There are two sides to every story, and in LinkedIn’s case three. There’s the Lion, the Turtle and the Hound Dog. In Jeff Foxworthy’s linguistics:
~You might be a Lion if you check your LinkedIn inbox every 5 minutes to see who has accepted your invitation.
~You might be a Turtle if you can name every person in your network on the spot.
~You might be a Hound Dog if you’re just happy to be here.
The LION is what you call an open networker. The Turtle and the Hound Dog to some extent limit their connections.
The most common reason people give when they explain why they are not an open networker is that they want to protect the value of their network. This used to make sense to me, but not any longer. Once I actually stopped to think about networks and value a question popped into my head – “How do I know whether or not someone in my network could benefit from a connection that I do not personally know”.
It’s amazing that it took me so long to get it because the event that caused me to realize that LinkedIn could generate opportunity was a connection invitation from someone I did not know. This person contacted me to help some of her client’s with their health insurance needs. This was an opportunity that came from someone I did not know and was not connected to.
I had been on Linked for a year and a half at this point but only had 19 connections and maybe looked at the site once a month. As I started learning more I simply adopted the view I saw others write about “if you want a valuable network you have to protect it by only connecting to those you know”.
I held onto the “protecting my network” belief for another year. I now think about all of the opportunity that I missed out on – to help myself and help others.
Calculating Your Network’s Value
Let’s talk about network value. Suppose my network is made up of only 100 people that I know fairly well. If I assign a value of 10 to each connection that I know, my network’s value would be 1,000.
Let’s also assign a value of 1 to any connection that I do not know. If I were to add 900 connections to my network that I do not know the value of these new 900 at 1 point each would be 900. My expanded network would have a value of 1,900. Almost twice as valuable as before.
Notice that the value of the original 100 hasn’t changed. They haven’t been devalued because I surrounded them with the unknown 900. I simply now have 100 people that I know well and 900 that I don’t know well. The only change is that the value of my network has nearly doubled, and I’ve increased the chance that I will encounter unexpected opportunities.
The phallacy of the “protecting my network” argument is that for each unknown person you connect to, your known connections become less valuable. The reality is that these 100 well known connections have not changed simply because they are surrounded by the 900 unknown connections. You still have the same relationship.
Think about this. Does the value of your local Chamber of Commerce increase or decrease as new members that you do not know join? It goes up because each new member is an increased opportunity to interact with someone you do not know. The value increases not just for you but for every other Chamber member. Your LinkedIn network is simply your personal Chamber of Commerce.
Exposing Your Network to Unknowns
I’ve also heard the thought expressed that if you connect to others you don’t know, they will be able to see your connections and potentially wreck havoc. It’s true that the unknown person can now see your connections (if you allow your connections to view your direct network). Sort of like when you have coffee with someone you know at Starbucks and everyone else can see that you know the person you’re meeting with. Red alert! Red alert!
When you add someone to your network your direct connections become their 2nd degree connections. What ways do they have to cause harm? They can ask you for an introduction. They can contact the person directly by finding the phone number on a website. Am I missing anything else significant?
So how is not connecting to a person you don’t know protecting them? How do you know they want to be “protected”? Have you polled your network?
To Each Their Own
There are a lot of people who get angry when discussing “Open Networkers” and I don’t get it. Who cares if someone else on LinkedIn chooses to connect to anyone? It doesn’t directly impact you when others choose to expand there network.
If you want to connect with every other LinkedIn member do it. If you only want to connect to 100 people do it. Nobody should care, because the choice you make should be based on your LinkedIn strategy. They should have their own.
That’s what I think. You might have a different opinion. My only suggestion is that you think it through before deciding. For a long time I used someone else’s strategy because I didn’t take the time to develop my own. Since taking ownership of my strategy I’ve found more opportunity in the last six months than the previous 2 1/2 years.
Whether you agree or disagree everyone will benefit from you sharing your opinion. Join the conversation.