In my last post I described the three types of networkers, or networking strategies on LinkedIn: LION, Turtle and Hound Dog. For the last 18 months I’ve pretty much considered myself a Hound Dog. I connect to those I know and those I would like to know.
My job is helping people find the best option for their health insurance needs. Specifically in the state of Georgia. While connections outside of the state might help my network in terms of size, it really wasn’t that relevant to business. Plus I figured that the more connected I was to my network the more valuable it would be to my connections.
I’m beginning to think that while the thought was well intentioned, it was also flawed.
Here’s why. “How do I know that my network would only benefit from those that I know?” From an introduction perspective it would definitely be more valuable if I knew the person I was being asked to pass an introduction request to. But isn’t there some value in simply being connected to someone and being able to pass on an introduction request.
I’m going to assume that in the history of LinkedIn there have been introduction requests accepted even though the person passing the request on did not know the end recipient. Therefore there is value in connecting to those you don’t know.
Let me make it simple. I connect to Tom Jones who I don’t know and who lives in another state. Bill James, who I do know and is a connection, searches his network for someone with Tom’s skills. Tom comes up in the search and I am Bill’s only connection to Tom. Bill asks for an introduction to Tom. I pass the introduction on to Tom and this leads to Tom finding a new client and Bill solving an issue he had.
The end result is that from a connection I did not personally know I will have helped two people.
I have not gone on a connection binge. And I have no plans to post my email address in my profile or with my name. But I have become more receptive to connecting with people I have not met. A new connection in Los Angeles will likely never need my help with an insurance plan, but they might need the assistance of a one of my connections. And they might have another connection in Atlanta who sees my profile and needs help with insurance.
LinkedIn’s philosophy is that you connect with those you know. I can appreciate the thought behind their position. But where I’m beginning to find new value in LinkedIn is in finding or stumbling upon the hidden opportunities that would never have been available had I not connected beyond my natural network.
I admit I’m still getting used to the idea of going from a dog to a cat (LION) in terms of my connection strategy. One thing that might make me more comfortable with the idea is the connections tagging function now being beta tested. This would allow me to classify my connections as a friend, a client, a business partner, and who knows what else. I am not part of the test users so I don’t know what any of the tags are.
Let’s hope that when it’s released that it allows your connections to see how you classify the relationships of each of your connections. That way, they’ll know beforehand whether or not you know the person they’re asking you to help introduce them to.
How about you, what’s your connection strategy? Do you find that it’s changing over time?