August 13, 2013

Connection Equals Endorsement: Reboot LinkedIn for Fun & Profit

Your (500+) connections badge in LinkedIn never got you a great job. More likely, it was one specific person in your network who might have referred you into your new role, and the endorsement of a few others who helped cement your claimed skillset and validated your tenure - in addition to your storied resume and skill at interviewing.

But somehow, as we saw in the world of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, the race to claim more connections, with the thought of higher numbers being better, took hold of many of us, as we accepted loose ties, be they connections from colleagues in other departments, partners, vendors, customers, or even non-work friends, as we saw our numbers pass the coveted 500+ maximum LinkedIn would display. After all, it could be thought, if one has 500+ connections, they must be an incredible networker and know everyone.

It's not that I only know 143 people. These are the best at what they do
and are the most relevant to me right now.

For those of us who don't regularly change jobs or titles, spending extensive time on LinkedIn is fairly rare. It's a "set it and forget it" model, keeping one's work history intact, and one's network stable. But as one stays in a role longer, and ties to old companies and roles become less relevant, it makes sense to periodically prune one's connections, with a mentality that "connection implies endorsement." Rather than connecting to all previous colleagues, but only supporting a few, why not use the LinkedIn network to be a showcase of the very best you know and can stand by if future opportunities arise for them, or for you?

A few weeks ago, I set out to tackle my long-ignored but often abused LinkedIn message box. I was faced with thousands of requests to connect from complete strangers, from freelancers and consultants to SEO specialists, with the occasional high quality individual thrown in for variety's sake. As I dutifully hit "Report as Spam" time and again, while watching the Oakland A's beat whatever team they were playing on TV, the big mess of invites and connections started to become more clear and a new pattern arose - turning my tired profile and network into something useful for me and others.

I Took LinkedIn Below 100 Before Rebuilding (via Twitter)

It wasn't just enough to deny the random people from getting into my non-open network. It was just as important to raise the bar on who was already on my list. The vendor I once used nine years ago, and actually liked, didn't make the cut. The sales rep in the industry I haven't been in for five years who has since worked for three different companies got the axe. The office manager who I gave all my CDs to when I ditched physical media and went all digital had to go. All nice people. All totally irrelevant now - and likely, insofar as LinkedIn is concerned, never to be relevant again.

Ten Years Of a Network Is a Pretty Good Chunk

It has been more than ten years since I first joined LinkedIn, having been invited in May of 2003, and snagging a four digit user number back when that mattered. Over that time, I've been promoted, laid off, started a new company, been referred to a new one and transferred roles. Each time, it made sense to revisit my business profile and give it a reboot. We could all show the world we know tons of people. I could scrape my Twitter followers, my Google+ connections, and race up the chart. But it wouldn't make sense any more. Take the time to give your LinkedIn a scrub and make the data useful. If we're not connected, and you think we should be, and I won't flag you as spam, go ahead and give it a try here:

Standard Disclosure: Google is where I work. We have a social network called Google+. This post is not Google's idea and the words are mine. No bias, real or assumed, is intended.

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