Are people with thousands of LinkedIn connections a valuable resource for you and your company, or do you think they just sit atop their pile of connections as if it's an indication of their popularity?
There is an ongoing debate out there right now in the world of LinkedIn, and that is: how many connections can you have? The short answer: LinkedIn limits you to 30,000 connections.
The question came up when I was trolling through the "Answers" area of LinkedIn the other day, when I found somebody who posed the question, "Why is it OK for Twitter members to have hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of followers... but not so for Linkedin members?" I responded, in short, that I didn't feel the two social media networks could be compared, and that thousands or hundreds of thousands of people with whom I connect on Twitter aren't necessarily "quality" connections or people I know for that matter.
It's not to say the people on Twitter aren't nice people -- it's just that I don't know all of them. I might take an interest in them. But I don't know all of them.
To me, LinkedIn is about being able to demonstrate the quality connections you have within your network. To some extent, LinkedIn tries to enforce this through the restrictions it places on its members. I suppose it's technically possible to run the site with more lenient restrictions, but I think for the folks that run LinkedIn it boils down to one simple thought:
"Relationships Matter," in fact, is their motto. Mantra. Modus Operandi. I may be old fashioned, but the people arguing that there shouldn't be any restriction on the number of people with which you connect have forgotten that there's something to be said about the personal connections you make every day.
Twitter is a lot about getting your name out there and making connections with people. So is Facebook, through fan pages and your own personal pages. It's usually about getting people's eyes on you and on your brand, and exposing them to different aspects of your life to which they'd normally be oblivious. In business, it softens your corporate image and helps you to connect to your customers as a person and not just as an entity.
LinkedIn I see as more of a credibility builder; an opportunity to be a gateway for people who need each other. For nearly everybody on my LinkedIn network, I can say something about them.
I went to school with John, great person. I did a project with Jane, she's got a great eye for design!
I am not and will never be comfortable making a recommendation on someone I only know because they requested to join my network. I am not only putting their reputation on the line by recommending them, but I am more so putting my reputation on the line.
Neal Schaffer, an avid LinkedIn user, argues that the company shouldn't be making that kind of a restriction on its users, because people will become more cautious about people with whom they might only do business virtually.
I can understand if this pops you up to thousands of people. But 30,000? Really? What kind of meaningful thing can you say about 30,000 people in your network? More importantly, why do you want to connect with me? Unless I'm your close, personal friend, in such a diluted network how do I stand out?
Perhaps, as I mentioned earlier in my post, I'm old fashioned. With a little over 200 people in my network, I'm probably laughable to Neal and several other people out there who feel that growing that list of connections is the most important thing in LinkedIn. But to me, the relationship does matter, and the strength of your word is increased by your ability to speak intelligently and honestly about the people who are connected with you.
What do you think? Please enter your thoughts below and convince me that connecting with as many people as possible on LinkedIn is a good idea!