Nothing annoys me more on LinkedIn than to find that one of my 1st connections has blocked the ability to view their connections (beyond the ones we have in common). I don’t know why people do this; in my mind, it directly contradicts the social networking purpose of the site. It also tells me that people are much less discriminating of whom they connect with on LinkedIn than they are of whom they connect with on Facebook. Most Facebook users don’t limit the ability of their friends to view their other friends. So, why do people do it on LinkedIn?
First, I really don’t think people give much thought to responding to a LinkedIn request. I know I don’t, beyond checking to see how that person is connected to people already in my network. If they are a 2nd connection, particularly one where we share several folks in common, I automatically add them. If they are a 3rd connection, I give it a little more thought, but more often than not, I add them as well (unless it’s obvious that they are cold selling something). Let’s just say I’m not conducting thorough due diligence.
I occasionally debate whether I should be more critical when accepting connection requests. After all, LinkedIn does advise you to only add people to your network whom you trust and would be comfortable referring to other connections. And, as I noted in my first-ever blog, referral functionality decreases exponentially when you don’t have strong relationships within your network. You can’t make credible referrals of people whom you know little about to people about whom you know even less.
That being said, having access to that wider network is a great way to gather useful information on companies, research potential business partners, and do some quick and dirty qualitative analysis on a wide array of topics. So, in the end, I’ve made the decision that less discrimination yields more information when applied to LinkedIn connections. The LinkedIn community has a name for people like me: LION (LinkedIn Open Networker). If you have more than 500 connections, you are most likely a LION, as well.
However, I totally respect LinkedIn members who adopt the opposite approach. Having an intimate network of contacts with whom you share strong relationships is a very valuable business tool. The referrals you can make within that network carry weight. It is completely reasonable for a member to routinely reject or, at least, give some thought to whether to accept an invitation from a member they don’t know very well.
I think both courses of action have merit, and which type of gatekeeping you choose is dependent on what you are trying to get out of your LinkedIn membership. While LinkedIn does not have a name for these people, I refer to them as “Lycans” or LICNs (LinkedIn Closed Networkers) because I am a total nerd. Access to my LinkedIn network granted to the first person who identifies the movie reference!
It’s the in-betweeners that get on my nerves – those who want to gain the benefits that a large network provides but still guard the identity of their own connections from their other connections. That’s just plain weird. If they are concerned that an individual whom they are connected to will somehow abuse the privilege, then they should have not connected with that person in the first place. A disturbing number of service providers with large numbers of LinkedIn connections do this. I guess they don’t want their competitors seeing their networks? I regularly have competitors invite me to join their networks. If I respect the person, I generally accept the invite. However, I immediately disconnect with them if I find they don’t share their connections as I do. These people aren’t LIONs or Lycans; they are Hyenas.
In the end, all I ask is that you make a choice. Be an open networker and enjoy the tremendous access within LinkedIn that strategy entails. Be a closed networker and enjoy the power of a smaller but very intimate network. But, please, don’t look to get without being willing to give.