Monday, December 15, 2008

Why did I join LinkedIn?

Does your manager think that you are looking for a new job if you are in LinkedIn? Well, not necessarily. As I have learned, LinkedIn can been valuable in many ways.

I wrote this post for TrendsCast - an internal corporate blog on Emerging Trends. It generated a good amount of dialogue and I decided to share in my blog.

For those whom the word is new or have heard about LinkedIn but have not used it yet, let’s first check Wikipedia for a simple definition.

LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site” - to be clear this is an external website not hosted by your company.

If you are already in there then you know the value of a professional social networking site where members can make professional connections, join multiple groups, discover new business ventures and yes, search for career opportunities. I say this because as a mentor, I view LinkedIn as a great tool for future career planning and a way to be informed with what is happening on the job market and to gain insights into any industry.

There are also other social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace where you can connect with friends, make new connections or join different groups. But LinkedIn’s value proposition is unique in the ever-expanding world of social networks for its professional and career focus.

Plaxo is another example of a business-oriented social networking site. I opened an account with Plaxo, but never used it and ended up closing it. I realized that if I make time to join a social community, I want to be actively engaged - not just have a profile hanging out there. Otherwise, I ask myself: What is the value you get from the community or you bring to the community if you are not engaged?

My secret goal is to reach a point when I am connected to all members within the “Six Degrees of Separation” rule. Ah, well I guess it is not a much of a secret anymore!

Interestingly, how people engage in social communities for different reasons. In the book “The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (which I enjoyed reading), he breaks the people that “build the communities” into three categories: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen.

For example, Mavens are the people who own and share information. They are the subject-matter experts who know every detail about every little thing.

I joined LinkedIn in 2005 and did exactly what I have told you not to do, I was opposite of the Maven. I posted a short profile and never engaged with the community. It was just a checkmark.

I rejoined in 2006 and since then my view on how to get and add value to social networks has changed. My engagement level has increased exponentially. At first my new intention was to connect with people I already knew from other organizations, but slowly I began to make connections with people I did not know from other professions and began to explore new topics and openly, I have let my curiosity see what business opportunities are out there.

It is also important to me to add value to the community and I want to use my network to help people connect with each others. So now, compared to my original intentions, my purpose for using LinkedIn has made a 360 degree turn and today my main goal is to establish new connections with professionals from different fields and to participate in discussion forums.
One of my favorite features is the personal network calculation. In LinkedIn people are connected by degrees of separation. “Six Degree of Separation” still counts as the magic measurement within a social network but in LinkedIn the common denominator is “Three Degree of Separation”.

Connectors are the people who link us with the world and introduce us to social circles. In other words, we are the ones that turn the “Six Degrees of Separation” into the “Three Degrees of Proximity”.

In my last blog, I talked about trust and employee engagement in social networks. Some people are half-way there – meaning they are not yet willing to have an open profile and share their network information. On LinkedIn if you want to protect the privacy of your network you can use a feature that blocks others from having access to your personal contacts.

Of course, in every community we have such participants, I call these Controllers. Typically they have a few protected connections and no additional engagement. Even more extreme are those that I call Spectators with a lonely profile and no connections at all. Just like I was when I first joined.

Gladwell’s last group, the Salesmen, are well, the people with the power of persuasion. Do you know of any these?

Another significant value I get from LinkedIn is the unique opportunity to collaborate with people on topics of personal and professional interest of mine.

I recently posted a question to the Women 2.0 group that generated a very insightful dialogue among the group members.

Yesterday, I connected with a woman and found out about a 4 week summer program at MIT labs for high school girls. The objective of the program is to spark their interest in future study in engineering and computer science. Can you imagine? I wish I could attend the program too! (As a side note, if you know of any high school girl who wants to attend, tell her to apply before January 15th.)

My point is not to persuade you to join LinkedIn but to share how I have personally benefitted from it and learned how to effectively use it in my professional life. It removed preconceived notions I had about social networks and has created a bridge between career and personal life.

I could share more about my engagement, but I first would like to hear back from YOU. Tell me about what you have experienced so far using LinkedIn or don’t hesitate to tell me about the reasons why you are not part of this social network. Do you hide your network if you are a member? Why? Are you a Maven or a Connector?

If you are you ready to join don’t forget to send me an invitation to be a part your network!

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Nice post. I enjoy reading it. :D