As a user of LinkedIn, the quality of your connections with other users will, in general, matter more than the quantity. That's the argument made by one of the company's main spokespersons, Krista Canfield, who talked with CIO.com in the wake of our recent article about users of LinkedIn who decide to connect with large numbers of people via the service.
For example, one person we profiled had some 8000 LinkedIn connections. In general, garnering that many connections can be risky, Canfield says.
The more directly you've done business with someone, the stronger the connection will be, making your digital Rolodex that you build on LinkedIn more useful for you and your connections, Canfield argues.
If your social networking modus operandi has been to say yes to LinkedIn connection requests without much deliberation, consider these three reasons why you should be selective about your connections.
1. You Don't Want to Botch Introductions
Often, the way to connect with someone on LinkedIn is getting introduced through your current connections. The way this happens: if you find someone at a company that you really want to connect with, you can get introduced through one of your connections who is already connected with that person. When this happens, the person trying to connect you generally puts a message in an introduction message for the person that you're trying to reach.
As such, if your contact list is littered with people you don't know well, you will frequently be asking for introductions from people whose introduction notes may not come off as a ringing endorsement of you - making the likelihood of your connecting with your intended person much lower. And as the old saying goes, you won't get a second chance to make a first impression.
"If a person is your bridge, they want to trust or know you before they endorse you [in the introduction]," Canfield says.
2. With LinkedIn Connections, Your Rolodex Defines You
Given LinkedIn's default settings, when you connect with someone on LinkedIn, that person will be able to view your connections list. If you don't thoroughly vet your connections, you're chancing the possibility that someone you have connected with (such as a boss or colleague) will see non-credible contacts on your connections list.
What do you really know about that friend of the contact you made at a tradeshow? If the answer is almost nothing, reconsider the connection.
Another reason to vet carefully: You also may open up those trusted connections to be spammed by people that you didn't screen thoroughly.
"Your connection list is a reflection of who you are as a professional," Canfield says. "Being connected with someone you don't know won't give you much credibility with the people you do know and are connected with."
3. At Job-Hunting Time, Meaningful Connections Matter
You may never need LinkedIn more than at times when you need a job. The more meaningful connections you build, the better chance that those people will vouch for you when you're looking to connect with potential employers.
"Especially in an economy like this, you want to have a strong safety net with connections who have a vested interest in what you're doing," Canfield says. "If you lose your job tomorrow, would these people want to help you?"