How many LinkedIn connections do I need?

by Dec 5, 20114 comments

A commonly asked question – how many LinkedIn connections is the best number?

In those few lines there are actually a number of topics which can be covered which are important for professional women.

Networking shouldn’t just be about numbers on LinkedIn, but how they work for you. They can, and  may make a difference. Generally people who ask the questions have other unstated concerns which also need addressing. There are a number of higher profile individuals who brag a little about the number of connections and followers they have built up in short periods of time. Don’t be intimidated. You just have to swim in your own lane, focus on your goals and not get distracted. It’s not a competition or measure of success.The upper limit for LinkedIn connections is currently 30000 but with no maximum for followers. Many Influencers shift to acquiring followers when they have reached the 30K mark.

Quantity or quality?

As soon as a LinkedIn user reaches 500 connections, LinkedIn no longer communicates publicly the number of contacts a person has on the platform. Research on LinkedIn gives information about why it’s important to have a  professional profile and why extending your network reach can be advantageous.

  • The number of LinkedIn users is in excess of 467m
  • 57% of all traffic is mobile
  • 130,000 posts go out every week from 1 million users
  • 71% percent of user are outside the US – so a myth debunked that it is a US driven platform
  • 44% of users are women compared to 56% men – this puts women at a disadvantage
  • 61 million LinkedIn users are senior level influencers and 40 million are in decision-making positions.
  • LinkedIn now has over 26 million companies and 15 million active job listings.

When you connect with someone on LinkedIn, you also become a second level connection to their connections which is a significant benefit. I would encourage women to be more open and strategic in their networking style and move that dial on the 44% metric.

But does to have to get to a mine have to be bigger than yours….? The answer is not necessarily. The quality and reach of a network can be a key differentiator in career management, but much of the discussion around of the reach of your network will be around your goals.

Raising Your Visibility

Workplaces are becoming increasingly insecure and organisations no longer invest in the management of employees’ careers to the same degree as previously, because of cost. There is now a trend towards what Tom Peters called in 1997  “A Brand Called You” where we have to make ourselves visible  (a.k.a. Personal Branding) in the workplace, as our safety net for difficult times. This involves having an extended and effective network. Having an productive online relationships on LinkedIn should be part of that strategy.

There are  differences in the way women and men network. Women tend to network with people they know and are more reluctant than men to network transactionally. However, this ability to work strategically is regarded as a key political skill to professional success (Ferris & Perrewé) – so it is something we women have to become more adept at and willing to become involved in. Men are very good at tapping into and supporting each other within their networks and this is one business practise which we women could be encouraged to emulate! The favour bank is the oldest networking tool which men work to the benefit far more willingly than women.

Women’s reluctance to network transactionally can put them at a disadvantage.  So we can shift the way we network now to see if it will make a difference. Today, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the person on LinkedIn well  – but they might have someone in their network who could be helpful to you. This is why an extended reach is important. It is also about developing mutually beneficial relations. We frequently don’t know all the alumni of our university but would be inclined to add them to our network. LinkedIn is the same. Check out the profile before you connect and if you have concerns don’t accept an invitation or block and report the profile.

Download Daily LinkedIn routine for today’s super busy women

How many LinkedIn connections is ideal

There is probably no ideal number – the most important thing is to network strategically.You might have 50 first level connections, but if they are key players and influencers in your sector and you know them personally, you may not need any more. But most of us are less fortunate. In general on LinkedIn there is strength in a weak network,  people’s second level connections might be valuable, so I would encourage you to extend your reach as far as you can even if this means moving out of your comfort zone. This is especially true if you are a job seeker or entrepreneur looking for leads. if you want to raise your visibility. Only 1 million users have published an article on LinkedIn  and about 45% of LinkedIn article readers are in upper-level positions (managers, VPs, Directors, C-level) so publishing good content in line with your goals can be beneficial.

LinkedIn Followers

You can also pick up followers when you publish on LinkedIn or post a discussion which the reader finds interesting. This is a more indirect way of developing a relationship with someone before connecting for those on the hesitant side. If you post on the publishing platform, a “Follow” icons appears right after the author’s name at the top of the article. You can also follow them on their profiles without connecting (check the “More” tab.) It sends a message that you are interested in what they have to say and is a good jumping off point for a later connection invitation.They don’t have a connection status but you can see a list if the people by clicking the activity section if your profile  where you can see “manage private to you” and a list of followers in available underneath.

The bottom line is that in these uncertain economic times none of us know when we will need to tap into our networks, both actual and virtual. The best way to do this is to get out there and network and test the market for yourself. For busy women or introverts building up a strong online network can be the vital bridge to in person connections.

This post was updated in 2018

If your career needs a boost contact 3Plus for a 30 minute complimentary Skype call to assess your needs.

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Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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