Does LinkedIn Limit the Number of Connections You Can Have?

I started out on LinkedIn not knowing anything about it, gradually starting my network by connecting with past colleagues and classmates and then expanding my connections to include those with similar interests and open networking ideas.  When I first hit the 3,000 invitation limit, I was shocked that there was a definitive number put on the number of invites someone could send out.  And why 3,000?  Of course, when you have more than 500 connections and they only display “500+” on your profile, you are being told, in essence, that you don’t need more than 500 connections.  They have been flexible on the invite limit for those of us who are responsible networkers, so I have not held anything against LinkedIn despite these limitations and can live with them.

Recently, a new LinkedIn restriction was introduced on the number of LinkedIn Groups you can join, but I did not see the problem with limiting the group numbers to 50.  I thought that there were more than enough repetitive groups out there, and indeed I was able to easily reduce my group membership numbers from the then 93 to the present 50.  In fact having a limit places more value on each group membership, and I would not have realized this without the restriction.  So this is another restriction that I can live with.

Despite these restrictions, I have been a happy networker and still believe that LinkedIn is The Platform for Social Networking.  At least there was no restriction on the amount of connections that you can have…

This, however, changed recently, as LinkedIn now placed a 30,000 limit on the number of connections that you can have.

The first reaction that most people have is that 30,000 is more than enough connections to have.  After all, how many connections do you need?  And how many people do you know?  If you think about it in the traditional way of networking pre-MySpace/Facebook time, yes, this is quite a large number and should not be a problem for 99% of LinkedIn users.  I myself currently have 12,400 connections so I am not even at 50% of my maximum!

I think the problem, though, is that social networking in the 21st century, propelled by the rapid growth of the Internet and Social Networking Sites, is more and more done in a virtual sense.  That is, there are more and more people making contact with each other without having physically meeting each other.  And LinkedIn is especially responsible for making this happen because of its profile-centric approach and inclusion of recommendations and who people are connected to, giving you a feeling of trust in connecting with and networking with someone without your previously knowing them.  This is a wonderful thing that could only happen in this day and age.

In this age of virtual networking, then, with the limitless potential that exists for connecting similar-minded people across the Internet, is it “just” to place a limit on how many people one can connect with?  If there are 36 million LinkedIn users, and you are only connected to 30,000 of them, which is a statistically insignificant number, is there a problem with this?  What is the issue here?

As I mention to all I know, LinkedIn is my Platform, and I have stuck with it and continue to evangelize it to everyone I know.  I am your biggest fan, LinkedIn!  I have also dealt with the new restrictions that are placed upon its users because value has been added with new applications and functionality.  However, the limiting of the number of connections, no matter how big or small the number is, is something that should hit home to a lot of us.  After all, if a limit of 30,000 is imposed on us today, there is nothing to stop LinkedIn at placing further restrictions on that number at any moment.  And that worries me…and I hope it worries you too.  I can only hope that somehow things will change within LinkedIn and that, just as in the past when a new restriction was placed on us, that there will be some new “WOW!” functionality or service that will make us forgive them.  In the meantime, beware, and value each connection that you make because it could be your last one…

About the Author:

Neal Schaffer, Founder and Editor-In-Chief

The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
PeopleLinx

Comments

  1. Neal Schaffer says

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks as always for your support. I am also in the camp that it makes sense to have lots of quality connections for my objective, but I also respect that a lot of people don’t want to go that route, and this may be the best route for their objective.

    That being said, if you are wondering what people use their connections for, please feel free to ask me or contact Steven for a second opinion!

    - Neal

  2. says

    I agree that this kind of regulation is aimed at people who abuse the system. Fact is that the people who are into abusing, will find ways around the restrictions and legitimate users will suffer.

  3. says

    I agree that this kind of regulation is aimed at people who abuse the system. Fact is that the people who are into abusing, will find ways around the restrictions and legitimate users will suffer.

  4. says

    I do think that limits and restrictions should be lifted. What they do is alienate the best customers and create ill will without achieving what the people originally intended to achieve – which I’m assuming is stop spam.

    Human nature is human nature. Rather than punish those who best serve the network, they should be rewarded instead

  5. says

    I do think that limits and restrictions should be lifted. What they do is alienate the best customers and create ill will without achieving what the people originally intended to achieve – which I’m assuming is stop spam.

    Human nature is human nature. Rather than punish those who best serve the network, they should be rewarded instead

  6. Neal Schaffer says

    Hi Rick,

    Yes, whenever you enact regulations those who abuse the system will always find a workaround…and the real evangelizers of LinkedIn that are the power users will suffer…

    And amen to your second comment!

    - Neal

  7. says

    I recently interviewed author and Ecademy co-founder Thomas Power (here is the link to the broadcast from July 22nd – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Jon-Hansen/2009/07/22/Know-Me-Like-Me-Follow-Me-Your-Business-and-Social-Media) whose social network has been in existence since 1998.

    The discussion was both interesting and in many instances thought provoking as we touched on the age demographics for Facebook, LinkedIn etc., the impact that the upcoming generation of users will have relative to tipping the scales for one platform over the other and of course the growing fragmentation of networks.

    Of these, Power believed that the arbitrary setting of limits in terms of invites and contacts by LinkedIn and Facebook (both of which he is on), is a tactical error, and they they will likely remove limits in the near future.

    That said my show, which on recent broadcasts has reached over 1 million people as well as the other venues that operate under the PI Social Media Network (re Blogs and a soon to be launched TV Channel) means that is is within the realm of possibility that my paltry 3,600 contacts on LinkedIn (which as grown 250% since the PI Window Show launched)could very easily hit the 30K limit sometime in 2010 (if not sooner).

    The question I have is simply this . . . why set limits in the first place?

    Jon

    • says

      Jon,

      Thanks so much for your excellent comment, and I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, we should really look at why the limits are set in the first place. Could it be that power users could potentially be competing with LinkedIn and Facebook’s own plans to monetize their own services? If not, why don’t these sites come out with an explanation? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? Ferris Beuller? ;-)

      - Neal

  8. says

    I recently interviewed author and Ecademy co-founder Thomas Power (here is the link to the broadcast from July 22nd – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Jon-Hansen/2009/07/22/Know-Me-Like-Me-Follow-Me-Your-Business-and-Social-Media) whose social network has been in existence since 1998.

    The discussion was both interesting and in many instances thought provoking as we touched on the age demographics for Facebook, LinkedIn etc., the impact that the upcoming generation of users will have relative to tipping the scales for one platform over the other and of course the growing fragmentation of networks.

    Of these, Power believed that the arbitrary setting of limits in terms of invites and contacts by LinkedIn and Facebook (both of which he is on), is a tactical error, and they they will likely remove limits in the near future.

    That said my show, which on recent broadcasts has reached over 1 million people as well as the other venues that operate under the PI Social Media Network (re Blogs and a soon to be launched TV Channel) means that is is within the realm of possibility that my paltry 3,600 contacts on LinkedIn (which as grown 250% since the PI Window Show launched)could very easily hit the 30K limit sometime in 2010 (if not sooner).

    The question I have is simply this . . . why set limits in the first place?

    Jon

    • says

      Jon,

      Thanks so much for your excellent comment, and I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, we should really look at why the limits are set in the first place. Could it be that power users could potentially be competing with LinkedIn and Facebook’s own plans to monetize their own services? If not, why don’t these sites come out with an explanation? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller? Ferris Beuller? ;-)

      - Neal

  9. says

    I am relatively new to the social networking world, and fine the navigation and exploration somewhat daunting. Then I run into someone I am interested in connecting with, only to find that their account has been frozen and under the control of Big Brother. What is the point to networking if someone in the seat of power has imposed some arbitrary restriction when no violation has been committed.

    As an author of a business book on communication, I find this discussion rather contrary. Dialog and interaction is the key to building healthy productive relations and if we are going to be held to such restriction we only slow the process of global unity.

    When you tell me I can’t boy oh boy I will find a way!

    In Spirit

    Jed A. Reay

    • says

      Jed,

      I could not agree with you more! The whole concept is contrary to what social networking is all about, as you suggest. Thank you for your comment and look forward to fighting the battle side by side with you!

      - Neal

  10. says

    I am relatively new to the social networking world, and fine the navigation and exploration somewhat daunting. Then I run into someone I am interested in connecting with, only to find that their account has been frozen and under the control of Big Brother. What is the point to networking if someone in the seat of power has imposed some arbitrary restriction when no violation has been committed.

    As an author of a business book on communication, I find this discussion rather contrary. Dialog and interaction is the key to building healthy productive relations and if we are going to be held to such restriction we only slow the process of global unity.

    When you tell me I can’t boy oh boy I will find a way!

    In Spirit

    Jed A. Reay

    • says

      Jed,

      I could not agree with you more! The whole concept is contrary to what social networking is all about, as you suggest. Thank you for your comment and look forward to fighting the battle side by side with you!

      - Neal

  11. says

    Money is definitely the reason for the limit. If there are a dozen people that can connect to more than 50% of the LinkedIn (or FaceBook) universe, then there is less incentive for others to pay for premium services that will extend their own reach. They just have to connect to the power users.

    That said, there are many more people who don't subscribe to open networking, so LinkedIn doesn't really have to worry about it. If they fixed a few other things, like adding tiered contacts, then people would not worry too much about the limitations.

    -ASB: http://xeesm.com/AndrewBaker
    Providing Competitive Advantage through Effective IT Leadership

  12. says

    Andrew, you hit the nail on the head. I believe that that is the only logical explanation. The problem is it is not written anywhere and they just implemented it on people that were already beyond the limit, preventing them from connecting with valued colleagues and family.

    - Neal

  13. says

    Hi
    LINKEDIN does a great job in providing outlets and networking opportunities for the individual web user. Those who utilize the site for their professionalism practice or actually handle business cases in sending messages and recommendations to encourage networking have not been limited from what I am seeing. Connections made by the business owners and associates using Linkedin have ackomplished what it was that they should be intended to use the net for.

    Major usage for those who have Linkedin would be overestimating the force behind Linkedin, and for those who can manipulate the workings of this application then they would be underestimating. From what you can learn from those individuals, you would be considered an associate business partner. THeir professional procedures and showing as well as the post approaches will direct those who need the attention in certain area's.

    Taking my personal situation for example, I have many profiles on a number of services and I rate Linkedin as a positive one whereby I can get tons of answers figured out and have came across non challenges associated with web networking as far as connections are concerned

  14. says

    Thanks for the comment Edwin. Agreed! It takes a lot of connections to start feeling the “challenges”…but now that I am over 20,000 connections my connections are literally numbered…

    - Neal

  15. Angie Sallese says

    The limit on invitations and on connections just doesn't make any sense for networkers. If we go to a live networking event and only hang out with the people we know, then the gathering wasn't really a networking event. We go to meet new people, often in a direct manner rather than through someone else. The same applies here–why limit the number of people I can introduce myself to?

    For sales people or anyone with a large customer data base, the limit is meaningless (for example, I have over 5,000 contacts in my Outlook address book, but can't invite all of them. Who do I leave out?) If I change companies, it is very conceivable that my contacts will change with my job function. So I won't be able to invite all of those new folks.

    Let me throw in a sales anecdote here. My longest sell cycle was 4 years. That was very unusual, but it happened. I network with people because we all help each other sometime. You help me today, while it might be a year before I can do something for you. The pay-it-forward philosophy is also important, since it all comes full circle.

    The only reasoning that works here is that unlimited invitations and connections can't be monetized. Several commenters have discussed that. LinkedIn's usage numbers, and the time spent in the program, don't come anywhere near Facebook or any other application, and the developers would like to change that, I'm sure. So I'd like to remind LinkedIn's developers that the more activity I've got going on, the longer I'll be working in the program each day. The other day I was here for 8 hours. If that's what you'd like to see much more often, then please remove the limitations.

  16. Neal Schaffer says

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks as always for your support. I am also in the camp that it makes sense to have lots of quality connections for my objective, but I also respect that a lot of people don’t want to go that route, and this may be the best route for their objective.

    That being said, if you are wondering what people use their connections for, please feel free to ask me or contact Steven for a second opinion!

    - Neal

  17. Neal Schaffer says

    Hi Rick,

    Yes, whenever you enact regulations those who abuse the system will always find a workaround…and the real evangelizers of LinkedIn that are the power users will suffer…

    And amen to your second comment!

    - Neal

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