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LinkedIn: Is quality more important than quantity?

(MoneyWatch) On Facebook, your popularity is measured by the sheer number of friends you have. But on career-focused social network LinkedIn, padding your numbers doesn't increase your "worth." In fact, doing so could make it a less effective catalyst for your career.

I recently spoke to LinkedIn Connection Director Nicole Williams about why you should carefully consider both quality and quantity when networking through their site:

MoneyWatch: Why shouldn't you look to connect with everyone on LinkedIn?

Nicole Williams: In the professional world, quality always matters more than quantity, especially when it comes to business contacts. You could have a Rolodex full of "contacts," but how many of those contacts can you rely on to answer your emails instantly, find you a new hire or help you out when you're in a jam?

So what should LinkedIn users aim for in terms of numbers?

The magic number is at least 50 connections. Once a member meets 50 contacts, they'll start to unlock many more networks and doors via their second- and third-degree connections.

What makes someone a worthwhile connection?

Before you connect with someone, ask yourself how you can help that person down the line and how you might benefit from connecting with them. Are they in a similar industry or an industry you're thinking of switching to? Working at a company you admire or one that's a competitor? Or are they an expert in their field or alumni with similar hobbies?

Is it ever OK to quickly add a lot of new contacts?

Yes, it's OK to have an increased number of followers if you are actually helping them. You can do this by sharing insightful comments, commenting on their posts, updating articles you're reading, joining group discussions and answering questions. As long as you are maintaining a meaningful dialogue, then it is safe to create more connections.

What are signs that you're heading in the wrong direction?

If you find yourself inundated with comments, it might be time to backtrack and go through your connections and seek out who is truly meaningful to you and your professional growth. You can also go to your settings and cut down on the number of updates and shares you receive. Just like any other form of networking, you'll get more out of LinkedIn by the amount of time you spend on it. Create a welcoming interface. Join groups that you're actually going to participate in, and tailor LinkedIn Today to stories you can't wait to read. Connect with people who inspire you. They'll more than likely have great insight to share.

How many people are you connected to on LinkedIn? Please share in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user TomChen1989

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