Most people think that once they’ve gone into their settings and hidden their connections they are now safe to connect with anyone, even competitors.
Well, unfortunately, it is not as clear-cut as that, so let me explain some realities about hiding your connections …
1) When you hide your connections, it doesn’t actually hide all your connections, it only hides the ones that people connecting with you don’t already share a connection to.
So, if you are connected with a competitor they can see the clients or prospects you have if they too are connected to them. This can give insight into your business and potentially encourage them to poach clients from you.
Much better to think carefully about who you are connected to and keep out those that you wouldn’t share your address book with.
2) If someone was to look at your feed of activity (whether they are connected to you or not) they can see who you are interacting with, and this most often is your own connections, and hence this is another way of exposing your connections unintentionally.
3) When you do the right thing and share your own status update that is usually done publicly, and hence any casual viewer (connected or not) can see who interacts with your status update and these are again often your connections.
Of course, you could limit your status update to only share with your direct level one connections but this kind of limits the breadth of value you are trying to share.
4) When you hide your connections, people can’t see who you have worked with, know or provided a service too (other than shared ones, see number 1 above), hence they can’t get a feel for the sorts of people you help and whether you could help them.
All those people that look like your potential client and can add credibility to you (because you know them) are hidden when you hide your connections, and as people get assurance working with people who have worked with other people like them, you might have hidden that value when you hid your connections
5) Your skills section is visible to second level connections; hence they can see all the people that have endorsed you (which would be your level one connections as only level one connections can leave an endorsement!)
This means you are exposing your connections whether you want to or not and this also applies to your recommendations section!
Now at this stage I would challenge you a little on why you connected with real competitors in the first instance.
The feedback I am most often given is that people want to watch what their competitors are up to – which I can understand the appeal of. However, you can always just follow them (and not connect to them) and that shares what they say etcetera without overly exposing your connections.
You also might want to consider whether you really have the time to see what your competitors are up to. If you don’t have the time, then there isn’t any real advantage in being connected to competitors just downsides.
So now might be a good time to think about who you’re connected to and make some changes.