LinkedIn is a useful tool when reaching out to people you don’t know but would like to meet. Specifically, its display of who among your contacts can introduce you to the person you’re looking to meet (a second degree connection in LinkedIn terminology) is very valuable.
However, what’s missing from the tool is a display of the strength of the connection between the person you’re requesting the introduction from and the person you’re looking to meet. As a result, you don’t know whether you’re requesting an introduction from someone who knows the person you’re looking to meet sufficiently well. This often leads to requesting introductions from multiple people which is inefficient for the requester and a hassle for many request recipients.
Since relationships are dynamic and LinkedIn doesn’t have access to the offline developments which impact a relationship, it’s very challenging for LinkedIn to show the real-time strength of the relationship between two people. However, it could still improve on the current approach of not displaying any indication of the strength of the relationship.
One idea is to highlight relationships where people have been part of the same organization, like working at the same company or studying at the same school, during the same period of time. Such people are more likely to have a stronger relationship.
The benefit of this approach is that it doesn’t require any active user input. LinkedIn can generate these insights by simply analyzing the profile data of pairs of users.
Another idea is to establish relationship tiers whereby users can self-declare the strength of their relationship with someone. For example, they can self-declare whether they have a strong, medium, or weak relationship.
The terminology would need to be carefully chosen to not hurt users’ feelings, and the statements of two users who declare that their relationship is of different strengths would need to be reconciled. However, this approach would save time for both requesters and request recipients by making it easier to request introductions from the right people.