There is a simple answer and a more complicated answer.
The simple answer is NO. LinkedIn does not penalize members for connecting with too many people, however it does impose account restrictions if it thinks you are abusing the system. I say “it” because much of this happens automatically.
Technically the LinkedIn user agreement states you shouldn’t connect with people you don’t know. In practice, most people connect with others they feel are relevant.
Each account is allocated a number of invitations that can be sent. When this number is reached, the member can apply to LinkedIn for an increased limit. The limit is 3,000 for new members and 5,000 for more established users.
The maximum number of connections you can have is 30,000. This is strictly adhered to. In fact LinkedIn recently culled all member connections over this number. Members were not given the choice about which connections were cropped. It was ruthless.
It is generally regarded as good practice to send a personalised invitation message, however to date, mind that many people will simply click on the tick or cross in their pending invitation box and won’t actually see the message until they check their email. If someone rejects an invitation LinkedIn offer the options “I don’t know this person” or “Report as Spam” if the recipient chooses either of these that will count as a black mark and if a member receives several in a reasonably short space of time their account may be restricted.
Restrictions are usually short lived, e.g. LinkedIn may insist that you know the person’s email before you can connect or in an extreme case they may suspend the ability to send invitations.
In practice LinkedIn are reasonably lenient and if you space out invitations over a few days and back off if you are being asked to always give the email address then you should be OK.
LinkedIn are inconsistent in the way they allow invitations to be sent – sometimes insisting you have an email at other times, allowing even encouraging you to send a default invitation without an email address.
LinkedIn are at best inconsistent in their attitude towards invitations. This reflects perhaps the conflict which comes from wanting to encourage more activity on the site and yet wanting to protect users from spam and intrusive connection requests.
As with most things in life moderation wins the day. Sending out large volumes of invitation requests to people you don’t know and where there are no mutual connections or obvious benefits is likely to trigger restrictions. Everyday users are unlikely to fall seriously foul of LinkedIn account restrictions and if the worst happens and you do, LinkedIn will write to you and ask you to confirm that in future you will behave a little better.
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