How “Promiscuous” Should You Be on LinkedIn?

Well, the poll results are in!  If you haven’t gone back and checked the posting I ran earlier this month, asking whether “quality” or “quantity” was more important when it came to forging connections on LinkedIn and similar sites, here’s a link that will take you there.

In sum, out of 27 people who took the time to vote, two of them seemed to feel that it was best to err on the side of building lots of connections, 10 of them felt people should be really cautious about who they hooked up with, and 14 felt that the answer really depended on the context of the situation and the purposes you were using the site to achieve.  And one person basically voted “none of the above” for some odd reason.  I’m not sure what other option there might be, actually, in terms of connection methodology, but if you’re the one rebel out there who voted this way and want to clarify your point-of-view, I’d love to hear it!

At any rate, it probably comes as no surprise that I would have voted for the third option, above, based on my belief that one’s “promiscuity level” on sites like LinkedIn should depend entirely on what you use the site for  and the risk/reward curve you’d face in connecting to lots of people on these types of systems.  For example, if you are someone who makes your living by networking and accessing lots of diverse people, I can completely understand the benefits that would result from connecting to almost anybody who asks, even if they’re a complete stranger.  For example, if you’re in a sales or recruiting role, there’s an awful lot to be gained, financially, by having thousands of 1st Degree contacts on LinkedIn and being able to access millions of other 2nd and 3rd Degree contacts, as a result.  You also probably have the networking chops to deal appropriately with the barrage of return favor requests and introductions you’re likely to get as a result of pursuing this high-volume strategy.

If you’re NOT in a sales-related role, however, you probably have a lot more to lose than to gain by overexposing yourself to thousands of contacts on these kinds of systems.  For starters, if you’re somebody in a management role with a well-known company, the reality these days is that you’re going to attract a lot of attention from job hunters seeking some inside help getting hired in your organization.  This can become  burdensome, after a while, especially if these requests are coming through complete strangers or other people you’ve let into your network, but don’t know very well.  You could also be a big neon target for hunter-type sales professionals eager to get an audience with you.  Don’t get me wrong — these are perfectly legitimate uses of the system and people have every right to ask the other folks around them for favors — but if you’d prefer to minimize the number of such requests you have to field on a regular basis, it’s smart to connect more carefully from the get-go and only build ties with a handful of people you have a great deal of trust in.

Is this advice reaching you too little, too late?  Have you already let a plethora of people connect to you on LinkedIn, including folks you don’t know all that well?  Unfortunately, the only permanent way to deal with this issue would be to actively disconnect with some of the people you’ve already hooked up with, but this is pretty bad form if they haven’t done anything specifically to abuse their connection with you.  A better approach, in most cases, is to visit your LinkedIn “Account & Settings” page and make a few adjustments that will protect you from some of the more extraneous requests.  For example, you could tweak your “Connections Browse” setting to prohibit casual browsing, as I do, so that people can’t just flip through everybody you know on the system looking for targets of opportunity.  Additionally, you can change your “Invitation Filtering” option to only accept invitations from people who know your e-mail address, going forward.  Or you can go into the “Contact Settings” page and tell the system to only let certain types of introduction requests through, such as business deals versus job inquiries, that sort of thing.

The bottom line is that you have a LOT of options in terms of how you approach sites like LinkedIn and how restrictive (or not) you choose to be about who you connect with.  The trick is to come up with the right strategy, for you, based on your professional focus and your relationship to “relationships” in general!

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