I discovered today that I’m closing in on 1,000 connections on LinkedIn. My exact number sits at 963, so if you’re not already connected to me, reach out to give me a boost. I’ll check back in a couple of months, and until then I’ll just note the unfulfilling 500+ connections on my main profile page. I wonder whether it will jump to 1,000+ when I get there? For that matter, I wonder why it can’t show the exact number right now?
Maybe it’s because the number is entirely meaningless.
That “500+” reminds me of when McDonald’s made the switch from giving you the exact number of billions served and—perhaps inspired by Carl Sagan—switched to the simpler “Billions and Billions Served.” After a while, you don’t really need to know (nor in the case of McDonald’s, do you want to). But where McDonald’s can trace revenue back to each of those billions, can LinkedIn? What is the value of a connection?
LinkedIn connections are most definitely an example of the 80/20 rule. The top 20% of your connections probably make up 80% of the value of your overall connections. For many of us, that top percentage may actually be closer to 3%. Whenever I see someone with a ridiculously high number of connections (like, say, 963), I think, “Do they really know those people, and if not, why did they connect with them?”
Good question, he asked, looking in the mirror.
There have been countless times when I have been looking to make a connection with someone at a company—maybe for a job, a business deal, or other reasons—and I see I’m a second connection to them through one other person. (I can’t model the statistical probabilities of connecting with other people, but a part of me thinks that with 963 connections, if you’re more than a 2 with me, you may be living in Lower Slobbovia.) But then I see who sits between me and the object of my connection, and it’s three people, two of whom I don’t even remember connecting to, or why I did.
Is there a correlation between senility and having a high number of connections on LinkedIn?
Now what was I saying?
I already feel like asking someone I know very well to help me with a connection on LinkedIn is like reminding them they owe me money. (That’s you, General Barnicke.) How do you ask someone to whom you’re connected but don’t remember why? “I think I got drunk one night and connected with a bunch of people. So do you think you can give me your CEO’s email address?”
I often wonder how LinkedIn is still an Internet darling and the single biggest professional networking site. They may be making money off their job postings, but I can’t imagine the rest of their advertising is doing very well at all. (I’ve tried their ad platform in multiple past jobs, and it performed somewhere south of shouting on a street corner with a megaphone.) I’ve already written about how their groups are being overtaken by people who have no sales subtlety. Their most popular page by far is their “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” page, so most of us find its value as a sort of professional Tinder. (Ryan Gosling voice: “Hey girl…you checking out my vitae?)
I fully expect someday I’ll get on LinkedIn and find that I’m one connection removed from Kim Jong-Il. Being a Chicagoan, I surely know people who know people who know Dennis Rodman, so it wouldn’t be a stretch.
Eventually, most of our networks are going to be so bloated as to be even more meaningless. It strikes me there ought to be another way. I don’t know: maybe actually meeting people, offline?
I’m connected (online and in reality) to a new company called Hunt Club that actually offers people a payment if you refer someone in your network and they get a job. They didn’t ask me to write a testimonial, nor did I start this post thinking I would, but this model strikes me as one that could be more advantageous for those of us with valuable networks. Then again, even they go through LinkedIn to find your connections. Maybe LinkedIn will be the grand-daddy database of connections, with other services entering it and orbiting it. But how LinkedIn will continue to make money at it, I’m still confused…
Do I hear a 964th?