The Company We Keep

Diane Fennig’s recent post about the importance of creating a digital signature prompted me to consider the ways in which our LinkedIn connections influence the way people perceive us. Do people with 500+ connections seem somehow more impressive than those with far fewer, or do we suspect that people with several hundred connections are indiscriminate when it comes to creating their networks? According to LinkedIn, it is best not to accept invitations from people we don’t know, but I regularly receive invitations from people I have never met before, and I’m betting they believe bigger is better when it comes to crafting on their online personas.

Back in the early days of LinkedIn, I was not terribly particular about the people with whom I connected. I have to admit to being excited that people actually wanted to connect with me, so as long as people looked legitimate, I added them to my contact list. It didn’t take long for me to discover the downside of that seemingly open-minded approach. I was soon being asked to facilitate connections with people I didn’t really know and receiving way too many “As a colleague, I knew you’d be interested in my product/service” and “Would you please give my wife’s résumé special handling?” calls. I’ve since deleted the people who were better at taking than sharing and am now far more judicious about accepting new invitations.

We all have different criteria for accepting invitations to connect, but I tend to ask myself the following questions before clicking the “accept” button. First, do we have some type of relationship (social or professional)? Next, if we don’t have a relationship, have I at least met you, or have we had some meaningful electronic exchanges? Finally, knowing that we are often known by the company we keep, will we look good together, or will connecting make us both look like people collectors?

Because I love connecting with new people, I find it painful to ignore invitations from those who might actually be interesting, but too many uncomfortable experiences have taught me to exercise caution. How about you? What is your philosophy about connecting with others on LinkedIn?

[Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user nan palmero.]

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