Should You Be An Open Connector?

March 2nd, 2009 | by Jason Alba |

I see a bunch of LinkedIn Profiles that have a few hundred connections and say they are LIONs, or LinkedIn Open Networkers (aka, LinkedIn LIONs).  I shared my thoughts on LinkedIn LIONs a few months ago (nice heated discussion there)… today I want to follow up on a concept that bugs me.

I think it’s important to understand what being an OPEN NETWORKER means to you.  Does it mean (any or all of these):

  • you will connect with anyone who invites you?
  • you are interested in nurturing relationships with everyone you connect with?
  • you don’t care about the person (relationship) and are really just interested in adding them to your LinkedIn database so that you can do searches and get results from their network (which are now your second and third degree contacts)

Why are you, or do you want to be, a LION?  I know open networkers, and they are nice people.  I think too many have no idea what to do with their networks, but want to be open… that makes sense to me… but I think the reasons to have large, or huge, networks, are cloudy.

Not that you have to have solid reasons… but I think you need to think about your network philosophy or purposes before you say you are, or are not, a LION.

** I should mention, I use the term LION loosely…. apparently there is a very solid, strict definition of LION which some people think is quite controlled, almost like a managed brand, but I’ve seen a lot of people who generically use the term (outside of the strict interpretation) of LION.

  1. 8 Responses to “Should You Be An Open Connector?”

  2. By Patrick O'Malley on Mar 2, 2009 | Reply

    Also, people should be warned that some people who advertise themselves as LIONs will say “I Don’t Know” xxxxx when you invite them, which will make it more likely that you get put on LinkedIn’s blacklist.

    I have a full description at

  3. By Jane N-B on Mar 4, 2009 | Reply

    Jason, this is a great question!

    I know I struggle with the best way to handle connections on LinkedIn. At first I only wanted to connect with people I knew personally, to be able to recommend them and their work, etc.

    But…I never received any of those types of requests. In the meantime I turned down (and still turn down) generic “hey, connect with me” open network requests.

    However, now I’m meeting people at chamber events, networking, etc. I don’t know them personally, but let’s say we had a great conversation. If one of those people invites me to connect, I’m more likely to accept at this point.

    The same is true if I receive a connection from someone in a LinkedIn group – I won’t connect just because we’re in the same group, but I might if we participated in a group discussion.

    Is this “open networking,” or perhaps “slightly open door” networking? Not sure…trying to find what works best for me personally.

  4. By Karma Martell on Mar 11, 2009 | Reply

    Responding to Jane’s comments: Did you not make any overtures to your close colleagues and friends to join you on Linked In or to send/receive recommendations? This is the heart of your network from which you need to build out.

    RE: “slightly open door” :
    I use Linked In as a way to test the viability of a contact I made (and had a discussion with) at an event (unless we made a plan to speak or meet then and there). Instead of first making a follow-up call or email I invite them to connect on Linked In. If they don’t respond, I take that to mean: a) they are really not serious about building their network and/or b) They are not really interested in pursuing the business relationship. Usually if it is worthwhile there is some kind of follow-up communication that takes place – whether on LI or other conduits.

    When I get an open invitation on Linked In from someone out of the blue, I don’t blow it off immediately. I write back and ask how they found me and why they might be interested in connecting with me. If I don’t get an answer, that tells me something.

    Wishing you lots of luck and success!

  5. By Tom on Mar 22, 2009 | Reply

    I had a follow up q. on opening up your connections or keeping it private.

    In the beginning, the network is mostly trusted people. But, as you meet people at networking events and start accepting linkedin invites based on ONE meeting, it is technically, no longer a trusted network.

    What is stopping someone from viewing your connections, and calling up one of your important contacts claiming to know you ???? even though you have met only once !!!

    Appreciate your inputs.


  6. By Jason Alba on Mar 23, 2009 | Reply

    @Patrick – I just watched one of your videos – you set the bar very high – you are a great presenter!

    @Karma – I agree with much of what you say, except if I invite someone to connect in LinkedIn and they don’t accept, I don’t assume they even read it and made a decision about it… I get a ton of invitations on other sites that I simply ignore/delete, because I assume they inadvertently spammed me from that software… and I think many people who get any invitation might assume the same thing… make sense?

    @Jane – I need to write a post about asymmetrical connections… in my book, in the chapter on connecting, I talk about a spectrum where there is very closed and very open, and YOU have to figure out WHERE on that spectrum you fall… probably not on either extreme, rather, somewhere in the middle… AND, your position on the spectrum can change as needed!

    @Tom, nothing is stopping people from doing that, and it’s a good argument to stick with LinkedIn’s supposed suggestion to only connect with people you “know and trust.”

  7. By Will Kintish on Mar 24, 2009 | Reply

    To me LION connectors should simply list as one of their hobbies….’I collect names!’
    I just don’t get it. It’s like walking down the street and saying to strangers, “Hello will you be my friend?”…a bit like 3 year olds do in the playground.
    Well that’s my thinking!

  8. By Patrick O'Malley on Apr 16, 2009 | Reply

    Wow. A shout out from Jaon Alba. Much appreciated, brother.

  9. By Jason Alba on Apr 16, 2009 | Reply

    Ah shucks, I’m just a normal dude. Watching your video made me think I’m not doing good enough :)

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