I’ve been on Linkedin for a couple of months, I guess, as a test after stirring up the “social networking” cult which seems to believe that constant contact on the Internet is the answer to all human needs. (You can read some of the vociferous posts elsewhere on the blog, but not the ones we deleted because they were obscene, incomprehensible, or just vacuous.)
Here is my experience on Linkedin with 144 connections and 1,841,000 linked to them, or so the site claims. There are 2,733 new people on my network since September 23, whatever that means. I’ve posted questions and responded, started one group (for my mentor program) and conscientiously replied to all invitations and queries.
• With the exception of staying in touch and perhaps finding traditional employment, I see zero benefit to Linkedin as a marketing tool for consultants.
• It has the potential to be a huge time waster. Most postings are irrelevant.
• There are mostly inanities brought to your attention, such as two people you’ve never heard of who are now “connected,” or the really stupid notifications such as, “Roger is staying up late to work tonight.” Oh, great, now my day is complete.
• Exactly two people inquired about any kind of business with me, for coaching in both cases, and both said that they were going to contact me through my web site but happened to see me on Linkedin. One joined the Mentor Program, the other did not.
• The questions posted were 95% pretty sound and useful, but were also overwhelmingly (at least in my case) low level human resources type of inquiries.
• People with whom I interacted were unfailingly polite and professional. Not one exception.
• I received buying solicitations from others who invariably replied, when I protested, either “My assistant made a mistake with my list,” or “I never sent that to you” (then how did I get it?).
• Some people collect connections like stamps, and told me that the entire idea was to maximize their “network.” I refused to link with “collectors.”
• The technology is surprisingly primitive and unreliable, such as when I click on an invitation and its says, “This was not intended for you.” I had to go to customer service to have a duplicate of me removed, which the system inexplicably created.
I could go on, but I won’t. This is a mild diversion with limited utility for serious entrepreneurs and consultants in a world where time is a non-renewable resource. Worse, it has created a cultish behavior among many of its adherents who see the leaf and not the tree or the forest. I’m still awaiting my secret decoder ring.
Contrarian consulting advice: Use your time to network qualitatively, and don’t rely on technological shortcuts which don’t immediately involve you with real buyers. I know some people will write in ignoring the fact that I am writing about consultants, because the cult blinds them. They need to spend less time staring at Linkedin on their computer screens and go taste the coffee.
© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.