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It’s the biggest split in philosophies on the LinkedIn site – MEGA connectors versus those that selectively connect.

Both promise better use of the site, and the arguments can get heated – but who’s right?

I’ll tell you why you should connect to people you know and trust…

The math majors reading this will all know about graph theory with nodes and connections. The social theorists will talk about weak versus strong links.

Everyone will agree that a larger network offers more opportunities than a smaller network.

The question then, is will a large network of weak connections work better than a smaller network of strong connections?

When will numbers win out?

So what’s the “purpose” of your network? Are you looking to reach a large crowd, or the right individual?

Recruiters often use LinkedIn to scan a large crowd for a few individuals – for them, numbers are key.

Business people often use LinkedIn to make the right connection, and so numbers are less important than making a great first impression – through an introduction.

Most people are concerned with their safety and don’t want to compromise it.

Somewhere in the middle

The typical LinkedIn use is somewhere in the middle, and often less interested in spending time with strangers.

They’re closer to the business person than the recruiter though – their next job is more likely to come through the circle of people they know, trust, and work with but they wouldn’t want to rule out contact from a recruiter for a perfect opportunity.

Treating people like VIPs

People like being treated like VIPs, and your circle of connections is no different.

If you’d like them to respond to you, endorse you, and introduce you, you’ve got to be willing to do the same for them – and treat them with the utmost of respect and care.

Throwing them to the wolves doesn’t cut it.

Connecting to people you have absolutely no relationship with is like inviting random people to your cocktail party. It’s true, you might happen to bring in someone that will truly create an event. But it’s much more likely that among the hundreds of people you invite, you’ll be apologizing for the one boar that displayed bad manners, offended your guests, and made a mess.

And that’s not protecting your VIPs

Meaningful relationships

You don’t have to connect on LinkedIn to build a relationship, and I’ll write on this more in the future.

Saying that I’m not willing to connect with an individual until we have established a relationship is really saying that I value those relationships.

I’m also just as open about meeting and establishing new relationships – that’s just good networking.

Avoiding issues

One last thing to mention about connecting to people you know. Because much of my material is read by new LinkedIn users, it is meant to protect and develop a good LinkedIn experience.

If you’re a LinkedIn pro and you find good results connecting at random – more power to you. Until you’re a seasoned veteran though, my suggestion is to continue to connect to people you know and trust.

If you don’t connect to people that you don’t know, you won’t:

  • Deal with a connection mis-representing themselves to your other connections
  • Be inundated with requests from strangers to contact your VIPs
  • Get asked to write recommendations for people you don’t know
  • Need to disconnect from connections to get a “manageable sized network”
  • Wonder why there’s so much noise compared to signal with LinkedIn

(All things I’ve heard from people using an open connection philosophy)

Me – I’m quite happy building and working with a network of people I trust. That’s my story and it’s working quite well for me;-)

What’s important to you?

steve