However, because not all relationships are simple and one dimensional (competitor or not a competitor), here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to connect with a "competitor."
- Is the identity of your customers already public knowledge? If it's public knowledge, then connecting with competitors is not as big of deal.
- Do you hide your list of connections from your network? If you do, then they can't see who you're connected to anyway, so there's less risk.
- Do you think you're better at LinkedIn than your competitors? If so, then maybe you're going to gain more from having the ability to look through their connections than they will gain from looking at your connections.
- Are you connected to only people you trust or is your network more open? If you choose to connect with people who are not your trusted friends, those people could potentially allow your competitor to come over to their office and scroll through your list of connections. This is certainly unlikely, but it is possible.
Also, keep in mind that relationships change over time. If a trusted coworker who's in your network goes to work for a competitor and becomes your #1 nemesis, then you may want to consider disconnecting with that person.
As you can see, there's no simple answer to the question of whether you should connect with competitors. But after you consider the points mentioned above, you can make the decision with your eyes wide open.