When contributing writer Carol Tice wrote about the ROI of networking online, comments from readers revealed their uncertainty over the worthiness of sites like Twitter and Facebook. So when LinkedIn–a site specifically created for networking purposes–changed its user policy to limit the amount of connections a person could need to 30,000, Entrepreneur.com investigated its potential influence on small-business owners and entrepreneurs.
Can LinkedIn’s recent cap hurt entrepreneurs? Select a side.
Yes Sure, hardly anyone is directly affected. Less than 20 users (a minuscule fraction of total membership) are over the limit, and even President Obama claims no more than 25,000 connections. However the real problem is everything you lose indirectly, says “super connector” Steven Burda, who has a lot more than 37,000 connections, at least 15,000 pending invitations and around 2,500 personal recommendations.
“The cap matters too much to entrepreneurs and small-business owners,” Burda says. “I’ve used LinkedIn to greatly help multiple smaller businesses secure funding with venture capitalists, and over time that I’ve been on the webpage, I’ve probably facilitated thousands, if not millions, of dollars worth of business deals.”
But apparently, no good deed goes unpunished. The limit blocks Burda’s capability to create more of the deals, and he suspects the change was partly motivated by the actual fact that LinkedIn is losing from fees they charge unconnected members for introductory “inmails” ($10 a pop).
“The true victims are the individuals who overlook joining a wider network, and miss a potential connection,” Burda says. “If the platform is really for helping people, its users must be able to network with one another.” He adds that he just really wants to take up a dialogue with LinkedIn about preventing more restrictions from being implemented later on. Up to now, he hasn’t heard back.
No The LinkedIn representative we reached declined to comment, but asked us to get hold of other members who were ready to offer an opposing perspective.
Enter Sheilah Etheridge, founder of SME Management and among LinkedIn’s earliest adopters. She views the worthiness of Burda’s networking method rather differently. “LinkedIn has its flaws, however the one flaw it generally does not have is limiting entrepreneurs from helping each other or themselves grow,” she says. “There are countless members who help other folks find opportunities, and do not require try to take credit for this or expect anything in exchange. That may be the nature of networking.”
Etheridge says she linked to Burda in 2006 and found him to become a good networker. But she begun to suspect he was abusing an individual policy by connecting to people he didn’t know; now, he’s “networking” by collecting names and making surface introductions (that rarely pan out) in trade for endorsements. “It’s quantity instead of quality, just how does that help a business owner grow or succeed?”
LinkedIn is at its rights to create a cap, she continues, and 30,000 is a generous one, particularly when accounts could be free. “People devote lots of time to create this a genuine networking site with real value, but Burda’s method cheapens and dilutes the knowledge.”__
Ultimately, it probably boils right down to your individual view of how online networking is meant to work, but there’s a very important factor we can all acknowledge: There is no way a measly 30,000-connection cap can stop a business owner from doing what has to be done.