Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Confessions of an Open Networker

I like LinkedIn.  In fact, probably too much and had let my network get out of control.  The thrill of connecting.  All the exotic foreign countries.  The multitude of careers, positions, names, faces.  I was caught up in the moment.
Recently, I’ve been on a mission to get my network down to a manageable level. 

Early Spring / late Winter 2009 was when I started using LinkedIn and I would say that from the start of the whole process until now, I didn’t have a strategy.  That was where the problem began.  But all too often when we start projects, we don’t have a clear-cut path and that leads to aimless wandering about.  Those LinkedIn wanderlust days are, as of today, long gone.  I’m drawing the line and making a strategy.

No more outrageous numbers:  If I never deleted any contact, I would be way over 1000 connections.  That was a distraction to me and was making my LinkedIn use burdensome.  How do you interact with so many people?  I know some people fully endorse open networking, but that’s not my cup of tea.  It was getting to where I was just throwing numbers on a pile.

Less than 500 connections…no matter what:  If my connections say 500+, I feel “spammy”.  If I see someone who has 500+ connections I think “spammy” and numbers game.  I know, I know, someone says they can use and reap rewards with that kind of network.  But at the risk of being closed-minded; I don’t see it.

Being more selective:  If I don’t see how the person can add value to my network and I don’t see how I can add value their network, then I’m not connecting.  Yes, yes, I’ve heard the ol’ “well, you just never know”…but that “you just never know” was what was leading me to have outrageous contact numbers and a network full of folks I didn’t need, didn’t know and didn’t know how to use. 

I was an “open networker” at one time and I did that to pad my numbers.  Folks in finances in Indonesia.  Auto parts in Detroit.  A recruiter in New Zealand.  A librarian in Mauritius.  All those places are, I’m sure, lovely.  All those folks a fine bunch of folks, but it was becoming clutter…as I’m sure I was cluttering their network. 

I even cut off some “friends”.  Am I cold hearted?  No, I still like them and if they want to keep in touch they can call me, email me, stop by the house or send me a message in a bottle…but we don’t have to clutter our LinkedIn networks, especially if our businesses are completely different.

Less groups:  Why was, at one time, I a member of close to 50 groups?  Groups I never visited, groups I joined because they were there. Also just like the 500+ connections, too many groups feels and looks “spammy”.  Maybe that’s your thing, but for me, it was only about numbers and if I see someone in a multitude of groups, it looks like you are also, only about the numbers.

I think I’ve got my groups down to a manageable level…groups that reflect my business interests, the industry in which I work and my personal interest.  Earlier, I was in groups in which I really didn’t belong because of the whole “ just never know”… holding on to that concept can be a real obstacle.  You’re right, you never know, so if I missed something or missed an opportunity, fine, another one will come across.  Clicking every “accept”, seeing every “tweet”, spending sufficient time on social media isn’t my hill to die on.  I think one of the greatest lessons from this is, social media is a tool, not an ends of itself. 

So what’s my strategy?  A select geographical area, select industry, and folks that look like can add value to me and I can add value to them.  When I say “add value” I don’t mean maybe, possibly, somewhere in the long-term future if all planets line up exactly right… I mean the possibility has to really be evident.

Do you use LinkedIn?

What’s your strategy? 

How do you determine with whom to connect?

Someone with 500+ connections...."spammy" or "well-networked"?  

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