Back in the 90’s, I’m sure you remember, an actor named Kevin Bacon was apparently in every movie known to man, which led him to comment in a Premiere magazine interview in 1994, that he’d worked with most everybody in Hollywood, which inspired the game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Historically, or perhaps hysterically, based on the notion of six degrees of separation, which was already a broadway play, and then became a movie of the same name.
If you’re one or two of the three people that haven’t heard of this, the concept is simple; by knowing someone who knows someone else, who then quite possibly knows a 3rd person, and so on, you may get an intro to a person that might eventually be able to help you out. See also Pay It Forward, and networking.
The concept is not new, it is however recently formalized, by the fine folks at LinkedIn. They’ve trimmed it down, as you’re only allowed to have up to three levels of connections. Of course, if one of your 3rd level connections knows someone else’s 3rd level connection, it should be possible to complete the legendary six degrees.
As with everything else in life, the Law of Unintended Consequences kicks in, and now what we have there and elsewhere, including Myspace, and Facebook to name two of the most famous social networks, is a competition to see who can get the most friends. Of course, LinkedIn is for business, so, they call them contacts, or connections, on the theory that one of these people might actually hire you to do something for someone, at sometime in the immediate or far future.
We can even take a look at the word network. It’s actually a compound word, combining the words net, and well, work. A net is something you cast, or use to catch butterflies, and work is what you should be doing instead of reading this. And believe me, networking on Linked In is no different. They have rules. You have to know the person you’re connecting to, or, have worked with them in the past or present, or, be a member of a group that your intended connection is a member of as well.
This last one is especially important, as they’ve come up with a unique take on groups, including discussions within them. Another fancy way of compiling a mailing list, if you ask me. If your within the same group, you may exchange emails, even though you may not be directly connected. And circumvent the need to be introduced to your intended connection.
Another anomaly that has sprouted up, is the need to be well, everyone’s friend. Thus, Linked In Open Networkers was formed, or LIONs as they’ve dubbed themselves. These guys and gals accept all comers, whether they know of you or not. As a result of these two phenomena, the fine folks at LI have come up with limits on the number of groups you can join, as well as the number of invites you can send out. Once you’re out of invites, you’re out.
This has led to some interesting addictive behavior, including but not limited to, people joining groups, and giving out their email address to any and all members, in an effort to make someone else, or several someone else’s use up their invites. And giving out your email address to just anyone is what LI was attempting to avoid in the first place, by creating a so called safe environment where people from different backgrounds and locales, could safely meet and discuss business, or try to get work.
I read in a recent issue of some psychology magazine to be named later, that you can only maintain roughly 150 unique relationships give or take, as your brain can’t handle any more than that. So, it follows that an effort to win the infinite friend game is fruitless in its attempt to prove that you have the most friends.
So, could someone tell me what I’m supposed to do with my 278 connections?
Original Disclaimer: Mike is either a poker player, or a filmmaker, depending on when or where you ask him. He is Linked In at http://www.linkedin.com/in/allaroundneatguy and his blog can be found at http://whoisthewatchmaker.blogspot.com/ If you wish to connect with him in any way.
Newer Disclaimer: I wrote this four years ago, and it is the first in the Idea Masters™ series that I contributed to. Since then, I have gained over a thousand more connections on LinkedIn™, and yet, none of them have hired me yet….
- Six Ways to Use LinkedIn Effectively for Networking (bayintegratedmarketing.wordpress.com)