So, you wanna link?

 LinkedIn recently just passed the 100 million members mark. Congrats CEO.

This is a product that I really believe in. Its a great way to network and see who is in my circle. But, just like any social networking tool there is the inherent issue of two things in my mind:

  • people who want to be your "friend" that you don't know
  • people who want to be your "friend" that you do know and wish you didn't
I know when you first join these sites there is the option to search your address book for any contacts you might know that is already a member. There are obviously three groups of people here.
  • Group 1: goes through the entire list and selects the people they know and would like to be linked
  • Group 2: doesn't go through the list but just says what the hell and emails everyone
  • Group 3: clicks so quickly that they inadvertently requested everyone they have ever emailed
I get how these things happen but I am an ardent member of Group 1.

There are obviously many subsets of each of these groups but after getting repeated reminders about open invites I'm going to go on record about why I won't accept them but I have no explanation for why I won't reject them. I have three pending invites right now ...

One time classmate. Simple one. This is a well-meaning person but they just lack many social mannerisms that would make me comfortable ever sharing my network with them. Ever. Just because you are well-meaning doesn't mean you get to have crazy awkward social skills.

Bank Loan Officer at a Suburban Local Bank. I emailed with this guy a few times in Summer 2010 about some family stuff. I would love to understand why this guy thinks linking to me would be beneficial - especially since I have nothing nice to say about this guy. He completely mismanaged the process and while I wouldn't go so far as to call him "unprofessional" I would most certainly label him inept. I'm not sure how those two things are different really, but they are in some way.

Guy who gave me a quote on cleaning my apartment in Fall 2009. I'm a big fan of small business owners. I admire someone that can make a profit (or work towards it) and do it without the support of a larger entity. I am sure that this isn't a very PC thing to say, but why would I be linked with a guy who gave me a quote for cleaning my apartment - once. He didn't even clean the apartment because we couldn't even agree upon a price. Separately but also related, he was late to the appointment and never followed up after said appointment.

Perhaps its really impressive to some people to have the 500+ connections show up on their profile, but I can only think of a few people in my network that would actually be deserving of that. One of which is a previous B-school professor of mine who taught an e-commerce class in Spring 2009. This guy is a fearless networker and quite literally the reason that I have the job that I have.

I get the social aspirational side of LinkedIn. Try to be linked to people that can change your career, life, etc. Do whatever means is necessary to get connected to that recruiter / hiring manager that has your dream job in their inbox. But, isn't the point that you "link" to someone after you've had a credible interaction with someone? Sidenote: I find it terribly entertaining that the one and only Barack Obama is considered in my network"

So, in summary.
If we wouldn't talk in line to get coffee, I don't think we should be linked. But, if you'd like to get coffee that's a whole other story.

Check out these links for cool visualizations of the LinkedIn power: 
cool infographic
Another cool infographic
Visualize the big shots in your LinkedIn network

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