A Change in Strategy from a Top Linkedin User

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ll500.gifIt seems that some of the LinkedIn users who at one time had a “loose linking” policy are having a change of heart. In MLPF, Laura Levitan, a Senior VP at word-of-mouth marketing research and consulting firm Keller Fay, and #40 on the list of users with the most connections on LinkedIn (interestingly, one of only three women in the top fifty), writes (posted with permission):

In the three years I have been an active Linkedin.com user, I have watched the debate as to quality vs. quantity…I always felt that somewhere in between, depending on what your own personal and professional objectives for using Linkedin.com were, lied the correct answer.

A few months ago, I realized that I had amassed more tham 12,700 direct connections. Not only would it take me hours to read through who I was connected to (which I could never do), but I saw that so many of the people to whom I was directly connected, I DID NOT RECOGNIZE THEIR NAME.

In addition to that, I was receiving close to 50 requests to forward each day for which I always take the time to review the sender, the receipient, the request etc. etc. and if I do forward on, I always send a note to the sender. I was no longer able to confidently forward on requests as most were coming from people who I knew nothing about.

The job postings from people in my network were at a rate of about 20 a day and I began to think that my Linkedin.com experience was deteriorating.

Please know, I have made many many wonderful friends and contacts through Linkedin.com, many of you who will read this note. Every person whom I have invited or I have accepted an invitation from, I have sent a note introducing myself. Only about 35% of people respond so it is difficult to build a one-sided relationship (then why did they want to connect to me?). I have never sent a standard Linkedin.com invitation but yet most of the ones I receive from strangers are just that. I was also becoming discouraged about those people who use their name space to promote the number of connections they have and other traits that don’t belong in that space.

From a business development standpoint, it is one of the best tools available to me so I knew it was not Linkedin.com. I finally determined that it was the QUALITY of my network being hurt by the QUANTITY.

So, although tedious and challenging, I have spent the past month REDUCING my network to under 6,000 direct connections – people I knew before Linkedin.com, people I have met and built a relationship with through Linkedin.com and yes, some that I don’t really know but share the commonality of similiar business areas.

The challenges and problems I described above have been resolved and I am enjoying reading all of the profiles of the people I am connected to and their connections!!

I imagine I am still considered possessing a big network but somehow I feel more “normal” and am so very happy about the decision I made.

If I removed you from my network, please don’t take it personally. If our relationship did not meet the criteria below, that was simply the reason.

I wanted to share this with you all to give a different perspective and also to explain if I am no longer connected to you.

Thank you for giving me the time and forum.

Warm regards to you all…

Laura Levitan

Laura’s story is not atypical, although most people hit this point at a much lower connection count. What exactly is “this point”? It’s the realization that at some point, there is a diminishing return on adding more connections.

Now when I say this, you may think it means that I’m completely a “quality over quantity” person. That’s simply not the case. In fact, one of the Seven Keys to a Powerful Network that we talk about in The Virtual Handshake is the number of people in your network.

What we also talk about, though, is that there is a trade-off between the number of people in your network and the average strength of your relationships with them. At some point, the relationships become so weak that the incremental cost of adding and maintaining them, as described by Laura above, exceeds the incremental value.

At that point, you have diminishing returns. At that point, it’s time to stop focusing on meeting new people all the time and instead focus on getting to know your current network and finding out how you can be of service to the people in it. You will meet new people in the course of doing that, and you’ll get (and give) so much more value than you will by simply increasing your collection of links.

For some more reading on this, see:

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  1. This response may be a little late but I want to thank you, John and Scott for your support and understanding….it is deeply appreciated. Here is to a healthy and properous 2007 for all and networking that meets each person’s individual needs…



  2. Laura stated:
    “So, although tedious and challenging, I have spent the past month REDUCING my network to under 6,000 direct connections”

    Wow, how can you possibly be effective with 6,000 connections. This is one of the major problems I have with the social and business networks of today. Too many people get bogged down with thousands of opinions and a massive amount of time consuming information.

    I have learned from dozens of self help books that a small core group of say 4 people is all you really need. This core group should be choosing from like minded individuals that can help you in reaching your long term goals.

    I think it’s time people take a step back and look at how online networks can actually do more harm than good.

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