Trimming LinkedIn Connections: Deadwood Edition

September 20th, 2010 | by Jason Alba |

Tom Kenny asks in a comment on Friday’s post:

“…I’d love to hear your thoughts on the back end (disconnecting) of networking. Because I wondering how there could be any value to dead wood LinkedIn connections…”

Good question.

I’ve blogged in various places about frequently disconnecting from “friends” on Facebook… I have a zero tolerance policy where if you do something lame with our “friend” relationship I just remove you… no big deal.

I’ve also said that it’s fine to disconnect on LinkedIn – one of the big questions is “will they know?” People seem to not want to offend an ex-connection, or have to have an uncomfortable conversation (“Um, well, I disconnected because… um, er…. “).

But I think what Tom is asking is something else… when does it make sense to disconnect from someone who has provided no value? (as opposed to the technical aspect of disconnecting)

In Tom’s comment he says he would prune:

“… the folk that don’t respond to emails or say some thing like “I’ll let you know” when I ask how I may be of assistance.”

So here’s the interesting thing… the question that YOU have to answer for yourself:

Why are you connecting with people on LinkedIn?

If it is to have these types of deeper relationships, and hope for and expect some kind of mutual respect and communication from one another, then yeah, his thought makes sense.

But ask a recruiter, or a salesperson, or bus dev, or someone who looks at LinkedIn as a database what they think about this.

If they understood how LinkedIn is a tool for them, in their capacity, they would suggest they don’t care about that at all. They are interested in the database search aspect.

“Find me a project manager in Seattle.”

This search would show they any hits in their network… not just their first degree contacts, but THEIR contacts.

In other words, if you have any interest in finding people who are in the networks of your first degree connections then you want to have a lot of (relevant) first degree contacts.

That’s why you see recruiters with thousands of connections. They are not in it for the relationship as much as they are in it for the big reach/database.

I’m not one to say that Tom is right, or a recruiter is right… but think about both options on a spectrum and figure out where you fit… are you more inclined to keep it trimmed with real relationships, or are you interested in the ability to search your contacts’ contacts?

It’s up to you – I can decide for you (but I know where I fall).

One last thought – Tom asks if there is any value to deadwood connections?  Sure, absolutely.  And further, it doesn’t hurt to have them there…

What do you think?

  1. 5 Responses to “Trimming LinkedIn Connections: Deadwood Edition”

  2. By Ed Han on Sep 20, 2010 | Reply

    Jason, I’m in complete, 100% agreement with you on this. Well said.

  3. By Tom Kenny on Sep 21, 2010 | Reply

    Thanks Jason. I certainly agree.

    However, for recruiters and such, I’ve wondered if just subscribing to the premium services would be more effective since they’d then have access to everybody on LinkedIn and not limited by the size and diversity of their network. Guess it boils down to the old time vs money issue.

    As an IT professional, I lean more toward a closed networker strategy, although not totally closed which is probably what induced some deadwood. Although deadwood connections may have some low level potential energy it seems to me the occasional negative energy in the form of ignored or rejected requests, out weigh the potential good.

    However, as you have implied, one size does not fit all!

  4. By Jos Essers on Oct 2, 2010 | Reply

    Tom would disconnect from “… the folk that don’t respond to emails or say some thing like “I’ll let you know” when I ask how I may be of assistance.”

    Tom should invest in the relationship, figure out for himself how he can be of help. From there he should be creative and actually do something.

    What if Tom would ask me, how he could help and I woul dreply”well, glad you ask. I am relocating my office and I can use some extra hands to move the furniture. If you would happen to have a removal-van, that would be super…. ”

    Asking someone you have just met, how you can be of help, is one of the dumbest questions you may raise. Build a relationship first.


  5. By Tom Kenny on Oct 2, 2010 | Reply

    I guess I didn’t give the full context of why I was asking this question.

    As an event leader of networking events I often get LinkedIn requests from people that attend my event. Some of these networkers are employed while some are in transition.

    Although I tend to be a closed networker. I often accept these invitations to connect on LinkedIn because I presume and anticipate we’ll be developing a relationship.

    When we connect I ask how I can be of assistance and of course if I can provide immediate assistance I do such. However, if I can’t help now I make a note of it along with whatever else I learned about them in my account for future reference. I also set an action item in JibberJobber to follow-up with this person after some period of time to help grow the relationship.

    One of my personal goals (and some call me crazy for doing this) is to have at least one in-person networking activity each week. Yes this can be challenging but I have found it to be a worthy investment in my career! This weekly in-person networking activity may be attending a group meeting or it may be having lunch or coffee with somebody new in my network so I get to know them better or meet with an established professional relationship to keep it alive and in touch.

    In my experience I find that some (not all) people will make the first step and connect on LinkedIn but when I request to get to know them better they don’t have time for that. After all they may be either busy with their career or finding a job.

    I attempt to develop the relationship by getting to know what their wants, needs and desires are. However, if they don’t have time to develop a relationship I think we are just kidding our selves with a notch on the LinkedIn bed post.

    So back to my question. What’s the value in LinkedIn dead wood connections (for those not in sales or not a recruiter)? I think we often hear about the front end of networking about getting out and meeting people. We also hear about the middle game where we develop a relationship and I’m all for that. However, I never hear anybody talk about the back end of networking and when is the proper time to disconnect.

    My basic philosophy on this is 3 strikes and you’re out. If after 3 emails or phone calls it becomes evident that the person is not interested in developing a professional relationship, I tag the contact as abandoned in JibberJobber. I don’t delete them from JibberJobber since there may be information worthy of future reference. However, at that time I feel I also need to make the tough decision of do I disconnect from them on LinkedIn. After all if they don’t want to respond to emails, phone calls or invites to meet in person the relationship is not being developed. I seriously doubt that if I request assistance for myself or on behalf of my network, that I would receive any assistance from what I’m calling dead wood contacts. However, I posted the question since I’m interested in learning if others have experienced this as well. If not I’ll be happy to learn that I’m wrong!

  6. By Jason Alba on Oct 4, 2010 | Reply

    Tom, I don’t think you are wrong. You are an example of how to network, as far as I’m concerned :)

    However, I have two thoughts:

    First, if you disconnect from them on LinkedIn, as far as I know, you can NEVER connect with them again. No second chances… so it’s a very permanent decision. Circumstances might change in the future which might merit a reconnection – but the way LI works now, you won’t ever be able to do it.

    Second, there is no real harm in being connected to “dead wood”. Even though they aren’t responding to you they don’t clog up yoru inbox or anything like that…

    Based on those to things I’d personally just leave them there… but I know it’s frustrating to have a list of people/things that you know you don’t care for (at the time).

    I guess what would be cool is if LI would allow you to “hide” a contact from the list… could be done based on their tags…

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