What’s in a LinkedIn Connection?

Do you ever think about your why you’re connecting with someone on LinkedIn?

When I joined LinkedIn with some trepidation in 2008, I observed quietly from the sidelines, and tippy-toed around as I tried to make sense of the protocol. My LinkedIn network has grown organically, slowly but surely, one connection at time.

Today, even though I admit to being a little besotted with LinkedIn, I connect cautiously. The truth is, I’m only comfortable connecting with people I’ve met throughout the course of my career. Contacts with whom I’ve had a shared experience, and feel that I can approach anytime.

Sometimes I hesitate before taking action, as their 1st level connections will become visible to mine, and vice versa, in a mouse click. I pause to consider the impact this connection may have on my other professional relationships, as my “little black book” is opened wider to scrutiny, and potential abuse – the very reason that some recruiters hide their connections.

My strategy was confirmed after I read Why You Should Reject LinkedIn Connection Requests. In her post, Mildred Talabi shares how she threw herself into LinkedIn with gusto, opening her network to all and sundry, until recently, when she was reminded:

“networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships”

After some soul searching, and analysis of her network, Mildred realised that LinkedIn is more potent when it reflects real life relationships, and wasn’t going to accept random LinkedIn requests from strangers anymore. Mildred’s epiphany prompted me to revisit the connection criteria and how people appear in searches on LinkedIn. I figured that these guidelines must be there for good reason:

  • On LinkedIn, the basic type of connection is a contact you know personally and who you trust on a professional level.
  • You also have an extended network of connections made up of people that your connections know. Your communication options for your extended network vary based on how closely connected you are.
  • LinkedIn people search generates its relevance score uniquely for each member. As a result, even though a query will return the same results for everyone, the order is determined in part by the Profile, activity, and connections of the person searching.

Put simply, the more you connect with people you know, the better the quality of your 1st connections, and the greater your ability to access and leverage value from your overall network. This is from a personal perspective, and as to how LinkedIn attributes the ‘relevance’ of your profile, when you and others initiate a search.

So next time you’re scrolling through your LinkedIn connections, think about your strategy for extending and accepting invitations, and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does your LinkedIn network reflect your real world connections?
  2. Do you know your 1st connections personally, and trust them on a professional level? 
  3. Are you developing a network of mutually beneficial relationships?

By the way, you too can can generate a visualisation of your LinkedIn network, by visiting http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com.

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