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Monday, November 22, 2010

When everyone belongs to Linkedin, Ecademy and their ilk, everyone belongs to nothing.

It is the business ritual after attending a fair or convention to scan the delegate list and peruse cards exchanged. Invitations to expand your connections follow. Said sites expand exponentially, more struts to the network are completed and the mesh gets tighter. This really is Grand Designs! So what?

It might seem heresy for this blog post to deliver a critique of a sister platform, but the question must be posed: how much business actually emerges from this accumulation of lists? What is the connection list for and how will I use it?

Is the expansion of one’s list merely an ego trip in sending out messages to others that you are an important person? Is your list just the outcome of the hoovering-up of names just like new trawling techniques for fishing? Is one collecting car numbers?

The warning signs come when you have established such a long list that you stop looking at it. Things get worse when you begin to realise that added connections are people who are already on the lists that you already know. The network becomes incestuous and parochial. When everyone knows the same everyone knows nothing.

The question arises: what is the connection list for? Is it a contingency list for when you are made redundant, an easy access mailing list or just a gizmo diary to beat the Filofax?

Pursuing the fishing metaphor further, nets need to be checked, mended and used in the right way. Your electronic business network is no different. The best conversations at a social gathering come from a diversity of interesting people bringing value to the table. Think upon the Linkedin network in the same way. Are your members likely to do business with each other? Do they complement or duplicate their skills? Are they decision-makers with their hands on the levers of power? Are they people with potential or status which is waning? Will your list develop a reputation that others will want to join without cajoling from you?

Others make judgements about you from the company you keep, and the virtual reality variant is no different. It used to be said that networking was about who you know. Actually, it is who knows you that counts and your connection strategy can shape this.

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