Turns out you can. I used to be skeptical of my few friends who had that 500+ notation beside their names. I had a hard time believing they could possibly know that many LinkedIn contacts if they ran into one of them on the street.
I also used to think LinkedIn was kind of dull, compared to the friendliness of Facebook and the concise wit and wisdom of Twitter. My opinion was that LinkedIn was probably a great tool for jobseekers, but that there was nothing in it for me.
Recently, I decided to jump into my LinkedIn account with both feet. At that point, I had 178 contacts, but only because a colleague had challenged me to a competition a year or two ago. We were sitting through a long day of shooting a TV spot, and to pass the time between shots, we each tried to invite as many people as possible to connect. The one with the most connections at the end of the day would be declared the winner. (I think Stacy won.)
My collection of 178 contacts included lots of interesting, accomplished and well-connected people. But the list was a little random, and depended heavily on people I had in my email address book or that I just happened to think of, off the top of my head.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve about doubled my number of contacts. Now I’m up in the 350s somewhere. And I gotta tell you, LinkedIn becomes a much more colorful and lively cocktail party as your number of contacts grows.
My assumption was that after the first couple of hundred contacts, you’d be stretching to find any other people you actually new. But the opposite is true. The more people you connect with, the more names you think to search — and the more people find you. Tons of old co-workers, clients, vendors and acquaintances have popped up, many of whom I was delighted to be in touch with again.
As your list of contacts grows, it also becomes less weird to invite someone you know less well. I’ve reached out to people who are peers in the industry, although we’ve never actually been introduced. You can invite those people who know of you but don’t really know you — and vice versa. You can link with people you’ve emailed with but have never met in person.
How do you decide if someone’s too far removed from you to invite? You don’t want to overstep your bounds and ask someone who has no idea who you are. Some people say stick to people you know and trust, or people you’d like to know better. My rule of thumb is to ask myself if that person would pick up the phone if their assistant said I was on the line. If I think they’d take my call, I feel comfortable inviting them.
LinkedIn would appeal to a border collie, or any herding dog — if only dogs could get online. LinkedIn lets you herd everybody together and corral them in one place. The more people in your corral, the richer and more interesting a resource LinkedIn becomes.
So yeah, I think I could end up with 500 or more contacts on LinkedIn, and still recognize everyone if we bumped into each other on the street. If nothing else, I’ll be familiar with their little headshot at the top of their profile.