500 is a very special number on LinkedIn. After you reach 500 connections on LinkedIn, they stop counting new ones on your profile. This doesn’t mean that you are limited to 500 connections. All visitors to your profile are shown “500+ Connections” and only you know the real number since it appears on your LinkedIn homepage.
So are you a member of the 500+ Club? I know that this sounds like a ridiculously high number for many people, and it may be for some. But, if you are an active networker, you would be surprised how many new people you meet over the course of a year or two.
When I joined LinkedIn back in 2007 I thought that this number was completely unattainable. Secretly, I made it my goal to reach 500 connections.
So how did I do it? I started out by sending invitations to everyone I worked with at the time. I began thinking back on the people that I knew from my college (professors, fellow students, and administration). Also, in the spring of 2008 I went back to school. I hunted down my new classmates on LinkedIn. I also attended some networking events around town and invited people to connect whom I had great conversations with and felt like we connected. Some time earlier this year, I hit 500 connections.
So you may be asking yourself why I bothered… I must be really vain to want to collect this many connections, right? I’ll leave it to you to judge whether I am vain or not, but I suspect most people I know wouldn’t describe me this way.
The reason why a large number of connections is so important is because it is the key to finding people and being found on LinkedIn. If you have ever done a search on LinkedIn, you will see that your results are populated primarily with people that are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree connections. These are people that you know and are connected to, or friends of friends or friends or friends of friends (you get the idea). By default, LinkedIn search works by relevance, which factors in connections and key words in your profile along with a bit of LinkedIn magic.
So how important is this? Let me give you an example to show you how important it is. Let’s say that I am looking for a social media expert. I go to LinkedIn and type in “social media” in the people search and hit enter. There are so many people in my network that have social media in their profile somewhere that I don’t see anyone that is above a 2nd degree connection. This means that if you don’t know one of my contacts, I don’t ever see you. You may be the best social media expert in the world, but you aren’t connected into my network. There are ways around this, but most people aren’t likely to do more advanced searches.
If you want to be found on LinkedIn, the best strategy is to have good quality keywords in your profile and have a large network of good quality connections.
So does this mean that I expect everyone to have 500+ connections? No. I recognize that not everyone is out there networking all the time. But, I do see so many people that have thousands of friends on Facebook, but only 50 or 100 on LinkedIn. I suspect that there is some Facebook friends that are also on LinkedIn and would be happy to connect.
So does this mean that you should go out and connect with a bunch of random people on LinkedIn? Again, the answer is no. While you are free to develop your own policies about who you connect with, I recommend sticking with people that you know in real life and have some kind of shared interests. It doesn’t do you any good to have an un-targeted group of connections outside of your industry or geographic location.
What is keeping you back from joining the 500+ Club? Who do you connect with on LinkedIn?