When I started using LinkedIn two years ago, I was a purist in that I only invited and accepted invitations from people with whom I had a business or civic relationship. I did not “connect“ to acquaintances. I also tried to keep my LinkedIn network to business and not personal contacts. I did not want to mix the two. I was a closed networker.
If someone whom I did not know sought to connect to me on LinkedIn, I would either archive the request or suggest that the requesting person come by my office to meet me when it was convenient for us both. I wanted to evaluate the person and have a meaningful basis to be in each other’s network. I was a little self-conscious and sensitive about the idea of rejecting a requestor and coming off as being exclusive or self-important.
My thinking changed about seven months ago for two reasons: 1) I reminded myself that my business and personal worlds were not so compartmentalized and were in many ways seamless, so to limit my LinkedIn network to my business and civic contacts was artificial and counterproductive; and 2) I heard a LinkedIn presenter argue for his open, come one, come all policy. As a result, I became an open networker and accepted anyone who wanted to connect with me.
I received many requests from people in my various LinkedIn Groups. The requests from some groups like my law school and college were no-brainers – it made sense to connect with fellow alumni. Requests from more impersonal groups like industry groups or city groups seemed more superficial, but I went with the flow of being an open networker. I also received some random requests from people who shared a mutual acquaintance with me.
Limited, Qualified Networker
My thinking has evolved once again and as I told another student of social networking, I am now a limited, qualified networker. I was starting to get requests from people who ranged from pyramid scheme types to people I did not respect to people with whom I would never have any reason to sincerely and meaningfully interface. I felt I was beginning to devalue the capital of my network. Not a good thing.
Developing and expanding one’s business network is not a popularity contest. It is not like running for office and seeking as many votes as one can get. Also, we all are both inspired and judged by the company we keep. So quality connections do mean something and have real value.
So what is a limited, qualified networker? It is a term I made up. It means I will be open to networking with folks where I have an existing relationship or where there is a real opportunity to have meaningful interaction in the future. It also means I will screen and be more selective about whom I will choose to connect. My intention is not to offend, but to be more effective with the limited time that I have.
The reality is that not all contacts are created equal.