Two thought-provoking posts this week by two bloggers whose opinions I value have got me thinking about the pros and cons of connecting via business-focused social networks, and mirror some experiences of my own with LinkedIn.
Last weekend, Renee Blodgett wrote about how some people abuse the linking process in Linkedin, quoting a view by PC Magazine columnist Lance Ulanoff on the 'template approach' some people use when requesting a link with you, and which struck a chord with me:
[...] "Often they don't even bother to rewrite LinkedIn's boilerplate greeting text. So the e-mail invite sounds robotic, cold, and patently uninviting." Because of this, he feels that LinkedIn's approach is invasive.
More on this in a minute.
Then last night, I read Loic Le Meur's post in which he talks about asking LinkedIn to remove an existing contact from his network, citing as one reason the way in which the contact had abused Loic's trust re some mutual endorsements.
Here's where it gets a bit tricky. Since posting yesterday, Loic has deleted the post (he says so in a note there). I'm not going to talk in any detail about the specifics of it, therefore, although I still have the post in my RSS reader. Always remember those RSS feeds! (Loic, your act of deletion is very interesting and that could be the basis for another conversation.)
One general part of Loic's original post relates to Renee's commentary, and is sound advice when you're thinking about connecting with or endorsing others via a social network:
I've been a member of LinkedIn since July 2004. I think it's an excellent networking environment and I have benefited from my connections with some of those in my own network, currently 83 people around the world. And those 83 people translate into a potential network of over 3.3 million, according to LinkedIn's calculations, a number which quite frankly is absolutely meaningless for me.
Of my 83 current network members, I know 76 of them, including Renee and Loic. And 'know' meaning either I've known the people in my network for some years and/or I've actually met them at some point, eg, at a conference. So what's important to me is the quality of my connections, certainly not the quantity.
During the past few weeks, I've received 8 requests for connecting, all from people I don't know and have never met (and one of those people has sent me 4 separate requests to connect - I feel like I'm being spammed). Each of those requests uses the exact same LinkedIn request text template:
I found you while I was searching my network at LinkedIn. Let's connect directly, so we can help each other with referrals. If we connect, both of our networks will grow. To add me as your connection, just follow the link below.
No personalization, just the bog-standard text. When you see many requests with the same text, that's when you begin to look with very jaded eyes at every request no matter who the connector is. So while I'm always willing to consider connecting with people I don't yet know, I decided to reject any further requests that come like that, perhaps even from people I do know.
Having said all of this, I do think networks like LinkedIn have tremendous value. To me, getting past the first hurdle - making the initial connections - is the essential start point, the 'flavour' of which will influence your thinking about the person you might connect with (or not).
Which, of course, is absolutely the same when you first meet someone in the traditional way, face to face.
Back to Loic's three points of sound advice.