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…