Saturday, September 17, 2005

Networking Part Deux - a conversation about LinkedIn

For this piece, I have taken a conversation that actually took place and modified it slighty. I have removed the real names (to protect the guilty) because of those changes. However, the changes were mostly cosmetic with some embellishment of the thoughts to aid those not as familiar with LinkedIn as the participant. Please let me know if you need more clarification in the comments and I will gladly provide it.

Fred: One thing I have noticed is that LinkedIn as a service tends to fall down a bit when you are outside of the normal job market or the VC model for doing deals.

People have multiple dimensions to their lives. LinkedIn does not facilitate the discovery of the broader spectrum of interests IMHO. This was the most true back before the extra fields for groups, interests and education were added. I was an early beta tester for LinkedIn and what I am calling a limitation seemed to be by design. I raised the issue way back when and the response was something close to 'that is not what we are about' or 'there are other services that do that.' My memory on the prior conversations is not perfect so I am focusing more on my perception of intent based on how LinkedIn is used. A related point is LinkedIn is transactional by nature and not really a way for people to develop relationships. Use email or something else is the recommendation. LinkedIn is about specific referrals and not a way to develop a network for future use.

For the most part I have found that using other networking solutions allows one to develop connections to people who have interests that could be labeled 'topics for a Special Interest Group (SIG)' if I can use a term I know from the computer sector. Things that are not on a resume but might be a strong interest for certain individuals.

Barney: This is what LinkedIn representatives continue to say. LinkedIn's value is not in 'networking' in the sense of broadening your network, it is for leveraging the network you already have. Deepening relationships and using those relationships for referals to do business (whatever business you are in). SIGs and Forums are for getting to know people.

Fred: I have seen a marked increase in the value of LinkedIn to me now that we have groups. I do want to note that I laugh each time I consider the fact that LinkedIn's groups are largely operating outside the LinkedIn service (groups being a Yahoo thing with LinkedIn having no effective integration other than a little icon when you are a member of a specific group [that has become an approved LinkedIn Group and the member has joined it there also]). Granted you can run a search specific to members of a particular group that you are a member of.

Barney: Yes, the addition of groups did add another value point, the ability to 'network' within your group without direct connection or using referrals. This is especially useful when you don't know the person or his work but only share the common group connection. This way you can 'network' with the individual, and contact them without introduction but you will not be put 'on the spot' for an introduction to them.

Fred: With the external groups and forums, you really can get to know someone pretty well and never have any direct communication with them. After developing an understanding of a person and what they bring to the conversation you can contact them directly without any use of InMail, without any approval of other people in a chain, etc. If you enjoy the direct communication you can then go back to LinkedIn and let LinkedIn act as a way to flag that you have had contact. LinkedIn becomes a housekeeping tool.

Barney: BINGO! Once you have forged a relationship, it is time to move it to LinkedIn to nurture and leverage!

Fred: Where LinkedIn is more unique is you can search through someone's network and gain an introduction. The more people are in groups the more you can just join a group and developer a relationship with any person you might be interested in rather than seek an introduction. Granted it takes time to do so. Hence joining a group to reach someone is not that effective if you need to reach a person right now.

Barney: BINGO again! Leveraging your network to do business! {:^D With LinkedIn, while other people are going through the front door and encountering all the roadblocks, filters and gatekeepers, you get to go through the side door as 'a friend of a friend' and might get a chance to present your value proposition, regardless of whether you would have gotten past the blocks.

Let's put this into the perspective of the job seeker (but you can substitute any business dealing)... If you send your resume to HR, you could easily get blocked because you are either missing a key buzzword (or have spelled it out rather than used the acronym) but, going through the side door, you reach the hiring manager directly as a'a friend of a friend' and 'get an interview out of courtesy'. Thus you get the chance to overcome the gatekeepers percieved shortcoming.

1 comment:

Tor-Bjorn Fjellner said...

One more thing.
As connections, LinkedIn groups are supposed to also first exist in "real life" (or at least outside LinkedIn) before you constitute them on LinkedIn...