In previous posts I confessed developing a networking habit pre-Web 2.0. Consequently, the spine of my networking philosophy is to cultivate strong, sustainable relationships, one relationship at a time. Thanks to social networking, people appear to be building looser, situational networks. Quantity is the spine of their networking philosophy.
Every time someone that I do not know reaches out to me to connect on LinkedIn and I learn they are a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker), I evaluate how many networking connections can people effectively maintain? I am reminded of Robin Dunbar, a professor of anthropology at Oxford University in England. Thanks to extensive research, he developed Dunbar’s number, the theoretical cognitive number of people with whom we can maintain stable social relationships. He believes that number is 150. To quote Dunbar directly: “Our minds are not designed to allow us to have more than a very limited number of people in our social world. The emotional and psychological investments that a close relationship requires are considerable, and the emotional capital we have available limited.”
Along comes the collaborative world of Web 2.0. Social media gurus are now challenging Dunbar’s number. Some profess that the true value of our network does not come from strong relationships, but from casual ties which are more beneficial since they form bridges to new worlds we are not connected with. Consequently, we now are witnessing people with 500+ LinkedIn connections (LIONS), 1K+ Facebook friends and 4K+ twitter followers.
Back to my original query: How many LinkedIn networking connections can people effectively maintain? Answer: Depends on an individual’s networking philosophy. LIONS believe in quantity, situational connections, thus have learned how to manage their network effectively. Other people value strong, sustainable relationships, most of which were cultivated pre- Web 2.0, thus emphasize quality.
What are your thoughts? Quality or quantity?