If you care about actively managing your career, you are on LinkedIn. With user growth from around 50,000 in 2003 to nearly 400 million today, chances are everybody you know has an account. Therein lies the problem, or so I posit. Absent a strong affinity, as networks grow, engagement falls. Basically, the network is exciting/compelling until it isn’t. For more about network theory, have at it.
From around 2006-2010, LinkedIn was far and away my best tool for sales and biz dev. I could trace about 50% of Urban Mapping’s annual revenue at the time to contacts identified on LinkedIn. Then it began to get, well, useless, because a lot more noise, ie, users, entered the system.
Around the same time I began to get annoyed by the inevitable torrent of LinkedIn connection requests after industry events. I was a purist– since the network is only as strong as its weakest node, I wouldn’t accept your request unless we have some kind of substantive interaction. My moral high ground didn’t seem to make a difference as I derived less and less value from my network. So I eventually relented and became “one of those people” who accepts (almost) all comers.
Fast forward to 2015 and I have my first career shake-up in 15 years after selling my business earlier this year. Scrolling through my contacts, I drew blanks on a sizeable number of these people. Who were they, are they merely collectors, or can we support each other professionally? Ends up they are dead weight.
My simple experiment entailed identifying all contacts that I couldn’t associate with anything, narrow the list to San Francisco area, and send a brief note on LinkedIn saying it would be great if we could catch up– ”I’d love to chat over a coffee, or phone call if easier. Here’s what I’ve been doing, here’s what I’m looking to do, I see you do X, etc… can we be of help to each other?” The note was concise.
The results…sent 21 emails, received one response. Followed up with that one to arrange coffee and never heard back. So there you have it. LinkedIn is my new Rolodex, somewhat helpful for research, but as a prospecting tool, its days are over.
Addendum: Hunter Walk of homebrew just published a timely post about what a LinkedIn competitor might/not offer