Years ago when I first joined LinkedIn, I was diligent about only accepting requests to connect from people I knew: friends from high school and college, work colleagues and contacts I had interviewed for articles.
But as time passed and pending requests to connect mounted, I got complacent. Hitting the “Accept” button was a lot easier than discerning whether I knew someone or whether I wanted him or her as part of my network.
At that time, increasing my number of contacts was more important than the quality of my contacts—a bragging point akin to Facebook friends and Twitter followers. I wasn’t taking LinkedIn seriously.
But now, according to the site, I have 328 connections. A third of those, at least, I’ve probably never met nor worked with. But is there really any harm in having a broad, diverse network?
Possibly, according to LinkedIn Connection Director Nicole Williams.
“LinkedIn is about relationships that reflect who you are as a professional,” she says. “You have to be discerning about who’s in your Rolodex. You should be able to call any one of them for an opportunity, ask them legitimate career questions, and have some semblance of a relationship with them.”
Martin Lieberman, who tweeted the message above, echoes Williams’ sentiments. “By connecting [on LinkedIn] I essentially open my Rolodex of connections to you. And if we don’t really know each other, then how am I supposed to vouch for you when you contact someone in my network?” he says. “It lessens my credibility and my reputation.”
But—to complicate things a bit—just because you’ve never met nor worked with a connection doesn’t mean you should automatically deny all requests.
For connections you don’t know personally, Williams says it’s wise to take into account the person’s extended network before clicking the “Ignore” button. “It’s the bird-of-a-feather phenomenon,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll look at someone’s connections to see who they’re connected with, and if they have good connections or we have people in common, they have more value to me.”
And if you’re looking to connect with a person who may not remember you or is someone you’ve never met, Martin recommends adding a message to the invitation suggesting why you should connect or what the connection might be. All very good advice.
I’ve gone through stages of cleaning up my Facebook friends list as my priorities changed: Some classmates from college got the boot while other friends have been moved to a Limited Profile list. That same sort of attention should be placed on your LinkedIn network, too. Review your connections, determine their value and make decisions about who should stay and who should go.
How stringent are you in accepting LinkedIn connections? How do you determine who you do and do not connect with? Let me know in the comments below.