What is LinkedIn? And it’s unexplored potential

My motive for writing this article is that I’ve realised that here in Spain there are many people who do not know LinkedIn or think it is just another social network, and I would like to express the potential I see in it.
In effect LinkedIn is a social network, although it has nothing to do with other networks like Facebook, My Space, hi5 or Xing – which are used to share photos and experiences amongst other things.
What sets LinkedIn apart from these other networks is that it is a professional network designed to make and maintain professional contacts, and it just keeps on growing. Although it only started up in 2003, and by August 2009 had more than 40 million users, I still do not think it has properly taken off in Spain. I have two reasons for thinking this, firstly because in Spain we still do not use professional networking (it is hard for us to see the use in it) and secondly because the contents of LinkedIn are mostly in English (although one can work in Spanish).

According to the LinkedIn website, LinkedIn is:

LinkedIn has vast potential when it comes to meeting people with the same interests, looking for clients and providers, making yourself known, getting the opinions of experts or even to finding work (there is actually a section dedicated to this). Everyone’s reasons for using it may be different, but it is essentially a tool that allows us to connect to one another professionally.

When we want to hire someone, find a provider, or want specific information, all we have to do is to call our network of contacts to see if anyone knows what we’re looking for; we’re Networking (although we don’t realise it). The problem with the traditional method is that we do not know who knows whom or what they need; which results in our making fruitless telephonecalls.

LinkedIn is a tool to do this faster and more effectively. It lets us see who knows each of our direct contacts, what they do and what their interests are (this is the information they allow us to see). Thus the search for information is made much more efficient. That said, in the same way as traditional Networking, to get in contact with someone we have to ask the person with whom we are mutually connected to introduce us, thus maintaining the privacy that so many people want.

It also allows us to look for someone, see which of our contacts knows them, and shows us the best way to go about contacting them.

Other advantages of LinkedIn are:

– Sharing information through groups.

– Being able to ask our network about issues that worry us.

– Being able to Network from anywhere in the world at any time.

– Removing many of the reservations we have when being contacted by companies or people we do not know.

– Putting people in touch with one another and allowing us to contact those who want to be contacted.

– Meeting people with the same concerns as us.

– Viewing comments made about other users so we can get a fuller picture of each person.

An example of LinkedIn’s Potential

To give an idea of the potential LinkedIn offers with regards to accessing contacts, here is an example:

If I know 100 people, each of whom knows 100 people, I then have Access to 100 x 100 = 10.000 people (who without LinkedIn, I would not have known existed). If I upgrade to a higher level of contact (there are 3 levels of connection), then I am able to approach people through a contact of a contact, and if these people have 100 acquaintances each, then my potential acquaintances rises to 100 x 100 x 100 = 1.000.000. This theory can be applied to 5 levels (when one can access contacts with five degrees of separation) which allows us to reach anyone in the system; they call this theory “the 5 degrees of freedom”.

To give a personal example, I have been using LinkedIn for some years now, and I must admit that I have not taken it too seriously. In the summer of 2009 I realised it’s potential and I hope that it becomes a tool that I use frequently. Despite my not using it very often, at the moment I have 344 contacts which link me to 4.917.600 people. Surely it can’t be a bad thing to be able to get in contact with that amount of people?

Ways of using LinkedIn and my opinions

From my point of view the purpose of a network of contacts is to give access to information or individuals we need, so we are able to find solutions for the problems we face in life. Logically, the principle of reciprocity should be a top priority and we should also offer our help to these people in return.

For the network to be useful there must be a balance between the number of contacts and quality of contacts (related to them). But where is this balance?

The answer is that it completely depends on your personality and how you think a network of contacts should work. LinkedIn has two philosophies:

  1. Closed Networks. You only accept into your network people who you know and people who you feel deserve your recommendation. Some people set up their network so that no one can see who they know. The advantage of these networks is that you know for certain that the people within them are trusted by that person, although the main disadvantage is that there are consequently far fewer profiles.
  2. LION (LinkedIn Open Network). You accept any contact and are on the lookout for new contacts. The main advantage of these open networks is that they allow you to access a large number of people. I recommend this article written by a LION called Joe Bartling who justifies the advantages of being a LION.http://www.spiderware.com/linkedin/Double_Your_Income_in_6_Months_Using_LinkedIn.pdf

From my point of view, when we recommend someone, they should belong to our trusted network of contacts (closed network), but I see no sense in having a closed network on LinkedIn as I think you lose out on much of the potential it provides.

Although Isee the use in being a LION for headhunting firms or people who use LinkedIn to sell their products, personally I have no aspiration to be one. I cannot take full advantage of a network of over 10,000 contacts, many of which I do not know.

My profile is mixed – anyone who wants to contact me is able to do so as I have made my email address public.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/luisarimany

To accept or send an invitation, one has to have a motive for being connected (someone you know, someone you’ve worked with, someone that can be of mutual help, someone you have interests in common with etc.) In fact, if after reading this article you think that I should join your network, invite me with info@lusiarimany.com and tell me why you think we should be connected.

Some recommendations (many of which I learned from making mistakes when I started using LinkedIn)

  1. Personalise your invitations and mention why it is that you would like to connect with them. If you are just starting out, maybe call them to explain what LinkedIn is and tell them that you are going the send them an invitation.
  2. Invitations to contacts on Outlook or your web email address. It is very tempting, but you waste invitations and if people say that they do not know you, they may block your future mail.
  3. Join groups that you think are interesting. This will, in turn, allow you to access group members who want to be contacted by other members of that group. That is, expand your area of influence an you have a perfect excuse for meeting people who have the same interests as you.
  4. Compose a profile with enough information to give people a good idea of who you are.
  5. Assume that the world has changed, and like Thomas L. Friedman wrote, that the world is flat. If you want to be a successful person, you have no choice other than to enhance your networking.
  6. Link up to a Superconductor to expand your field of influence.
  7. Read “I am on LinkedIn, now what?” by Jason Alba.

Bibliography:
Jason Alba: “I am on linkedin, now what?”

Juanma Roca: Revolución Linkedin

http://linkedin.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/linkedin.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.ph…

http://blog.linkedin.com/

http://www.spiderware.com/linkedin/Double_Your_Income_in_6_Months_Using_…

Contact:
http://www.linkedin.com/in/luisarimany

info@lusiarimany.com

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