more interesting. When you log in to LinkedIn and read about what people in your network are up to on your homepage, you are reading about people you know. When your known associate updates their status about their new job you’ll probably have an emotional connection, whether it’s happiness or envy, versus meaningless text about a stranger taking up space on your homepage.
- Your LinkedIn network is no more powerful as your network in the real world – who you know and who they know. You haven’t really tapped into the resources and opportunities available in a larger network of decision makers.
- You profile, and thus your resume, skills and or services, is found in search results by a limited amount of people.
- Less exposure to any links on your profile = less hits to your website or blog
Large Open Network
- Outstanding search engine benefits. People pay big money to get visitors to their sites. If you have a website or blog you want people to visit, a well worded LinkedIn profile will bring in a lot of traffic. The more people you are connected with, the more people will be able to find you. This is a great start when you don’t have a budget for marketing.
- You are more likely to be able to reach out to the people you want to communicate with. A larger network means you have a much larger chance of having a mutual connection to your targeted decision who you want to be introduced to.
- Interacting (not just connecting) with relative strangers is much more likely to lead to referrals, whether it be job opportunities or potential clients. That works both ways. I can personally attest to getting both job opportunities and web design clients in addition to helping others find such opportunities through, all through relative strangers whom I connected with on LinkedIn.
People with more than twenty connections are thirty-four times more likely to be approached with a job opportunity than people with less than five. – Guy Kawasaki, entrepreneur and business legend.
- The larger the network the more irrelevant emails you will receive both within your LinkedIn account and in the email account you use set as your main LinkedIn email address. These are basically the equivalent of cold calls advertising all kinds of things. Within LinkedIn, you will get invites to groups you probably have no interest in joining. With 5200 connection I get about five emails a day that I waste time opening, subsequently deleting and unsubscribing from a list.
- Mixing your trusted connections with strangers requires special attention. I’ve gotten introduction requests from strangers whom I connected with trying to connect with one of my connections who, more often than not, is a former boss of a boss. While I am somehow O.K. with trying to help a friend of a friend connect with the busy person of power, I feel a bit awkward doing the same for a total stranger. Either way the person I’m helping is a stranger. Opening up of your network however, leads to more of these requests and I’m pretty sure some of my connections aren’t as welcome to random inquiries as I am and may think less of our own connection. If not managed well, your open network may be turning your known contact’s into an open network whether they wanted one or not.
Now here’s my take:
LinkedIn is a professional networking tool. O.K, it’s actually a professional social network. Just like networking in the non virtual, traditional business world outside, the more people you come in contact with or network the better your odds are of succeeding in your professional agenda. Of course it’s not all about the numbers game. We’re not talking just sales here. I don’t want to sales bash as there are a lot of truly professional sales people out there. You never know who knows who and whose contact is looking for X, where X may very well be the skills on your resume, your particular services or an opportunity that your friend is perfect for. Sometimes networking is most enjoyable when you’re simply helping.
With the professional nature of LinkedIn, why wouldn’t you conduct yourself like you would in any business setting – professional, courteous and and eager to pass on your business card. LinkedIn is an entirely different animal from other well known social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Facebook traditionally is the place to be private with trusted connections (a.k.a your friends). Twitter seems to be a mix of social and business interactions. Given Twitter’s public nature, I try to keep my activities there focused on business but with a personality. “Try” being the operative word. Since the most common reasons why people join LinkedIn to begin with (online reputation management, job seeking, service offering and powerful search engine benefits), not having an open profile and mindset towards connection building seems totally counter-intuitive to me. Of course, that’s just my highly subjective opinion.
If you do decide to go the route of the larger network, check out the resources page for both free and relatively inexpensive ways to grow your network. If you don’t decide to go the with an open network, you’re always invited to connect with me. From one connection, you’ll get 5000+ sceond degree connections and over a million and a half third degree connections. My email address is paul at linkedinguy dot com
I have now assumed a more passive stance towards open networking. While I still accept invitations from anyone willing to connect with me, I no longer actively seek to grow my network for just for the goal of increasing my connections. My current number of connections (5300) includes most of the supper connectors on LinkedIn. Through them alone, most people I could want to connect with usually are a degree or two away – thus somewhat approachable within my larger global network. To keep growing my network in mass amounts just isn’t worth my time – pursuing them, wasting my invites and dealing with the spammy few among them. I am already removing connections after repeated offenses – people that advertise the same thing over and over or send me to a site I can’t close out of without a browser reset (arggh).