Is LinkedIn a number’s game?

by Heather Townsend on December 1, 2011 · 11 comments

I’ve often wondered whether LinkedIn is a numbers game. My networking methodology and philosophy is firmly centred in relationship management. So, surely LinkedIn should be used to deepen and strengthen relationships rather than building up a large number of connections?

But I see others talking about how linkedin is a numbers game. With nearly 1000 connections on Linkedin,   I have been actively wondering whether I should cull some connections so I can use Linkedin to focus on the relationships which matter to me. After all, I was saying one thing, but using the default Linkedin strategy and playing the numbers game on Linkedin.

Hence, my dilemma. So, I asked this question in my ‘FT guide to business networking‘ Linkedin group. Some fascinating responses…

I was firstly told to only very selectively cull – if at all. I was surprised about this. It appears that as I have a large Linkedin network, others in my network value that and I am a hub for them to reach others.

There was a strong argument for keeping my large network on Linkedin intact – my needs may change in the future. If your role was in sales or recruitment, where being able to reach as many people as possible was vital, then I can see the rationale for playing the numbers game on LinkedIn.

The decision I did take was to be more selective about whose request to connect I accepted. I’ve had some interesting conversations AND started some potentially valuable conversations as a result of asking people, in a very nice way, what has prompted them to connect.

What’s your view, is Linkedin a number’s game?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Pettet December 2, 2011 at 08:28

I’ve been asking myself the same of late, seems the number game is important to some because people use it as a bragging tool in sales pitches. What? Why do I care how many strangers you’re connected with. What LinkedIn is sadly becoming is a salesman’s playground, spammy, and full of irrelevant and frankly boring posts, and the thing is, LinkedIn does almost nothing for your SEO, so if you’re a lawyer posting content in a group the chances are the only response you’ll get is from someone in that group who wants to sell you something. That’s my experience anyway. Still post it though. it’s about the numbers you see. :-)


Heather Townsend December 2, 2011 at 21:49

I think that there is still lots of value in LinkedIn, but you need to pick your groups carefully. Although I find it an excellent search tool.


Jane Rapin December 2, 2011 at 08:53

Great article about using LinkedIn. I use a selective strategy for choosing whether or not to link. I have found that as a result I am often contacted by people who want to tap into my network because they see it as a valuable resource. I guess this is because it has already been filtered in some way. I see growing a network on LinkedIn as managing upwards and downwards; it’s not just about who might be able to help me in some way, but more importantly whom I might be able to help.

Choosing whether or not to link: One of my pet peeves is the use of the standard ‘I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’ email, especially where the request says that they are a ‘friend’ even though we have never met and I don’t know them. This approach shows no thought about why they may want to connect with me or how they may want to build our online relationship. I think it is important to put the effort in to selecting whom you try to link with; you wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and shove your business card in their hand, you’d engage them in conversation and then possibly exchange details. Don’t get me wrong, my approach doesn’t always work, I’ve had my fair share of requests to link ignored but I am happy that I made the effort to say why I would like to link in the first place.

Groups are the place to grow your network in terms of numbers because you can contribute to discussions and the whole group sees. In this sense it’s an ‘invisible’ network, separate to the one that you build with actual links.

As for your question ‘is it a numbers game?’ for me, no, it isn’t. It’s quality over quantity.


Heather Townsend December 2, 2011 at 21:50

I totally agree with you Jane – it has to be quality over quantity every time. Plus, my pet peeve is also the ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network’ or the newish ‘no message’ option.


Rosie Slosek February 20, 2012 at 16:46

I’d counter that.

There are few real world options in the LI connecting tool for those of us outside a corporate environment. For someone you know from networking, there is not much choice outside of the inappropriate Friend option.

So, since I’m not connected to Heather, I’ll use her as an example -
How do you know Heather?
We’ve done business together
I don’t know Heather

Other means an email address and that’s intrusive to my mind. It’s not true either, as I have connected with Heather on Twitter. Which do I choose?

For numbers game, this is more about numbers being the point rather than a consequence. I wouldn’t accept someone random I had no connection with, but I would someone in a group I participated in. There is value in that. Anyone sending me a spam or sales pitch without me knowing them gets reported and removed. That’s all.


Clare Evans @clareevans December 2, 2011 at 19:18

There often seem to be two main debates on networking and lists the “Quality vs Quantity” approach and this applies to LinkedIn as well.

Some people purely play the numbers game and go for Quantity – regardless of the quality of the contacts and are unlikely to develop a relationship with many of those in their network.

Others are more interested in Quality and will nurture and develop a smaller number of contacts who they know at some level.

I’m more selective and tend to connect with people I know, develop relationships started offline or connect offline with those I know online (where practical). Because of the introduction opportunity on LinkedIn it makes sense to at least be on speaking or nodding terms with those in your 1st level so that you can make the most of your 2nd level connections.

It also takes time to manage and build your relationship which is going to take a whole lot longer if you have 10,000s in your network unless you’re only interested in one-way, outward communication.


Heather Townsend December 12, 2011 at 11:43

Thanks for your engaging comment Clare. I try to spend 90% of my networking time with 10% of my network – and these are the people most likely to help me achieve my goals (and this is a 2-way thing). Like you I do keep an eye on the rest of my network, because you never know when they may suddenly become very helpful to you.



Derek Reilly December 11, 2011 at 09:31

Hi Heather,

Just wondering where you got the photograph as it’s me in it at an event that I ran.


P. S. I’m a numbers man. The more possibilities the better.


Heather Townsend December 12, 2011 at 11:41

Hi Derek,

The photo is one which BNI have taken of an event somewhere and are using as an image in this blog. I’m guessing it must have been a surprise to see you in the image!



Rick Itzkowich December 12, 2011 at 23:39

From experience I can tell you that to be successful on LinkedIn you need a network that is wide, deep and diverse. This means you need both Quality AND Quantity. And here’s why:

Quantity gives you reach. This means that when you want to communicate with someone outside your network, having a large network gives you access to more people. The numbers grow exponentially. In fact there’s a saying for those of us who specialize in helping others maximize LinkedIn, that “The fortune is in the 2′s.” This means that the 2nd degree connections are the keys to making LinkedIn work. And the only way to get 2nd degree connections is to have 1st degree connections first.

However if all you have is Quantity with no relationships, then there will be little benefit to expanding your reach. It is like having the phone numbers of all the people you would like to reach but having to call gatekeepers first. Having the phone number is insufficient. You must have the credibility to get past the gatekeeper.

Which is why you also need Quality. Building relationships with the people you connect on LinkedIn is essential if you are going to capitalize on it.

You need to amass two currencies on LinkedIn: Credibility (Trust) and Goodwill. The more of these currencies you acquire the more you’ll be able to make LinkedIn work for you.

Great post and great question.

Warmest Regards,

Rick I. The LinkedIn Guy


Glen Cooper April 9, 2012 at 10:52

Hi, I have been interested in LinkedIn for a while now and it drives traffic to my blog on a regular basis. I cast my net wide as I have realised that playing a numbers game is a definite advantageous when online networking.

However, I have had searching questions regarding LinkedIn groups in the past.. Check this out if you please.

Good topic of discussion Heather, weldone!


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