Netscaping: Pruning dead branches from your LinkedIn network

The quality of contacts and value of the relationships in your LinkedIn network change over time. Some become more valuable. Others wither away. This is why it’s important to prune your LinkedIn networks from time to time, to remove dead branches and create opportunities for new growth.

In social network terms, a dead branch is a once-valuable relationship that has lost its value. The relationship is stagnant, counterproductive or unproductive, and unlikely to grow. Some branches die slowly, over time, due to neglect. Others die quickly due to life events.

When I changed jobs six months ago, 25 percent of the branches in my LinkedIn network died of natural causes – irrelevance.  The effects were immediate. Relationships based on my old job died quickly as previously-important vendors and customers lost their relevance to me.  Likewise, I became less important than my pending replacement to contacts who wanted to retain strong relationships to my previous employer.

After six months in my new job, I was able to trim 96 contacts from my LinkedIn network (roughly 25) percent. The result? My network is smaller (for now). But, it is also stronger. According to LinkedIn, my old network of 374 contacts created 5,278,400+ possible connections.  My current network of 278? 5,287,300+ possible connections.

That’s right. I’ve got MORE POSSIBILITIES to connect from FEWER CONTACTS. In six months, my new position has already sprouted more than 50 new branches based on my new role, with my new employer.  Nearly 20 percent of my current LinkedIn network has grown in the past six months.

Time to Prune?

Is it time for you to prune your LinkedIn contacts? If you don’t have enough confidence to answer these questions “yes” to the following questions, it might be time to remove a LinkedIn contact from your network:

  • Would I feel comfortable contacting this individual on behalf of another friend?
  • Would I be willing to introduce this individual to someone else I know so they can do business together?
  • Am I comfortable letting this person use my name as a business reference?
  • Will this person know me if he’s approached by others who use my name?

To remove one or more people from your list of connections take the following steps below:

  1. Click ‘Contacts’ in the left navigation bar of the homepage.
  2. Click on the ‘Remove’ Connections’ link in the upper right hand corner of the ‘Connections’ view.
  3. Select the people you’d like to remove from your ‘Connections’ list by clicking on the box next to their names.
  4. Click on the ‘Remove Connections’ button.

Connections aren’t notified that they have been removed from your connections list. They are added to your list of Imported Contacts just in case you want to re-invite them at a later date. Only the member that breaks the connection can re-initiate that connection.

If you happen to be one of the people listed above, who were pruned from my LinkedIn network, take heart:  It wasn’t you…  It was me… I’m in a new place… But… If you want…  We can still be friends…

You can find me on Facebook.

Credits: Photo courtesy of siblog (via Photobucket).

Deleting a Friend

Another riveting episode of SuperNews! Facebook, Myspace and Friendster are forced to delete Mr. Furley as their friend after he embarrasses them.

  • diane

    I’m surprised that you would have found such a huge benefit from deleting almost 100 contacts. It might suggest that those people were never of value, and should perhaps never been added. I’m always surprised to see how much energy people spend on linking to the person who sits right next to them.

    My suggestion would be to link only to those that you will want to keep contact with, should either of you leave the organization. There are ex-vendors, colleagues, etc. that I would never part with, because some day they may be my next colleague, vendor, etc. With updates in Linked-in, you are never truly out of touch, unless they of course, don’t ever open up Linked-in!

  • http://www.hyperiongaming.com Chris Denny

    It’s a thought provoking idea. I feel that it’s still better to have an increased network, and though you increased your network by deleting some old contacts (presume contacts with a minimum of connections) and added contacts presumably including some with either big networks, or from a different sector/region.
    I would pose the question, would it not be better to have kept those deleted contacts and addded the additional ones also?

    Different strokes for different folks. Good luck, Cheers Chris

  • Trevor

    You present some good arguments here, Troy. But just because a contact may not be of particular value to you currently does not mean that they may not become a valuable contact just through the passage of time. I guess what puzzles me is what value you truly gain by weeding out nearly 100 contacts. What’s really the downside to having them on the “back burner” in case their direct value to you changes?

    Trevor

  • Keith Katers

    Pruning your LinkedIn network is an interesting point of view.
    I can see, as times change, so will your circle of connections.
    It has happened to me too. However, for now, I’m staying in contact with a number of people in my network, even those without direct business connectivity. My tree provides a nice canopy and protection from the elements. However, now that I think of it… it could use a little trim.

  • http://www.wendysoucie.com Wendy Soucie

    Troy, this post entices me to ask the question – Is it good etiquette when you realize you have been removed (or when the list was posted in a pubic blog with growing readership) from someones contact list to nicely ask for constructive reasons why? I am looking for input on how I and others can work on aspects of our “Connectivity Index” to improve the reasons for connection.

    Unrequited Linked-Love. When one side doesn’t need the relationship but the other side found value in it (no not just to see all the connections)how do you help them. Trevor has a point about people improving over time. I may be the next Chris Brogan after all and I intend to talk with him about that when he comes to Madison on his big tour! Please start that buzz!

    Social media to me is about sharing knowledge, mentoring helping etc in the communities you participate in or the communities your create (SocialMeteor). Its not always all about you.

    I have removed two individuals so far – mostly due to leaving a job like you. They probably don’t have a clue. But I am trying to build a solid social media presence, grow the right contacts, grow my connections and help others understand this area. I am learning from many and get positive reinforcement when I help someone just getting on board.

    Maybe it was just luck that your reduction ended up as a status quo. I haven’t seen a calculator that lets you evaluate before you add someone to see what the net network increase will be before you add or delete. I know a few Power users in LinkedIn so I will be sure and ask them and pass it on to you.

    Maybe we will reconnect another day!

  • Mike

    I’d wager that your “overlap” has a lot to do with: 1. a couple “power users” among your connections, 2. substantial overlap between your current and former jobs, and 3. lack of temporal distance between your current and previous jobs.

    So, I’m not sure how this really is to anyone’s benefit. I find that the power of a particular connection is emphasized when I’m no longer somehow directly connected to that individual, as is the case when I’ve changed a job since it’s so very rare that one departs a world for an entirely different world. As such, the connection to the “old world” through someone means that, over time, you will have fewer and fewer individuals in common.

    Also, there is something almost stupidly shortsighted about promptly pruning your connections. That connection probably has an equal likelihood of leaving and going to somewhere else. That somewhere else might be more powerful or useful for you. But having pruned that individual is likely only to annoy the prunee.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/febonio Mona Febonio

    Hello Troy,

    You really pruned Mona Febonio – are you off your rocker… lol?

    With my very carefully selected 88 connections, along with my 15 great recommendations (also lean and mean according to your Pruning Plan), I find it a little strange you cut my branch off; we never actually met or worked together.

    Karen N. and I worked up the BizFilings.com & BCSCredit.com partnership test plan that you had to approve etc. I find it rather compelling you pruned Mona Febonio, and we never had the opp to work together?

    I love your 28 recommendations while at BF and more – all those who admired all your hard work!

    I didn’t know until I saw this Google Alert tonight, that your LinkedIn Profile shows Bizfilings as the past? Nothings Shocking… (Janes Addiction song).

    BTW: cool guitar on your Facebook.

    Mona Febonio

    Work: http://www.bcscredit.com
    Music: http://www.10inchmaria.com

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/troyjanisch Troy Janisch

    @Mona Febonio Thanks for responding. You’re great! As you said yourself:”We never actually met or worked together.” As a result, didn’t feel qualified to leverage you in my network. We still share mutual friends, so we’re still in the same network — just connected more loosely. I love Karen N., like yourself, so I’m always available to you via her network in LinkedIn.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/troyjanisch Troy Janisch

    @Wendy Soucie
    Heh. I’m getting to know you better by removing you from my network (grin). Thanks for visiting socialmeteor.com. I agree with you that “social media is is about sharing knowledge, mentoring helping etc in the communities you participate in or the communities your create (SocialMeteor).” I think I’m coming to value the networks outside LinkedIn more than LinkedIn itself. These days, I’m more plugged into Twitter than LinkedIn. Following people there is more relational, and more satisfying than following individuals via LinkedIn.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/troyjanisch Troy Janisch

    @Mike

    Strangest thing — the increased network size wasn’t the result of removing some people and then adding others — it was only the result of removing people. Not sure why that’s the case.

    I find that my ‘social networking’ is ‘more social’ and ‘less networking’.

    For the past six months, I’ve adopted Twitter as my main social network outlet (and this blog). I don’t find myself using or leveraging LinkedIn as much.

  • http://www.LoriRuff.com Lori Ruff

    I find it interesting that someone who purports to be an “Uniquely accomplished marketing strategist and innovator” would be so bold and brash as to not only talk about pruning his network¬—without understanding the value and power that old relationships can bring in the future—but to publish the names of the people you have pruned is incredibly bad-mannered. I am astonished at the audacity of making a public statement naming your “dead branches” as if these people have no value and we should prune them too.

    Have you no forethought or interest in being available to people who have brought you value in the past? Are you so self-centered as to believe that building a LinkedIn (or any other network) is all about you? If someone is of no value to you, you cut them off? You are incredibly naïve and ill-mannered and I’d be surprised your actions—both in the strength (as opposed to sheer size) of your network and your professional reputation—does not suffer.

    And, in acknowledgment of your weak comment that you are using Twitter more than LinkedIn anyway, I put forth that this is further proof that you really have no idea about the etiquette of the social networking space. Burn your bridges on one platform, people will remember. And of course, each has different focuses and uses to create, build, and strengthen relationships. I will continue to follow you, only to watch what happens and see if you learn any lessons and come out stronger on the other side of this controversy.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/troyjanisch Troy Janisch

    @Lori Ruff
    Thank you for your passionate response. LinkedIn Open Networkers (LIONs), like yourself, are open to connecting on LinkedIn with people that they have never met before. That’s a powerful demonstration of your networking beliefs. As a LION, you actively work to help bridge closed networks of people like myself on LinkedIn.

    I don’t accept LinkedIn connections from LIONs because it means that I’m accepting a blind relationship — NOT JUST FOR MYSELF, BUT on behalf of everyone in my network that a LION gains access to. Doing so would be a discourteous act.

    This doesn’t mean that I’m closed to meeting new people or exploring new opportunities — just means I’m not open to subjecting my network of valued business contacts prematurely to people I can’t really vouch for. Anyone new can contact me via Social Meteor or Twitter.

    I’m surprised that you don’t value the capabilities of Twitter for networking — It’s a clearer representation of the LION mindset since you can follow anyone and use it effectively to build new relationships. Give it 60 days.

    And, [grin] you’re not the first to accuse me of being “too bold” or “too brash”. At your bequest, I’ve trimmed the names of prunees from this article. I wanted to give the individuals I trimmed an appreciative nod — and an invitation to respond — but I can see how that intent can be easily misinterpreted by those who don’t know me. Wendy and Mona stated a prunee’s views eloquently.

  • http://www.wendysoucie.com Wendy Soucie

    Thanks for the comments back troy, it was worth the waiting. I will keep reading socialmeteor and continue with my AM Fam insurance :)

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/troyjanisch Troy Janisch

    Here’s a great article on the topic of pruning:

    TWITTER PURGE: Top Twitter User Unfollows 106,000 People
    http://mashable.com/2009/08/06/twitter-purge/

    “On Monday I unfollowed 106,000 people on Twitter. The reaction so far has been quite interesting. More than 7,000 accounts have unfollowed me back. They did that so fast that I assume they are just bots that are looking to increase their follower numbers. I knew I’d lose them, but that’s sort of why I did it. People who are following me just to get another count on their follower numbers are just plain, well, lame.”