I admit to be a pretty friendly guy, so when a friend or even an acquaintance invites me to join LinkedIn (or sadly, QueChup), I’m usually game. So over the years, I’ve started to build the number of links I have on LinkedIn. As of the present date, I’m at 397 connections, with an average of 1-2 new connections linking to me each week.
Those of you on LinkedIn know that once you hit 500 connections, LinkedIn just stops counting your connections all together and users looking at your profile simply see “500+.”
In most cases, he with the most toys – or in this case links – wins. For example, when you fly on an airline, the guy with the most frequent flyer miles and the highest loyalty tier always gets bumped up to first class before anyone else. Similarly, in karate, being a triple black belt automatically gives you more prestige than a lowly yellow belt. Let’s face it, as humans we love rankings.
In the instance of LinkedIn, however, I think that reaching the 500+ level is actually a liability for your online reputation. Having 500+ connections makes you look like a “LinkedIn Whore” – someone who just links to everyone they have ever remotely met . Additionally, it devalues the links that you do have – it becomes impossible to really know whether someone is really your associate or just someone you sat next to two years ago on the flight to LA.
I admit that there are indeed many people in the Valley who do in fact have more than 500 legitimate connections. In particular, people in jobs that leverage connectivity (such as venture capital or recruiting) probably do have this many true connections. But as with most things in life, it’s difficult to separate the posers from the true connectors.
About a year ago, I found my name on a site called LinkedSEO, a Web site that claims to aggregate all the SEO or SEM people on LinkedIn and rank them based on the number of links that they have. When you take a look at the list of the top 25 or so people on here (all of whom have at least 500 links), you’ll notice that some of them – not satisfied with just being listed as part of the 500+ club – have now resorted to adding their link count to the end of their name. For example, you’ll see names like “Eric Standlee 2940+” or “Mike Walters 4000+.”
These are the very people who make life in the 500+ club difficult for the legitimate connectors using LinkedIn. The idea that the sheer quantity of links would somehow be more valuable than the quality of those links is really quite silly.
So I know that in about six months or so, I too will pass that 500+ threshold – if I want to. I’m thinking however, that I might just start removing some of the connections on my list that really aren’t connections, and just keep building my list of 450 connections, with improving quality every day.