Do You Hide Your LinkedIn Connections?

I’ve noticed that some of my contacts (10% to be exact) have made their connections private on LinkedIn. As a social network, hiding your contact list seems, well, not very social. When a contact list is private, I can’t browse my connection’s network to see who I may know or who may be of interest to me. I can still find people in their network via a keyword search showing them as the first-level contact that provides the connection, but I have to know what I’m looking for and I can’t just open up their connection list and peruse them for familiar faces.

Why Do People Choose to Hide Their Networks?

  • To prevent competitors from gaining access to your customers and business partners
  • To avoid having to make an introduction to someone for a person you don’t really know
  • To preserve confidentiality
  • To eliminate unwanted solicitations

All very valid reasons.

I’ve also discovered that originally LinkedIn set the default as private, so it’s highly possible that some people just don’t know that they can change this setting. So if you are in that category, go to “Accounts & Settings”, “Connections Browse” and select “Yes, show my connections list” radio button if you wish to open up your network.

Should You Make Your Network Visible?

One of the real strengths of LinkedIn is its ability to assist in connecting people. Everyone on LinkedIn has chosen to share their information to some extent with everyone in their network which includes your 3rd degree network and those with whom you share groups. By not sharing your connections, you appear to be anti-social and imply that you want easy access to my connections but are not willing to share yours in return. And although that may not be the case for your choice, networking is a two-way street and some people may take offense.

If you open your network, you can:

  • Help other people connect
  • Create new opportunities for you and others
  • Build new relationships
  • Grow your network

Professionals should apply the same networking skills to LinkedIn that you would in a face-to-face networking event and behave responsibly. I hope those I connect with act professionally and can be trusted to use the network appropriately, enabling me to expand and add value to not only my network, but to yours as well.

What’s Right for You?

The purpose of LinkedIn is to create an opportunity to discover other professionals that may be beneficial for me to know. Most often, I’m not going to spend a lot of time browsing other’s connections and mostly will make use of the search feature to save time. If someone truly feels that hiding their connections is right for them, then that’s their choice and it’s fine with me.

Do you open your network or protect it and why?

Other items of interest:


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18 Responses to Do You Hide Your LinkedIn Connections?

  1. Krishna De August 6, 2009 at 8:00 am #

    I certainly enjoy connecting other people to one another and actively do so. However I have closed down my access to seeing all my connections on LinkedIn primarily as it’s my most valuable network and I found some people were ‘mining it’.

    My LinkedIn network has been established in the real world over 20 years and it is something I value and nurture.

    I actively introduce people to one another in the real world and the virtual world including through LinkedIn.

    I believe we have to create our own guidelines for networking online and those guidelines might well be different across different social networks.
    .-= Krishna De´s last blog ..Arthurs Day, A Global Celebration Of The Entrpreneurial Vision of Arthur Guinness =-.

    • Debra August 6, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

      Krishna – Before I wrote this post, I had a more one-sided opinion on this topic. But once you realize that you can still “see” the connections through search and know who can introduce you, I take a much more neutral position – i.e. to each his or her own. It is a shame, however, that some folks find it ok to “mine” your contacts for whatever reason. Thanks for sharing your perspective and experience.

  2. Curtis Chambers August 27, 2009 at 5:19 pm #

    A thoughtful post. Why be on Linkedin if all one is going to do is hide? Also, one’s connections are in a sense part of one’s profile, in that they tell a lot about the person. Information wants to be free.
    .-= Curtis Chambers´s last blog .."Top Hat" – When America was Tops – Film Review =-.

    • Debra August 27, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

      Thanks Curtis – I agree with you that hiding your connections does remove a piece of your overall brand. So although I’ll keep my connections visible, I’m less critical about those that do not now that I realize that I still have access to the connections, I just can’t “thumb” through them as if I have your business card file on my lap.

  3. Nils September 13, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    I have just received a connection request from a competitor who is also a fellow board member of an industry trade group. He is one person I would not want to give access to my connections to. So I’ll need to decide whether to snub him, or hide connections for everyone else.

    • Debra September 13, 2009 at 10:59 pm #

      Nils – your situation is a perfect example of why you may want to hide your contacts and be there for introductions for those who search and find that you are the connection to someone they wish to meet. I can fully understand the rationale for keeping your valuable assets (your contacts) private. I definitely wouldn’t snub the competitor as you may never know how you may help each other in the future.

      All the best.

  4. Will G October 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm #

    I know there are people on LinkedIn who think “hiding” your LinkedIN network is appropriate. I don’t agree.

    Consider that, if you don’t want to link to that person who is your competitor or is “untrustworthy”, you don’t have to do so. Unsolicited notes or requests for introductions? If you don’t want to comply, don’t — and tell that contact why (just as you would in person, on the phone, by letter or email). It’s not difficult and takes little time. If they don’t understand or operate in a way that you disagree with, unlink with them.

    For example, I’d been contacted by one LinkedIn-ian who claimed to have 17 million connections (indeed, that was part of the carrot dangled in the note — access to a network of 17 million). When one links in with that person, however, it turns out that you only gain access to your in-common contacts… and he would get access to your network if you have it “open”. Not cool. I asked him why — and his answer was similar to some others I’ve read on LinkedIn: My network is “confidential” (then don’t go to a networking site), and my contacts “don’t want unsolicited contacts” (either they know how to say “no”, or they shouldn’t be on a … networking site), or my contacts are “special”(if they’re *that* special, then they either know how to deal with that level of notoriety, or they shouldn’t be out in public). I consider my list to be pretty special, too — and, as a bonus, they’re actually here to socialize, to … linkin. People I know who don’t want to linkin, don’t join LinkedIn.

    That guy with “17 million contacts”? I unlinked with him. In fact, I tend to unlink with anyone who won’t share. Don’t want to link? No problem. Want to link and gain benefit of me and my list without reciprocation? Not going to happen (do your own advanced search). People mine your contact list (well, excessively)? Unlink with them.

    And as far as linking or not with competitors? Well, either you’re able to compete with them in your abilities, price, etc., or you can’t. If you can’t compete for any of those reasons, your contact list won’t save you. And in a social network, being “unsocial” defeats the purpose of being there.

  5. Will G October 16, 2010 at 6:03 pm #

    One other thought:

    Why doesn’t LinkedIn have a “reciprocal” setting? That way, people who want to participate can, and those who don’t can continue to not participate, with no “penalty” to those who want to participate?

    I’ve suggested it. Maybe it will be an option on LinkedIn someday!

    • Debra October 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

      Thanks for the comments Will. I agree with you – why connect with people socially if you don’t want to share? Although I’ve only disconnected with a few that didn’t share their connections, mostly because they claimed to be LION which to me is a contradiction, but I still value the people I connect with and value their network connections even if they don’t share their networks. The value is obtained when you want to connect with someone and they are connected through that person’s network, you do get to see that person in the linkage.

      • Sylvain June 7, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

        it would be useful if LinkedIn we could use different degrees of settings, as many other social networks offers, to open information for some people and restrict access for some other.

  6. Big D November 20, 2010 at 4:56 am #

    This depends on the industry a person is in. If one works in an “all-about-connections” based industry where this information is valuable and the person works as a “broker”, on whatever level, then hiding is fine. But if a person is merely in business and is in position to share his/her contacts, than that’s also fine. In my experiences, I was in both situations where I would love to share contacts with others but at times, business did not allow me to do so. Because I always say business before pleasure, hiding your connections is appropriate if your situation deems so.

    Sincerely.

  7. Thomas October 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Over the span of our careers we have former colleagues who are now our competitors and we have industry peers who are also in that category. We want to include them but seperately so we dont mix our clients with industry peers. Its common sense , our network is sometimes our worth and it can be careless to let it looose on a whim from others of anti solial behaviour. LinkedIn should have a category selection where you can make your list accessible.

  8. chris January 26, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    Would you give your competitor your complete business card file just because they asked for it? No. Doesn’t mean you are anti-social. Just protecting all of the hard networking you have done. It is smart to make a competitor earn their network on their own. There should be a competitor flag so you can link with them but then be able choose if you want to share your contact list or not.

    • Debra Murphy January 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

      Hi Chris,

      I do understand that sales people are sensitive to their competitors scooping their contacts, and as I mentioned in the comments, I’m much more neutral on the topic because if I’m interested in someone, I can still find them through search. The key point is to not connect with a competitor that you don’t trust. That’s where people get sensitive. And hopefully LinkedIn will implement varying privacy features based on their tags and connection filters.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Grant April 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

        The point of hiding connections is to prevent competitors knowing what you know. If they don’t know who you’re connected to, they need to actually identify their own prospects, not steal yours. Search is useless unless you know who you’re searching for. And if you know who you’re searching for, you don’t need to look at a competitors contact list. Your contact list IS a valuable asset and should be treated that way.

        • Debra Murphy April 15, 2014 at 11:47 am #

          Hi Grant – yes it used to be a lot easier to mine contacts on LinkedIn so I understood why folks closed off the contact search. As LinkedIn grows and evolves, it is much harder for me to see my own contacts, let alone other people’s contacts! This is certainly a topic that is up to individual preferences. For me, I’m more than happy sharing and introducing people to my contacts if I truly know them.

          Thanks for the comment!

  9. David Saavedra February 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Hi Debra,

    I read with interest the beginning of your article.

    How do you search for connections hidden by your contacts?

    Can you explain or spell out the steps on how to search for first-level contacts that are hidden as you described at the beginning of your article?

    Thank you.

    David

  10. Andrew Manavian March 7, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    It would be very useful to be able to selectively hide some contacts from your LinkedIn profile. Say I’m actively searching for a new job, and picked up a dozen recruiters as connections. I don’t want other recruiters to see that I’m working with all of their competitors, and most importantly I do not want my boss and colleagues to see that I’m connecting with so many recruiters. 

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