I’m not convinced that it does.
In the first part of this series, I summarized my views on good, old-fashioned networking and why I’m such a strong believer in it.
In this article, I’ll explain how I see LinkedIn, a professional social networking service, fit into my idea of networking.
One of the biggest social networks for professionals is LinkedIn. The idea is that you set up an account and provide resume-like profile information. You then “connect” with other LinkedIn members, who become part of your direct network. Through them, you are indirectly connected to other people and can, supposedly, ask for introductions to make any of those people part of your direct network.
I’ve been a member for about two years now. As of this morning, I have 63 direct connections, 3200+ “two-degree” connections and a whopping 271,000+ “third degree” connections. Yet in the two years I’ve been a member with all these relationships, I have yet to get any leads — solid or otherwise — for work.
I’m not the only one. This is evidently a major complaint among members. Yet they all stick to it, trying to work the system.
Why LinkedIn Isn’t Working For Me
I have three theories on why LinkedIn is not working — at least not for me:
- Linked in, being an Internet-based network, appeals primarily to technology people. So the user base is deeply skewed toward technology-related fields. I’m a writer who writes about using computers, so I’m on the fringe of this network. I think that people more heavily involved in technology may find LinkedIn more valuable. But I’m extremely disappointed with the number of aviation-related professionals on LinkedIn. Of the three that I’m directly connected to, I brought all of them into the system and two of them only have one direct connection: me.
- Members have either the “what’s in it for me” or lack of confidence problem I discussed above. As a result, they’re not very likely to highly recommend contacts. To be fair, however, I have had no requests for recommendations in the past two years. In other words, no one has come to me and asked for information about any of my contacts, which include freelancers that do layout, indexing, writing, and all kinds of publishing-related work.
- Members simply aren’t working the system.
You Gotta Work the System
A few months ago, when a LinkedIn contact asked me whether I’d ever gotten any work because of my LinkedIn membership, after admitting that I hadn’t and discovering that he hadn’t, I offered to ask a friend of mine who I consider a professional networking expert. She’s also a member of LinkedIn and she’s the one who’d pulled me on board. When I asked her the question, she admitted that she hadn’t gotten any work either.
“But I’m not trying very hard,” she added.
I knew immediately what she meant. You can’t simply put your name in a hat and wait for someone to call you with work. You need to work your connections. You need to make sure everyone remembers you and thinks about you when they have a need. You need recommendations. You need to build new connections through the ones you already have.
In other words, you need to network the old fashioned way.
And that’s where LinkedIn falls short of people’s expectations. Yes, you can use it to track down contact information for former classmates and colleagues and clients. But unless you actively keep in touch with these people, you may as well keep an address book in your desk drawer. LinkedIn only puts out what you put into it.
Which brings me back to my original example. Suppose I add Adam to my list of LinkedIn contacts. (The big challenge, of course, is getting him to sign up if he isn’t already a member — non-tech people are extremely cautious about signing up for any online service, even if it’s free.) And suppose Pete (remember him?) is also a member of LinkedIn and gets John to join. Pete refers John to me via LinkedIn. John sees my resume and is impressed. He asks Pete for an introduction. Pete uses LinkedIn to introduce me to John. John becomes part of my network and I introduce him to Adam.
Seems like a long, roundabout way to get things done, but if all of us were already members of LinkedIn before any of this started, it would go smoothly, like clockwork. And, theoretically, a lot of it would be do-it-yourself stuff, with John finding me through Pete’s contact list. A few clicks and introductions are made. E-mail is exchanged, then phone calls. And relationships are solidified by business transactions.
That’s the idea behind LinkedIn.
Sadly, that’s not what’s happening. Not yet. But I’ll continue to try to build my LinkedIn network and try to make some use of it.
Are You LinkedIn?
If you’re a linked in member, use the comments link or form for this post to share your LinkedIn user ID with the rest of us.
If you’re not, check it out. You might benefit from it.
Either way, I’d love to hear experiences of LinkedIn users. Use the comments link or form for this post to share them.