On the ever-interesting LinkedIn Bloggers discussion list, Konstantin Guericke, VP of Marketing of LinkedIn, posted a fascinating response to a question posted by author Scott Allen about whether having your own blog is a better networking tool than the popular LinkedIn site.
Here’s what Konstantin said (published with permission, including some interesting hints of what’s coming next from LinkedIn too):
It’s really just a matter of definitions. When we initially said “networking tool” we meant what LinkedIn was designed to do — not replicate what was already working well on mailing lists, Web sites (now blogs), networking sites and in offline networking events.
We sometimes called this internally “fishbowl” networking: anybody can see anybody else, and you easily approach people directly or make yourself good-looking, so people will want to approach you. While not every approach was welcome, in general people opt into being on mailing lists, have a blog or attend offline networking events and so the “hit” rate in terms of getting into a dialogue are much better than when you walk down the street and try to engage a stranger.
Some of the networking sites had done OK, but none ever made it into a big business. Our estimate was that 5% of business people attend networking events or participate in online mailing lists/forums.
And the reason none of the networking sites ever became a $100 mil business (or even a $10 mil business) was precisely because they only appealed to people who enjoy networking, have the time to network and are good at it. This not only limited quantity, but also quality.
Many VC’s we knew quickly left sites like Ryze after being exposed in the fishbowl. The most ardent users were small business people — sometimes selling aromatherapy; other times selling outsourcing services. It was like eBay with all sellers and no buyers.
We focused LinkedIn on attracting the buyers, knowing that sellers would naturally follow the buyers. If you ever did a survey asking a random sample of business people if they would like to network online, I bet 95% would say “no.” However, if you asked the same population whether or not they thought relationships matter in business, I think 95% would say “yes.”
And most would be willing to admit that they haven’t done a great job about keeping in touch strengthening their relationships with former co-workers, classmates and business partners/clients. And virtually none had a way to efficiently tap into who their contacts know.
This is the gap in the market we set out to fill. So, when we called it “networking”, we meant the kind of networking that happens when two old colleagues have lunch and catch up, and maybe one of them later makes an introduction for the other. Not a “fishbowl,” but a very intimate/high-touch affair based on a lot of mutual trust and knowledge.
However, most people don’t call that networking, but think of networking as something where people walk around with name tags that say “hello, my name is . . .” So, we generally avoid “networking” to describe LinkedIn. However, The OpenLink Network and what happens within LinkedIn groups truly is networking in the “fishbowl” sense, and so that’s where we use that term. We estimate that of our 4.7 million members, 200,000 to 300,000 are networkers (I bet a good number of those are bloggers as well), and so we are investing more resources this year to better serve their needs.
In our next release we will provide users the option to make their LinkedIn profile public (summaries for Personal account holders, full profiles for Personal Plus account holders), which has been something asked for by bloggers and networkers alike. It also makes the LinkedIn email signatures much more user friendly.
We are also doing SEO for these profiles, so our hope is that our users’ LinkedIn profiles will show up pretty high in the search results of Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. when they are being searched for by name and thus people can leverage their LinkedIn profile to better control their identity on the Web.
Very interesting, as you can see. My take on the subject is that LinkedIn is very good for narrow, focused networking (as in “can I find a contact inside Sony Entertainment that I can email?”) while blogging is much better for broad visibility and bringing in prospects (as in “you’re blogging about our company, would you like to come in and meet the team?”). Together, they balance buyers and sellers, to use Konstantin’s evocative terminology.
What’s your opinion on this topic? What networking tools do you use?
I am a member of LinkedIn and have never understood the terminology, however the terminology used to describe and endorse LinkedIn is akin to selling your readers on buying into the “snake oil” to sign up new people.
Your example of the Sony executive is not correct. The reality is that if this is the pitch that you give to recruit new linkedin members then you are undermining your own credibility.
There is only one truth about networking and that is experieince in these “virtual communities;” the truth is soon everyone will tire of this and when the lawsuits start flying and the double dealing we will see another Enron of “virtual communities” in general; not in the sense of money, but in the sense the destruction of the human spirit.
It’s going to happen; it’s just a matter of when. And the sad part is, people are reduced to numbered profile ID’s and that is symptomatic of the world of “virtual communities.”
Networking should not even be used in the same context of “virtual communities;” but that would fill a book.
The only thing that I see as the best way to redeem ourselves is to become less dependent on our digital world and pay more attention to writing in our journals, keeping the tradition of having a family meal together and most importantly spending time using the library again to actually take the time to slow down and master one thing well instead of having a thousand desires; it is my opinion that mastering just one thing is a detail of a life that is fullfilling and rewarding in the best possible sense of the word. Then the developers won’t be looking at our great libraries as potential condominium re-development because everything is digitized.
To drive the point home; when was the last time you either received or wrote an actual hand written letter to a friend and used the post office to send it for 45cents. Hey did you know that if you as father or mother wrote a handwritten letter to your teenage son or daughter that you might actually surprize them so much that they will do what you do and send letters too, which are not emailed.
Don’t worry, Everyone and Everything will find you; and my short experieince on the net has been a real eye opener; if I were you reading this I’d go out and invest my money in book publishers, card manufacturers and stationary makers and priting comapanies because a new renaissance is upon us and it will be our children who will buy into the intelligent use of building relationships they know they can keep up, instead of watching their parents spend so much time digitized that who knows how much time they have left here on earth; letting their bodies go and their lives reduced to a digitized experience that is without emotional intelligence or feeling of anykind. If you belong to any networks you can see the ones who are already beyond hope of recovery, and I campaign against this bull of “hey, Look at my community; join me,” pitch.
The irony of this whole post and comment is that we already know that we are all connected because we live on the same planet; it doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend all your time getting thier email address.
Michael, I’m not sure why you’re telling me my Sony example is incorrect: I actually used just that search and set of contact queries to identify an executive at Sony Entertainment after more traditional avenues failed me. Within 24 hours it had worked like a charm.
I also recently dug up 10 year old copies of “Internet World” magazine through LinkedIn by searching for people who had worked at the publication back then.
I signed up for Linkedin, upon receiving an invitation from someone who had a blog, but recently I discovered that his blog has been deleted or replaced with a podcast log or ????
I saw a bunch of forms to fill out, and it seemed to be geared to job seeking.
How is it different from a bulletin board?
Linkedin and other social netowrking tools are more work than anything else. I get invitations every day and…delete them. My blog gives me everything I need. Social networking lies with the people, not the tool.
I think both LinkedIn and blogging are powerful mediums of networking. However, blogging provides more credibility than LinkedIn in the sense that one can better portray one’s skills with a blog. LinkedIn is more of giving your credentials to people. Blogging is about getting a good public image.