How Many LinkedIn Connections Should I Have?

I’m approaching a LinkedIn milestone, 500+ connections, and thought I’d take some time to talk about numbers.

New users are often very concerned about how many people they connect to, and how quickly they should grow their connections.

It’s all good if you connect to people you know and trust at every chance you get.

The awkward event

One of the more common situations that people bring to me is after they’ve accepted too many connections.

It usually starts something like “I didn’t know the people that were inviting me to connect, but I wanted a bigger network…” And ends something like “and then this guy that I’ve never met was asking me for a recommendation!”

And they’d like to know how to avoid that in the future…

The how

So many ways to connect to people you don’t really know…

Using the builtin LinkedIn “invite from my email contacts” feature.

And not noticing that it’s much too easy to invite anyone you have ever exchanged email with – even if you have no connection to the other people.

Accepting all requests to connect.

From people that you’ve never met – just because they ask.

And as I’ve written – there’s nothing wrong with using LinkedIn to start a relationship. I’m all for that. I just say that you get access to my little black book of associates only after you have earned the right to be in that book yourself. It’s a little black book, it’s not a phone book…

The fix

The fix is simple – just disconnect from the people you’ve connected to that you don’t really want to remain connected to.

The system won’t send them any sort of notice, so you don’t have to worry about offending them. (and do you really care – you probably don’t know them!-)

The protection

And then in the future use two simple criteria before inviting people to connect, or apply before accepting connections from:

  • know
  • trust

If you don’t know them, or don’t trust them, don’t connect.

Approaching 500

Today I happen to connect to 492 people on LinkedIn. The number 500 is magical in a sense because 500+ is the largest number your account can show. There’s nothing special about it except that everyone can see that you happen to connect to a whole lot of people.

Yes – in general – connecting to more people (you know and trust) is better than connecting to fewer people.

So grow your network over time and the site will work for you. Me – I’ve taken almost 9 years to accumulate my 500. They’re people from every part of my life. And I consider them all VIPs.

And treat them that way.

To your continued success,

Steven Tylock


  1. Hello Steve

    I nurture my LinkedIn network like a garden. Every month I pull out the bad herbs or the crops that didn’t grow anything. Yup – I could go and add some chemicals to grow more faster and harvest twice a year, but it doesn’t taste the same. Applying the Dunbar’s number to my network means I lunch, call or exchange ideas at least once a year with them. 500+ isn’t a magical number really. It’s like saying “I have 10,000 songs on my iPod but don’t really care much about what tune is playing less know who is the singer or song.” I adapt the music to the moment and enjoy it to the max!

  2. Hi Steve from a fellow PeerNet member.

    Thanks for your posting.

    You probably have heard of the Dunbar number. This description from the anthropologist John Hawks is adequate for the purposes of this reply:

    “Humans can keep track of only a limited number of people, and for most social primates the group size is even smaller. Dunbar’s research on primate groups led him to believe that group size is correlated with brain size among species of social primates. Given this, we might expect that the exceptionally large size of the human brain would correspond to an exceptionally large group size. By drawing a regression among brain size and group size estimates for many primate species, Dunbar arrived at the prediction that human group size should be 150 people. That became known as the “Dunbar number”.

    There are thousands of articles discussing the applicability of the Dunbar number in the LinkedIn age. Some argue that it no longer holds, given the social networking technology available today.

    Technology changes but human nature, not so much. I am skeptical that anybody can say with certainty that they know and trust 500 people; (I know that you used “or” not “and”, but aren’t both required?). And what about frequency of interaction? I’m even more skeptical that folks with 500 connections communicate with all of them within the timeframe of years. (This would be an interesting research project–what is the distribution of the number of intranetwork interactions per year among LinkedIn members?)

    There’s a “collector” gene in a substantial portion of the human population, and I’ll bet that 90% of 500-connection LinkedIn members have this gene. When I receive an invitation to connect from a very connected LinkedIn member, I can’t help feeling that I’m being collected–not a pleasant feeling. Maybe I’m too sensitive.

    I’ve included the link to the article quoted from above.

    Thanks Steve.

  3. Kevin,

    Great response – and yes, I’ve known about the Dunbar number.

    Let me clarify: I said if you don’t know or you don’t trust, you shouldn’t be connected. The logical reverse is that you must know and must trust to connect. So another yes – both are required.

    Now, the people that are one’s connections on LinkedIn are a “group” – well – they’re probably more like a “set”.

    I’m making no suggestion that these people know each other (I’m sure many do not), or that I interact with any of them on a frequent basis.

    I am saying that I know them well enough, and trust them to be my connections on LinkedIn.

    And so the Dunbar number doesn’t necessarily apply.

    I’ve been around the professional world for a while, worked at a large handful of companies, networked for quite a while, been active socially and in community groups.

    It should not be surprising that I have formed relationships that while dormant continue to exist.

    That’s all connection implies on LinkedIn – that I have formed relationships with these people well enough to feel comfortable sharing among them.

    Now – there are people that add connections indiscriminately – I have written on this extensively and do not agree with the practice. I’m just not going to try to set a “trust bar” for myself or anyone else that wouldn’t serve much of a purpose. [ See this article for a summary of my thoughts there – Exposing LinkedIn Connection Myths – Part X ]

    I really like the concept of what you’ve added though;-)


  4. Anyone who reads this post is probably spending too much time thinking about this. Even if you are connected to people you dont know at least your posts get into their feeds so its a bigger audience. Plus it gives you a good way to reach out when you want to connect. That being said I personally only connect to people that I could imagine a useful connection with and actually doing business.

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