In yesterday’s post about linkedin’s new look, I made a reference to a group of linkedin users known as ‘lions’ (linkedin open networkers). here’s some of the wikipedia writeup:
“LinkedIn networking philosophy is based on a simple rule that says that a person should not invite to connect people with whom they have no prior relationship to join their network
However, this limitation is viewed by some members of the LinkedIn community as overly restrictive. So some of them have adopted a policy of accepting invitations even from strangers. They circumvent some LinkedIn requirements (e.g. having to know a person’s email address in order to send a linking invitation to them) by publicly posting their email addresses in their profiles, and stating that they openly accept invitations, thus becoming LinkedIn Open Networkers, or simply LIONs.”
my point in mentioning lion in yesterday’s post was the way in which the new linkedin site design made room for an improved search function. improved searching makes life easier when you have thousands of linkedin contacts you barely know. in thinking about it, I compared users whose primary focus was in amassing connections, with their counterparts on twitter, obsessed with follower counts. what’s the difference?
you say potato
the difference is in the medium. twitter is not inherently credible, but it enables and facilitates the interaction that leads to credibility. a conversation does not confer good faith by its existence. it is the first step toward the shared experience that validates trust. linkedin, on the other hand, presumes relationships between connections. this is the foundation for credible referrals – “I can vouch for him or her.” the linkedin connection does (or should) confer good faith from the moment the invitation is accepted.
I was startled when the issue arose again today in a webinar sponsored by awareness, inc. david alston of measurement firm radian6 was the speaker and the conversation (there’s that word again!) turned to linkedin and connections. david announced that he was posting a link to his linkedin profile on the side window in the presentation, and invited everyone participating on the call to connect with him. he posted mike lewis’ information as well. a number of participants went ahead and posted links to their profile, too. it reminded me of an est training I attended in the nineties (don’t ask). david’s position was that shared passions (in this case for social media marketing) was the connecting bond that enabled our group’s linkedin-ness.*
an epistolary interlude
bleating happily, I sent my connect requests, although I did wonder aloud in the twitter stream if linkedin was really the best place to perform this experiment. david accepted my invitation, and noted in a reply to me that around 100 people had connected. mike also accepted my invitation, which is important for reasons you’ll see below. I wrote back to david:
As I commented, I am unsure if LinkedIn is the best outlet to connect with people based on shared passion, but in the absence of shared experience. An important selling point for LI since the early days has been the value of referrals and recommendations.
Since I was on LI after adding you and Mike, I took a look at recent job postings. I saw one that looked interesting, and that I had a second degree connection to the head of marketing. I clicked through to see that my connection…was Mike Lewis! I’ve been following Mike and Awareness on Twitter for a while, but I don’t think I’ve actually met him and we certainly have not had any business dealings.
If someone wrote to me on LI asking for an introduction/referral, I would be reluctant to do so unless I knew that person. If I was a hiring manager and an LI connection made an introduction, I would want to know how well he or she knew the person. If it was not a ‘real’ connection, my response would be very different – and I would have some concerns about the judgment of my connection.
I am no Luddite. As a marketing professional with two decades of old school experience, I love the ways in which social media is changing the discipline and the ways in which people interact on a personal and professional level. My point relates to the medium, not the message.
There is a plethora of ways in which people can build networks and interact around shared passions, including work-related ones. Twitter, Facebook, various forums, even listservs are all hosts to thriving communities. LinkedIn’s competitive advantage is its status as a place for credible, experience-based relationships. Connecting on LI purely on the basis of shared interest or, even worse, just because someone requests it (the LION contingent), lessens the value of each member of that network as a potential contact.
I connected with you and Mike this afternoon because I hope to have experience-based relationships with you at some point. I followed a bunch of people at the webinar on Twitter because we share a passion for social media. Some of those folks may turn out to be valuable LI contacts, as well. Right now, though, they are just digital silhouettes – only further interaction will show their true dimensions, and show mine to them.
That said, thanks again for a solid presentation. I look forward to having the opportunity to be a Radian6 client!
in many, one
maybe I am being a stick in the mud. I remember feeling a similar discomfort last summer when a business-type contact pinged me on twitter to say he couldn’t find my facebook profile. I replied that I restricted my facebook interactions to family and a few friends and didn’t consider it part of my public persona. he replied, “but that’s how I get to know people.” that set off a chain of thought that led to an epiphanetic**, come-to-social-media-jesus style post on the power of affinity. but I don’t think I’m wrong this time. the experience last summer demonstrated the importance of presenting oneself through a variety of media, hopefully with the sum coming out greater than the parts. I believe the move toward more tenuous connections on linkedin is motivated by the opposite – the desire to have a single medium serve the functions of several.
ok, so now to you. do you agree that lowering the bar for linkedin connections is justified by the larger, if weaker, network that results? do you think I need to drink less coffee? do tell.
* no, I don’t think it is a word
** nor this
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