As I approach the milestone of 501 connections on LinkedIn I started to investigate the reasons behind this limit within the LinkedIn system and the phenomena of the psychological boundary that reaching 500+ creates. In case you have no idea what the hell I am talking about, when you hit the milestone your on-profile counter maxes out at ‘500+’ and will not show anything higher.
The limit was placed to remove the drive for people to compete for maximum connections. LinkedIn is about having a trusted network, not the largest. There are many people who compete to be The Most Connected Person on LinkedIn (right now it is this guy with a ludicrous 74,000 contacts, probably already overtaken by the time you read this), who have effectively and efficiently spammed as many people as possible. I can hardly imagine a record less valuable (actually, perhaps this one), although to be fair some people think it is a fantastic thing to connect with the LinkedIn LIONS as the hyper-connected are prosaically known.
Personally I feel that having too many followers on LinkedIn is a negative much the way that on Facebook having far too many friends is a sign that you probably have none.
Interestingly, LinkedIn has recently relaxed its stance on network size secrecy. The 500+ distinction on your profile still stands but, if you so choose, you can now opt to show others how many connections you have and who those connections are (via other screens). For now most people aren’t familiar with this setting, don’t know whether they should show or hide and aren’t sure how to change it…or don’t really care.
If LinkedIn was really serious about the quality rather than the quantity of connections, then they would factor in how many of those connections have actually maintained any contact over the past 12 months, rather than a “one and done” approach. Perhaps the future for connections will be segmentation of super-contacts versus acquaintances, with people taking pride in having not just 500+ links but a more valuable, small number of ‘Business Besties’.
As in all such things (and you should hear me rant about Facebook and my brutal philosophy of de-friending the unengaged) what is important is not the overall volume, but the quality of your network…
… and the value you derive from each other.
PS: Want to connect with me? Links below right 😉