Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Potential Drawback to Connecting to Superconnectors

LinkedIn superconnectors are people who have connected to very many people, including people they don't know personally, to enable themselves and the people to whom they are connected to be able to reach a large number of people through "trusted connections".

With the introduction of LinkedIn's new InMail feature, anyone can reach anyone as long as they are willing to buy access to do so.

Since introductions via trusted connections are free, you may wonder, why not connect to as many superconnectors as possible? What's the downside?

Here's one drawback: If you have a very strong trusted network to a person three degrees out, and you connect to a superconnector who is directly connected to your target, then you've lost your strong connection path to the target. This is because LinkedIn will only give you the option to send an introduction to your target via the shortest path, in this case two degrees via the superconnector.

For example, say you want to connect with someone about a new business venture, and you find the perfect person to whom you'd like to make a pitch.

If your target is a third degree connection, then you'll send your introduction request to your first degree connection. Your first degree connection an add comments such as "I've known the person initiating this request for 20 years, and have known him to always work deals in that are fair, ethical, and profitable for all involved." Your first degree connection will then forward your introduction to his or her connection who is your second degree connection. Your second degree connection could add comments to the introduction such as "I've known the person who forwarded this introduction to me for five years, and trust her judgment that the person initiating the request is someone worth talking to."

Contrast the above scenario with an introduction from a superconnector. What could it say? Something like: "Please consider the attached introduction."

So a person receiving an introduction via a strong trusted network will probably be more likely to accept an introduction with favorable comments than an introduction with little or no comments.

If LinkedIn offered the option to choose among any path to a particular target regardless of whether the path required two or three degrees to get there, this would give you more flexibility to choose stronger connections. However, it may not be in LinkedIn's interest to offer such a feature. LinkedIn promotes connecting to only to people you know very well and trust. By removing a drawback of connecting to a superconnector, there is less incentive to not connect to people who you don't know well and trust.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Why Start a LinkedIn Group?

If you're a member of an organization of any type, and the organization does not yet have a LinkedIn group, here are some reasons why you may want to start such a group (as opposed to just trying to connect to people on an individual basis:
  1. To be able to see the complete profiles of fellow group members not within three degrees of your network.
  2. To more easily find people you already know and trust within LinkedIn, so that you may send an introduction to them to exchange email addresses so that you may then send an invitation to connect.
  3. To be able to send introductions directly to people within your group without having to use more costly and limited InMails.
  4. To offer newbies a way to quickly and easily realize value in LinkedIn. When a newbie joins a LinkedIn group and finds that they are immediately connected to hundreds of people in the group, that is more exciting and motivating than starting in LinkedIn with a single connection, especially if that single connection isn't very well connected themselves.
To find out more about LinkedIn groups, including how to set one up, go to the LinkedIn home page and click LinkedIn for Groups at the very bottom of the page.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Maximum Reach with Minimal LinkedIn Introductions

A little project I'm working on right now is raising awareness about a company alumni Yahoo! Group that I co-moderate. With great success, I'm using LinkedIn to inform former employees about the group.

I've figured out that I should first concentrate on contacting alumni that are three degrees away in LinkedIn by using introductions (Note: An "Introduction" was formerly known as a "Request to Contact").

Why three degrees away first? Because as the introduction to a third degree connection is being passed from my first to my second degree connections, both are being informed of the site as well. Assuming that my first and second degree connections are often alumni as well, I'm often getting my message out to two or three targets using one introduction.

By focusing on third degree introductions first, I should then be able to minimize the number of introductions to second degree connections and the number of emails to first degree contacts since many will already have seen information about the site while forwarding my introductions to third degree connections.

Minimizing the number of LinkedIn introductions is important for three reasons:
  1. LinkedIn has a limit on the number of active (in process) introductions, so less active introductions sent means more opportunities to contact people concurrently.
  2. Creating and processing introductions takes time, so less introductions sent means less time spent by me creating introductions, and less time spent by my first and second degree connections forwarding introductions.
One wrinkle in all of this is that I can't always tell by looking in the Yahoo! Group members list who is and who isn't already a member of the group. This is because some people have Yahoo! profiles which give no indication of who they are. So it is possible that I will accidentally invite someone to join the group who is already a member.
Another wrinkle is that my alumni group is geographically based. That is, it's only for people who worked in the San Jose area. So while I can search for people by zip code in LinkedIn, it is not always clear if former employees worked at another location before moving to the San Jose area to work for another company. And by searching by zip code, I could be missing out on people who have moved out of the area. So then I have to look for keywords related to particular divisions that are most likely related to San Jose.
Once I finish using LinkedIn to reach out to as many alumni as possible to join the Yahoo! Group, the next step will be to set up a LinkedIn Group for the alumni group. There's always something interesting to do with LinkedIn.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Which Network: LinkedIn, Ryze, Ecademy, Soflow, or openBC?

So you've heard about and maybe even registered for LinkedIn, Ryze, Ecademy, Soflow, or other networks. Why should you register for one and not another?

If you have unlimited time and the interest to do so, you could register for all of the services, then in each service you could create and maintain your profile, and maintain and grow your relationships. Doing so would be very time consuming.

So if your time is limited, you may want to register for each service and fill in minimal profile information for each service. This will enable people who know you to have a chance to search for you by name and find you in each service. With minimal profile information, people might not be able to find you by searching on keywords or other criteria besides your name. This would limit the value of each service, since people who you would want to contact you (such as a recruiter willing to give you a shot at your ideal job) might not be able to find you due to your minimal profile information.

So if you don't time to utilize each service to its maximum capabilities, but want to gain more value than minimal profiles alone can provide, then you'll probably want to pick one service as your primary network. In this primary network, you'll enter and maintain a complete profile and invite others to connect to you.

So which service should you pick as your primary service?

Well, obviously because this blog is about LinkedIn, you'll know my preference. Why do I chooose LinkedIn as my primary service? Here below are the major reasons. Please note that your circumstances and needs may vary wildly from mine, so these reasons may not be applicable or as important for you.

Contacts Already Registered in Service = Easier Connections

After joining a number of networks and filling in minimal profile information, I searched within each service to see who I could find was already registered in each network. Your experience may vary, but in my world of working in the high technology industry and going to both undergraduate and graduate school in Silicon Valley, I found that LinkedIn had by far the most people I knew registered already, more than all of the other networks combined (with the possible exception of, which is not suitable for professional purposes other than to find people you know by name).

For whatever network I chose, I wanted to connect to my trusted contacts in that network, so that they could give me introductions to their contacts that I didn't know. I figured that one factor for success in connecting to my trusted contacts would be if they were already registered for the service in which I was connecting to them. Since they were already registered with the service, I wasn't asking them to take the time to sign up for a new service, and they were already (at least a little bit) familiar with the service so it would take less effort for me to explain the benefits of connecting.

Who Do You Want to Meet?

Another factor in choosing LinkedIn was the quantity and quality of contacts there. When I search for various companies I admire, a search for high level titles such as CEO, VP, etc., or a search for people with skills and experience which intrigue me, I find more profiles of people whom I might like to contact in LinkedIn than in any other service.

So even if none of my trusted contacts were already in LinkedIn, I would have still picked LinkedIn as my primary network into which I would put a lot of effort because the opportunities for possible contacts are outstanding.

To take the point to an extreme, if most of my trusted contacts were using MySpace as opposed to LinkedIn, I don't think I would get more professional value out of MySpace because I had more trusted connections there. (Maybe this is because MySpace is a network in which vulgar language, images of scantily dressed people, and other non-professional content is shown prominently within many profiles. Not exactly a professional environment. I'm registered in MySpace, but have a minimal profile there.)

I don't pitch Soflow because there are so few people registered there compared to LinkedIn. As of today, LinkedIn has over three million users, while Soflow has 11,184. I don't get the impression that the quality of Soflow's users is so great that it overwhelms the quantity and quality of LinkedIn users.

openBC has less users and not as high of quality of users as LinkedIn (at least it appears that way to me). However, for those willing to register in more than network, I recommend openBC as a good secondary network because it appears to have many high-level professional contacts who are not available in LinkedIn. openBC has a global reach, but is particularly strong in its home country of Germany. While trying to find contacts at BMW's headquarters in Munich, I found many more relevant contacts within openBC than LinkedIn. But for all other projects, I have found LinkedIn to be useful and openBC to not be useful at all.

Ease of Use Important for Recruiting Trusted Contacts

When sending a request to someone within a network, it always helps to be introduced by a trusted contact. So it's important to recruit as many of your trusted contacts as you can into whatever network you choose as your primary network. It's easier to recruit a trusted contact when you can give them a demo of the service, and the demo doesn't turn them off.

So to recruit my trusted contacts, I make a sales pitch. This pitch must relay as quickly as possible the functionality and benefits of the service. I don't want to annoy or confuse my trusted contacts by pitching any other networks. So I make only one pitch, and that is for LinkedIn.

LinkedIn's interface communicates a professional image. This avoids turning off people who have no interest in getting involved with a network to make friends, chat, etc. This is important because most of my trusted contacts are not big Internet enthusiasts. Sure, they are computer saavy, but most have no interest in spending a lot of their free time in Yahoo! Groups, writing blogs, using RSS, joining Friendster, making friends online, etc. When I pitch LinkedIn, I make a pitch about how it can help them professionally. LinkedIn's UI and features reinforce my message.

Comparing LinkedIn's UI to Ryze and Ecademy, Ryze and Ecademy have interfaces which are ugly and unprofessional, in my opinion. Ecademy has so many features on its cluttered home page that it's overwhemling; I can't imagine most of my contacts taking the time to figure out how to navigate the site. Ryze, with its home page listing of "friends" and pictures, gives the impression that it's to be used like friendster, which is focused on making friends and dating. This would be a turn off to most of my trusted contacs.

openBC and Soflow both have pleasing and professional interfaces.

Summary and Conclusion

Because many of my trusted contacts were already registered in LinkedIn, I was initially drawn towards using LinkedIn as my primary network service. The quantity and quality of users registered with LinkedIn, and the professionalism of the site sealed the decision for me.

Your experiences and needs may vary from mine, so you may very well find that another service is more beneficial for you. Also, there are other factors that were not discussed above that may have an influence on your decision, including the functionality, privacy protection, and costs of each service.