Refreshing my LinkedIn network

Some time ago, I wrote about social network bloat. I followed up with a deeper dive, which is a bit redundant now that I read it again. It’s clearly a topic that recurs to me.

Much of what I wrote in line with how I recommend people build their networks. But now I’m thinking back to a time when my LinkedIn connection philosophy wasn’t as refined. Specifically, I’m thinking about all the people I connected to since I joined LinkedIn in 2005. I certainly don’t know all of them. I sometimes wonder whether there were “bots” or other less legit connection methods back in those days.

So over the past few months, I’ve been disconnecting from people I don’t know. My connections list sank from a high of almost 1,900 to today’s total of under 1,700. (That’s in spite of continuing to connect to people to this day.)

I have been removing connections that appear in my LinkedIn news feed. Then I got interested in systematically removing “unknowns” from my network. How am I doing this? The short answer: slowly, as time allows.

Downloading a list of LinkedIn connections

You can review all your connections on the LinkedIn website, but I wanted a list that would be easier to work with. So I downloaded a file that contains all my LinkedIn connections.

According to LinkedIn’s help page: “Only the contact’s full name, email address, current employer, and position are exported.” In fact, the file also contains the date on which you connected to specific people. (It’s the “Connected on” column.) That’s an important fact.

Finding early LinkedIn connections

I want to zero in on connections from the days when I started using LinkedIn, so here’s what I did.

  1. I opened this comma-separated values file, or .csv, using spreadsheet software. (I could use a text editor, but then I could not take the next step.)
  2. I reordered the .csv by the “Connected on” column. Now, instead of appearing in alphabetical order, contacts appear in order of connection, from 2005 to this year.

Preparing the file for filtering using Excel

I had to rework the “Connected on” column before I could reorder the contacts.

The connection date field in each row consists of a date and time, so I had to split the date and time into separate columns. This was easy to do, since the date and time are separated by a comma, which serves as a delimiter Excel can recognize.

From there, I:

  1. deleted the time of day, which I didn’t need
  2. formatted the date column by MONTH day, year
  3. used an autofilter on the column to order the rows in ascending order

And that’s why I now have my connections sorted by year (and month and date)

LinkedIn connection review process

Then I could start from the top of the file. In some cases, I review a whole year’s worth of connections. In years where I connected to many people, I cap the checks to a manageable 50 connections or less at a time.

I highlight the rows for connections I’ve checked so that I know I’ve done them and where to pick up the checks next time.

Here’s a quick recap of whether I keep a connection or not.

  • If I recognize the name, I know whether the connection is legit. In other words, I know whether I have met the person in real life.
  • If I don’t recognize the name, I search my computer for that person’s name. Should I have a contact entry for the person, it ought to have context for the connection in the Notes field. If all I have is a name, phone number and/or email address, I have no context. For that, I need to have email or other documents on my computer that contain the person’s name. If I can’t find any context for the relationship, I remove the connection and stop following the person.

Why I’m doing this

This ought to be the last time I write about the quality of my social networks. Having seen how much I have written on the topic, I can say it resonates with me and that I’ve probably said all I need to say about it. If I had to sum up my reasoning, it’s this: I believe that social networks, online or off, ought to reflect actual relationships. While the past is a lower priority (it is gone, after all), I still think it’s worth a few minutes every now and then to straighten out.

If you ponder LinkedIn as much as I do, check out the other posts I’ve written about LinkedIn.

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