Confessions of an Open Networker

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ll500.gifIn followup to Laura Levitan’s change in strategy post, recruiter and internet entrepreneur Jon Williamson had some confessions of his own on LinkedInnovators (posted with permission):

I’m going to toss in some observations (which, since I’m a “notorious” open networker, may surprise a few members here).

I’ve been a LinkedIn member for 2 1/2 years. Started on the Open Networking path, back when they called it “Dark Side Networking” (remember that, anyone?). Yes, I have a network over 2,500, and yes, it is still growing.

These days, however, I rarely seek out a new connection, except for recruiters, because of a new venture opening soon.

Here’s why:

1. I started as a classic Link Collector. I just wanted the biggest pile. Didn’t get contact information, never really thought of how I could use this, it was just “fun”.

2. Many (possibly a majority?) of those who invite strangers neither want nor will give help.

3. All of the comments from those who have tight networks are pretty much correct – If you don’t know someone, you are hard pressed to help or to be helped by them. Those of us with 2,000+ direct connections can’t say much more than “Would you mind forwarding this?” in most cases.

That having been said, I’ve set up practices to get the best use out of my network, as it is and as it is becoming.

A. I answer all my connection requests/acceptances. I send them my contact info, and request theirs, if I can’t get it from their profile or a website.

B. I ask them about themselves, I joke about unique items in their profiles (shark diving, unusual martial arts, whatever – there is usually something).

C. I try to personalize this whole process. I record when we connected, their LI profile URL, and details from their profile.

With luck, I exchange an email or three with about half of my new “connections”.

However, looking back, it is possible that, if I knew then what I know now, I might NOT have gone for the open networking path.

So, think about what you need, the best way to get it, and set up some procedures before you become an avid user.


“When the going gets tough, the tough…. NETWORK”

Jon Williamson
President, Southron Dreams, LLC

Again, it’s not really about the numbers — it’s about the lack of any real value when there’s no substance underlying an electronic connection. If you have the time to pursue thousands of relationships, more power to you. However, this is usually only doable by a very small number of people whose primary job function is to be a “deal-maker” rather than a “producer”. And even those people will hit the point of diminishing returns.

Thanks, Jon, for sharing your confession.

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  1. The way that I look at my online connections is a lot like my toolbox. Let me explain:

    – We all know that smart business people surround themselves with like-minded individuals.
    – We all know that is the relationship that fosters a healthy business relationship.
    – When I go to my toolbox when working on a project, I don’t use every tool, every time. Each tool has a time and place. Heck. There are some tools that I had never needed, but then that day came when I was grateful to have had it. I look at my online connections in the same way. They are all tools, waiting to be used. Now some of them will have to be sharpened (relationship built) before then can effectively be used, but that’s part of the process.
    – I guess I see myself as surrounded with like-minded individuals who appreciate the value of a large network. If the day and time comes for us to come together, at least we have taken care of the first step of an introduction.
    – I am taking time to go through to respond to each person that sent me a note back. I am sincere in my offer of help, knowing that both sides are aware there should be some mutual benefit. It’s really a case by case scenario for me.
    – Keeping in mind that when I post status updates, it’s now in front of a much larger audience and you never know what comments might resonate with the right person at the right time. Perhaps they will know the person you need to get ahold of. I am also looking to build my affiliate network with my contacts, but that will come when I start to post valuable content for them.

    Just my two cents on open networking. Learn to filter and search your lists when you need help. There are like-minded individuals out there waiting to help you. Have you found them yet?

  2. @ Scott – you make an excellent point about “not using every tool, every time”. Judiciously using one’s knowledge and one’s networking relationships is one of the finer points of business that many people don’t understand.

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