QvQ: Quality vs. Quantity: The Great LinkedIn Debate

August 18th, 2010 | by Jason Alba |

I just saw a blog post by VirtualJobCoach (the first competitor I had with JibberJobber, and some very good people :)) titled “The Trouble with LinkedIn: Bigger is not better

In the post they argue that if you get a bigger network you are playing the numbers game and NOT “really maximizing your network.”

They are arguing that the value of LinkedIn (and I infer other networks, including offline networking) is greater based on the QUALITY of the relationship you have with the people in your network and not in the QUANTITY of connections you have.

There is a lot of merit in that argument… I have seen this debate for the last 4+ years on forums I’m on and it gets close to a religious war.

My response?  It depends on your circumstances, goals, etc.

Some people will get more value out of a smaller, very close network with strong relationships.

Others will get immense value from having a large network, regardless of the strength of the relationship.

Try to tell either group that they are doing it wrong… see how they respond :p

Here’s an image I created to show what this concept might look like:


The assumption is that a conservative connection strategy is full of high quality relationships and an open connection strategy (connect with ANYONE) is full of people you don’t know (low-or-no quality relationships).

I invite you to share what YOUR strategy is and WHY.  Are there merits to having one strategy over another?

Note that a strategy can be anywhere along that line… not just at either end.

(I have a whole chapter dedicated to this in my LinkedIn book)

  1. 9 Responses to “QvQ: Quality vs. Quantity: The Great LinkedIn Debate”

  2. By Daria Steigman on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

    Hi Jason,

    My response: This is the wrong question to ask.

    I started out (like many people) with a very conservative approach, but have gradually loosened it to include people I meet but with whom — at least initially — I have tangential relationships.

    The best networks are both wide and deep. You want breadth to be able to identify potential partners, new business opportunities, and step outside your own bubble. You want depth so that you have a network of friends and colleagues who have your back.

  3. By David Panzera on Aug 18, 2010 | Reply

    I’m a convert to open networking. For years I subscribed to the philosophy of connecting only with those I knew personally. But when I recently re-entered the job market, I realized that my small network meant that most recruiters wouldn’t ever see my profile. So I joined several of the open network groups and started gradually adding contacts.

    My goal is to be findable, which means increasing my visibility through a larger network of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree connections.

  4. By Hung Lee on Aug 19, 2010 | Reply

    Hi Jason,

    You nailed it when you said it was dependent on circumstance. Zealots from both sides have managed to reduce this argument into an either/or, when the truth is most people change their approach depending on whether are selling or buying something from or to their network. We oscillate between the two positions and can stop at anywhere along that line.

    I explored this is in a blog post earlier this year, might be relevant to the folks reading this:


  5. By Haneef N. Nelson on Aug 19, 2010 | Reply

    I’m a believer in a combination of both approaches. I have my inner circle of contacts that I have known for years (or that I want to build a long lasting relationship with) and cultivate real meaningful realtionships with and then there are the people that I meet that I may conncet with and only speak to once or twice a year (or if they comment to a status update/tweet).

    Both groups have helped me immensely in looking for a job (when I was out of work) as well as in my research of various issues. I don’t think that either approach is wrong. I do believe that your networking approach has to be suitable to YOUR needs.

  6. By Mark Perl on Aug 19, 2010 | Reply

    Thought Thomas Power’s answer to this debate works well.I quote this to the closed,selective & controlling networkers all the time

    Why having a big network works ! http://bit.ly/iOGjY

    But at the end of the day, despite rhetoric and advocacy, the ONLY way to network,Jason…. is the way it works for YOU


  7. By Jason Alba on Aug 24, 2010 | Reply

    @Daria – so what would be the right question?

    I hear this question all the time.

  8. By Jim De Piante on Aug 24, 2010 | Reply

    Why “either/or”? I have a pretty big network (quantity), but actively cultivate my close-in relationships (quality).

  9. By Jason Alba on Aug 24, 2010 | Reply

    @Jim – ah… maybe we’re getting closer to the right answer… not either/or perhaps…

  10. By Sean Nelson on Aug 31, 2010 | Reply


    The age old debate on LinkedIn. I’ve been on both sides of the fence at times. Always believed it is up to each person to determine what works best for them.

    The reality is that for my networking with peers I need a low number, high quality network. For specific types of prospects the same. For unexpected opportunities and potential traffic to my blog its a higher number.

    I started writing a new blog post last night and I discussed the questions this way:

    “In all things where building numbers of people is concerned there is the argument of quality verses quantity. Higher quality results in better response. Or, more quantity will produce more opportunities. Both are right and wrong because the quantity or the quality of your online networks aren’t what’s going to determine success, yet they could have an impact.

    The problem with either assumption is that the fundamental shift in social media isn’t that you can reach a larger and/or more targeted demographic. The shift is in the types of communications that people are willing to accept and engage with. Content is what will determine success or failure. Either it engages those you want to engage or it doesn’t. Either it provides value or it doesn’t.

    Content is King and if you want social media to work then you have to use it to share information that those in your community find relevant and valuable. The only way to produce great content is to truly understand what problems your prospects are trying to solve and then show them how to solve those problems through content, not a sales pitch.”

    So I guess my response is to forget about focussing on your network size and strength and spend that time thinking about the content you share.

    So regardless or size or strength if the messages you communicate fail to engage whatever communities you build, size or quality don’t matter.”

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