Should you build a professional network that is small, large, or somewhere in between? It depends on what you are selling, whom you sell to, and how much time you want to spend on LinkedIn managing your network.
Being an Open Networker gives you a lot of opportunities to connect with others, but you will have to dedicate at least an hour or two a day accepting connection requests and answering emails from your network.
Open Networkers tend to be aggressive networkers, so they are constantly reaching out to their network, beating the bush for new leads.
If you are a recruiter who fills jobs nationally or internationally, you need to build a huge network to keep your pipeline full. You have to be willing to dedicate up to half of your working hours working your LinkedIn network for leads to fill open positions and to find new jobs to post.
There is nothing wrong with spending 20 hours a week networking on LinkedIn, if it’s your primary source to find job listings and quality candidates.
If you are selling niche products, it probably doesn’t make sense for you to spend more than an hour or two a day on LinkedIn, if your target audience is small.
You probably have a few key contacts on LinkedIn who can connect you with the right people, and you know which Groups to participate in.
Most sales professionals choose the middle-of-the-road approach. They have their professional network of 500 to 1,000 members, which gives them tremendous access to millions of second- and third-degree connections.
They also have their core members of their network, with whom they communicate on a regular basis. It’s the old 80/20 rule: 20 percent of their network is most active, providing the majority of their leads and sales, while they occasionally benefit from some leads and sales from the other 80 percent.
Pros & Cons
The optimal size of your LinkedIn network depends on a lot of factors that only you can determine. Every situation is different, so weigh the pros and cons of each networking style and determine which is best for the product or service you sell.
Small Niche Network
|Targeted audience||Limited ability to reach|
|Less noise/emails from2 2n and 3rd-degree connections||You may miss some sales opportunities, because you don’t have as many 1st- degree connections, referring you to new connections|
|Fewer connection requests from people you don’t know|
|New connection requests are usually more targeted because you are a niche networker|
Medium Sized Network
|You benefit from having a targeted audience and an extended 2nd- and 3rd-degree audience||You may be limited when you try to reach out to 3rd- degree connections|
|More opportunities to connect with prospects when you need introductions||You may receive a lot of connection requests from strangers or people that don’t fit your professional network profile|
|More opportunities to receive referrals from your network||You may receive a lot of connections|
|You have a very wide audience to sell to and to help refer you to prospects||Your network is very unfocused so you have to work hard to find targeted prospects|
|You have access to millions of 2nd- and 3rd-degree connections||You will receive a lot of unsolicited emails from your connections|
|You are never more than two hops from millions of prospects||You will have no personal relationship with over 90% of your network so you won’t be able to refer them|
|You will receive a lot of requests to Recommend people in your network who you don’t know very well|
Of course you can change your mind if you choose a style that’s not working for you. If you start out as a niche networker, you can easily switch to be an Open Networker or a medium-sized network.
The difficult transition is if you begin as an Open Networker and connections with 20,000 other professionals, it’s hard to easily reduce the size of your network. It’s a long, tedious process removing the connections that are not highly targeted.
Some people even close their existing LinkedIn account and start over with a brand-new account and rebuild their network from scratch.
If you think building a smaller, more focused network is the way to go, you’ll have to be more selective when connecting with others.
There's a fine balance between keeping your network small and focused and also having access to those valuable second- and third-degree connections.