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Tracy LewisAugust 31, 20102 min read

Should You Hide Your Connections on LinkedIn?

Little Girl HidingOn LinkedIn, you have the option of hiding your Connection list or keeping it public. This leads some people to keep their Connections private for a variety of reasons, including a need for confidentiality, an unwillingness to make introductions and more.

However, one common reason — particularly popular among those in sales — is to protect business contact lists that may contain the names of clients, prospects and partners from competitors. You may think: “I have worked hard to create and nurture this contact list, why would I put it out on the Internet for anyone, including my competitors, to see and potentially use?”

Though these are certainly valid concerns, hiding your Connections on LinkedIn minimizes the opportunities available to you on the platform, and list protection can also be achieved by being strategic about whom you connect with. Below are several reasons why hiding your Connections may not be the best approach on LinkedIn.

One Goal of Social Media is to Create and Maintain Mutually Beneficial Relationships.

The key to being successful on social networks is to “create more value than you capture,” as Tim O’Reilly would say. On LinkedIn, part of being a giving participant involves connecting like-minded individuals through introductions. For this to be possible, your Connection list must be visible to those in your network.

In addition, hiding your Connections can be deemed as “unfriendly” in the community, as some people feel that you are not willing to fully open up, participate and help others. For example, see this LinkedIn Answers discussion on the topic.

Only Your Connections Can View Your Contact List – Not Everyone on LinkedIn.

Another aspect to keep in mind is that only those people you’ve connected with on the site can see your contacts. Since not everyone on LinkedIn has the same access levels to your profile information, you have some control over who can view your contact list without hiding it.

By only connecting with people with whom you have established relationships, you’ll have little reason to worry about your lists being pilfered. If someone you do not trust, like a competitor, wants to connect, simply choose to deny the request, and your list will still be protected. In addition, you can also disconnect with people should you decide you are no longer comfortable with them having access to your Connections.

Hiding Your Connections Does Not Guarantee Complete Protection.

Even if someone chooses to hide his or her Connections, users will still be able to see shared Connectionsthat they have in common via LinkedIn search. Therefore, hiding your Connections does not guarantee they are completely private. If someone really wanted to discover your list, with a little digging, they likely could.

Your Thoughts?

For these reasons, consider keeping your Connections open, but be thoughtful about who you include in your personal network. If you're connecting to add value and nurture relationships, you get the benefits of helping those you trust and respect, without having to worry about who has access to your list of Connections.

However, we welcome your thoughts and experiences. Do you hide your Connections? Why or why not? What fears do you have about keeping your list public? What are the pros and cons of each angle? Please share your comments in the field below.

Image Credit: Chris Runoff

Tracy DiMarino is an associate consultant at PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. Follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyDiMarino.

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Tracy Lewis

Tracy Lewis is the director of talent and a senior consultant at PR 20/20. She is also the community manager for Marketing Agency Insider. She joined the agency in March 2009 after graduating from Ohio University. Full bio.