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LinkedIn is taking a bit of heat lately for limiting group membership, and while it may appear heavy handed, I’ve got an opinion on why it is practical.

A viable strategy can work only if it remains viable if everyone follows it.

That goes for connection strategy as well as group membership…

Joining every group

It seems impractical, but I’ve seen some members with huge group memberships – it looks as if there is no group that they wouldn’t want to join, interest or not.

So it seems very unlikely to me that these people have a real interest in the groups that they are members of, but really intend to join groups as a means of reaching people.

Ok – so what’s the limit?

If LinkedIn didn’t impose one, I’m certain that they would continue to add groups to their profile until there were no more groups left to add.

Connect to every user

It seems just as impractical, but consider the user that adds every available connection. There are no limits on their appetite for connecting.

Again – it seems very unlikely to me that these people have a real interest in the people that they are connecting to, they just like their sphere of connections to expand.

Ok – so what’s the limit? (again)

If LinkedIn didn’t impose one, I’m certain that they would continue to connect until there were no more users left to add.

What if everyone did that?

That’s the rub – if every member of LinkedIn joined every group, the system would break down.

If every member of LinkedIn connected to every other member of LinkedIn, the system would break down.

And while that includes a technical breakdown, that’s not all that I’m meaning. (When I recently viewed the profile of a member that had hundreds of group memberships, it took several minutes to finish loading – that was not cool)

Logistically, if the system is meant to help users get introduced to new people through connections and memberships in interest groups, what use would it be?

Introductions through trusted connections and shared interests

If your interest is extending your reach through trusted connections, LinkedIn will work well for you. If you think you can get a free ride to touch 10 million people to increase your wealth, you’ll probably be disappointed.

If you’re really interested in some niche topic (like orienteering), you can search among the half dozen groups you’ll find on the system, and connect as you like. If you really don’t care about the topic, I’d rather you didn’t connect to the group anyway…

Gaming the system

So the system didn’t originally limit group membership and some people took advantage of that loophole. That’s sometimes the way of life – let’s understand that while it worked for those individuals, it was a flawed strategy for everyone, and needed to get curtailed.

Sure, 50 may not be the final limit, but did you really feel the need to spread yourself across 400 groups in the first place?-)

To your continued success with LinkedIn,

steve