At some point we were looking to add people to LinkedIn. We wanted to appear "connected." And then we reached the golden number on LinkedIn 500+. And the numbers no longer mattered. (Hint: they actually don't matter unless you're in the single or double digits.) And then something else happened. Contacts came out of the cloud to join our networks. HR people. Social Media Experts from India. Way-past contacts. And the network was good, we'd entered the coasting period of our careers, right? Not exactly.
Yesterday at a business meeting a client said, "You know Dave, he's connected to you on LinkedIn."
I felt a tad bit exposed. This was MY network. This is what I do. Social media, social networks, connecting, business development. And Dave? I had no idea who he was talking about.
So this morning I went through the purge with this criteria:
- Have we shared a cup of coffee or at least talked on the phone?
- Could I voice a recommendation about this person?
- Did their name or picture bring a smile to my face?
- Could I imagine them giving me a less-than-stellar recommendation?
It's easy to do, to pickup random connections to your network. Again, back in the day, we were in a gold rush mentality. (Kinda like Twitter still is.) And any connection was growth in our network.
Today, in my work and career things are a bit different. When my friend asked about our "mutual connection" he was excited to ask about this person I supposedly knew. I didn't. I told him I didn't and the conversation we were about to have died. It was a minor blip. But one I took notice of.
And when the "Join My Network" email arrived early this morning about some foggily constructed connection or some "group" we shared… Well, I went on a top-to-bottom connection cleaning mission. And LinkedIn doesn't make it all that easy to DISCONNECT.
For me, today, LinkedIn is no longer about NUMBER of CONNECTIONS, but QUALITY of CONNECTIONS. And I think this is the case in business networking in general. It's fine that Micheal Dell is in my LinkedIn network, but my messages to him would be filtered long before they ever reached him. And for Michael Dell, that's okay, he's staying in my Network. But every one else, must be someone I could reach out to for advice, for a project needing their expertise, for a reference check on someone my group wanted to hire.
And that's what social networking is about today. It's partly about who you know, but it's more about "how well do you know them?"
Every day, we are selling. Selling our skills, the skills of our close associates. And every day every one else in the business world is doing the same thing. So if some yahoo in Wazoo MI. claims me as a connection, in some small way, I'm endorsing them for whatever project they are working on. And point is, unless I know and trust them, I'm NOT.
LinkedIn is the best we've got. And at 200m active accounts, it's the network of trust that we need to pay attention to and strengthen at every opportunity.
I'd love to have a DEEP TRUST NETWORK, or as a friend likes to call it, A 100% Proof Network. Until then, we've got LinkedIn. And you might want to make sure you're still comfortable endorsing, even passively, all the people in your LinkedIn Network.
Keep It Social Out There!(tm)