I think there are two camps when it comes to connecting with people on LinkedIn. There are those who believe you should only connect with people you ‘know’ in some way, and those who take the approach of connecting with near enough ‘anyone’.
There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to both! So, let’s explore the two options:
Connect with only those you ‘know’
This would mean only accepting connecting requests from people you know, have met or spoken to, or have been introduced to.
As such, your network will be reduced and have fewer people in it than a more open approach, allowing it to be easier to manage. It also means that you can build meaningful relationships, rather than taking a broad brush approach. Nurturing relationships with those you ‘know’ in some way, may result in more referrals from that network, as you become well known to them.
The downside is that you could be excluding those who wish to get to know you in order to use your services in the future. Many of the ‘connect’ options on LinkedIn send an automatic connection request without allowing for a personalised message to be added. You could be limiting the opportunity of those wishing to get in touch to use your services, as a result. The smaller your network is, the fewer second connections you are likely to have. As search results are displayed in relation to connection to that individual (amongst other variables), you may limit how often you will be appearing in search results. And you are closing the opportunity to find your target market and send them personalised connection requests and build more relationships with new people (to send personalised connection requests, the easiest way is to go to the profile of the person you wish to connect with, and click ‘connect’ on there. This won’t be possible if they are not in your network (another downside of limiting your network)).
2. Connecting with anyone
The alternate camp is to connect with ‘near enough’ everyone. This would mean accepting the majority of connecting requests that you receive, as well as sending out connection requests to people you do not know.
The advantage of this approach is that you could be connecting with someone who wishes to use your services, and has sent you a connection request for this reason. It also means you will be expanding your network. For each new connection you accept, all of their connections will become second connections. Having more connections, and more second connections, should improve your visibility in search results, which may help you be discovered by potential customers and clients. By expanding your network to those you don’t yet know, you are becoming known to new people, and have the opportunity to then build on that relationship.
The disadvantage of this approach is that your network could expand so far that it is difficult to build relationships with all those within your network. As such, they are ‘just connections’ rather than people who can help introduce you to new opportunities. It is more difficult to look through and comment on status updates, as there will be more of them. And you may open yourself up to spam messages by accepting the wrong people.
WHERE DO I STAND?
I tend to go with option two, but a calculated option two! I always make sure I have a quick look at the profile of those I am accepting, to determine if they are likely to spam me. For me, taking option two means the worst that can happen is that they want to sell to me, and will start spamming me with messages, in which case I can remove them from my connections. They best case scenario (which has rang true many times for me), is that they want to connect so they can get in touch about using my services. I would have missed out on lots of business had I not accepted connection requests from those I don’t know.
Also, I am found in search far more due to my large network, which opens me up to more people who are interested in my services.
I agree that it is harder to nurture my network on LinkedIn as it is large (currently 3534 at time of writing). But I use LinkedIn’s tagging options to organise these connections, allowing me to nurture relationships easily with different groups of connections. That does mean that I hardly interact at all with some of my connections, and interact much more with others.
But for me, the advantages of being more open to connecting far outweigh the negatives. Though I do think it is personal choice and there is not a ‘right option’ that fits everyone!
So, where do you stand? Are you open to connecting or not? Oh, and don’t forget to connect with me!