According to Brogan, the reason that he quit is that LinkedIn has failed to fix a perceived bug he reported a month ago that he “can’t seem to add people back when they request he connect”.
That sounded odd to me as I connect with people on LinkedIn all the time and have never had a problem. It was then that I saw in his post that he had 16,097 LinkedIn connections. Now, I have no insight into the workings of LinkedIn and the exact reason he’s been unable to Link to others, but something tells me that it’s his 16,097 connections that are causing the problem.
And from that standpoint, perhaps it’s a good think that LinkedIn is making it hard for him to add more Connections.
You see, LinkedIn is different from Twitter and even Facebook, in that it is aimed at business users who use the network to actually conduct business. LinkedIn isn’t about “collecting followers” to drive one’s ranking (or ego for that matter). On LinkedIn, connections become true paths for offline connections. Suppose I’m looking for an introduction to Yahoo’s new chief marketing officer, Mollie Spilman. A quick search on LinkedIn shows me that she and I have three connections in common. More importantly, all three of those connections are people whom I feel comfortable calling or emailing, asking for that introduction. That’s because my LinkedIn connections are people whom I’ve had a connection with in my professional or personal life. They’re not simply people I’ve met briefly at a conference or who may have commented on my blog.
And that’s why the LinkedIn connection limit matters. Each of us probably truly “knows” around 500-1,000 people professionally. Maybe for some people it’s 1,500. But I doubt that it’s 5,000, 10,000 or 15,000 for almost anyone. It’s one thing to have 50,000 followers on Twitter or to get 50,000 likes on a Facebook brand page. Those are people saying they like your message and wish to read what you share. But those are not close contacts who would be likely to open up their network contacts to you. Or worse, suppose they did. If each of us connected on LinkedIn to our most casual business acquaintances, we might each have 5,000 connections on LinkedIn. And when it comes time to find a path to a specific person, instead of 2 or 3 potential paths, we’d see hundreds. Great. Except none of those people really “know” the person you’re trying to reach. And most of them wouldn’t really “know” you.
Perhaps services like Klout and Kred are partly to blame. They aim to measure our influence by the number of connections we have. And while Twitter followers or Facebook likes may be a decent proxy for your influence online, not everything is a rank to be gamed. And part of what makes LinkedIn useful is that most of their users don’t try to game it by connecting with people whom they don’t really know.
For me, LinkedIn is a valuable service that I’ve used for business development and recruitment for more than 8 years (apparently, I was LinkedIn user number 135,826). I have roughly 700 connections on LinkedIn and virtually all are people whom I’d feel comfortable asking for an introduction.
So, Chris, I’m sorry that LinkedIn didn’t work for you. You’re a smart guy and have great ideas around content marketing and social media. But I think that the way you’ve been trying to use LinkedIn doesn’t match its strengths. And “weak” connections just dirty the data and reduce the value of the network for everyone.