Thursday, March 30, 2006

Segregating Your Network Connections by Strength

Here are some tips to maximize your reach in LinkedIn without doing any of the following:
  1. Compromising the strength of your LinkedIn network.
  2. Working against LinkedIn's intended usage.
  3. Breaking LinkedIn's user agreement.
Segregate your network into three segments, then maximize the reach within each segment:
  1. Maximize your reach through trusted connections (i.e. maximize your "strong" network) by educating your trusted connections about how they can use LinkedIn trusted connections to their benefit, and encourage them to connect to people they know and trust.
  2. Maximize your reach through common affiliations (i.e. maximize your "weak" network) by educated potential LinkedIn Group members how they can use LinkedIn Groups to their benefit, and encourage them to tell potential LinkedIn Group members about the group.
  3. Maximize your reach to people with whom you have no connection other than being a fellow member of LinkedIn (i.e. maximize your "superweak" network) by being a member of OpenLink (to receive introductions from anyone) and having a business account (to send InMails to anyone).
I do not advocate the goal of maximizing network reach by any means possible (e.g. putting your email address in your name field, joining alumni LinkedIn Groups for schools of which you're not an alumni, etc.). Mixing strong, weak, and superweak connections can cause a couple of problems:
  1. Introductions from people who are blantantly violating the user agreement may be viewed with a jaundiced eye: If someone is violating the LinkedIn user agreement, how much can they be trusted for any business agreement?
  2. Third degree strong connections can be broken by shorter second degree weak connections, thus weakening and therefore reducing the value of the trusted chain. (see for further explanation).