Is your network an overgrown jungle that has been neglected?

Jungle in Bothe-Napa Valley Park

You don’t want to be “that guy” —

…who is glued to his cell phone during his entire workout routine. Not cool.
…who walks in to the elevator and pushes the button to go down one floor. Really?
…who skips out early on the group dinner and pays $8 for the salad he had. People remember that.
…who pops up in your inbox inviting you to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Well… I was “that girl.”

There is a small green hyperlink with two words – “Add Connections” at the upper right page of your LinkedIn page. Hitting it was like opening Pandora’s box. After asking for my permission to access my Google contacts, it identified 703 contacts that had an existing LinkedIn profile, but was not yet linked to me. Sure, I had the option to de-select those I did not wish to send an email request. After de-selecting many contacts I did not recognize, I gave up and hit “Submit.”

Next thing I know, a flurry of emails crowded my inbox:
“How is it that I know you? I’m sorry I don’t recognize the name.”
~Jason

“Hi there. Have we met”
~Support Desk Analyst at C&D Zodiac

“Hey Shirlin! You’re always showing up on my gchat contact list! Didn’t think you would remember me though, considering we’ve only met once or twice. Thanks for the add. Still keep in touch with Qing/Carla?”
~Name undisclosed

I know that prior to the emails, each of them clicked on my photo, perused through my experience and earnestly sifted through second and third connections trying to recall a familiar association with this mysterious ‘Shirlin Hsu.’

I felt so embarrassed. I don’t know who any of these people are and I just spammed them. This is the downside of misusing technology. User error. Argh.

I read about a new app called Gabi that reimages the UI on the Facebook app and allows you to ask questions such as “Which of my status updates are the most popular?” or “Of all my friends, who are single, male and over 35?” What would have been useful for me is if there was a feature in LinkedIn that told me exactly how I know this person. I click a button that says “How do I know them?” and perhaps it would comb through the emails in my Gmail account. The feature finds the contact was included in several distribution lists and reminds me of how we first interacted.

LinkedIn -how “open” should your network be?

It’s interesting how we find security and legitimacy in numbers. Once a person is your friend on Facebook, you look to see how many friends they have, as if that says something about their value as a person. I admit I do the same on LinkedIn. Yet, I now have this ‘connection integrity’ issue where I have nearly 800 connections but approximately 15% of those are arbitrary. Does that matter? I’m pretty bothered by the fact I am connected to people I do not know – it feels ingenuine to me. It feels like I took advantage of social media to increase my six degrees of connections in a superficial way. After all, doesn’t “weak” connections just dirty the data and reduce the value of the network for everyone.? Heck, social media guru Chris Brogran even closed his LinkedIn account of 16,000+ connections!

On the other hand, it may not be so bad. There is a debate posted on LinkedIn that people have profiles on Linkedin and refuse to connect with people they don’t know. Garry Hill (don’t know him but connected through Gregory Wertman) says “What is the point of having an active “networking” profile? The average American “knows” less than 50 people, so it seems counterproductive. I am curious to hear from people with thoughts on this?” After all, isn’t this the purpose of LinkedIn – to leverage the power of the Internet and build your network for business purposes – no matter how you know them, if you like them, or if you even know who they are.

Building meaningful connections

I recently dusted off an old book by Keith Ferrazzi’s called, Never Eat Alone. Ferrazzi had been practicing a lifestyle of community building and strategic relationship building. The premise of the book is that “Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people.” If we are to achieve any goals or get anywhere in life, we need the right people to help us. He talks about how real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful and about working hard to give more than you get.

A tool that has proved to work effectively for him is what’s called a Relationship Action Plan. The plan is separate into three distinct parts:

1)    Develop goals that will help you fulfill your mission.
2)    Connect those goals to the people, places and things that will help you get the job done.
3)    Determine the best way to reach out to the people which will help you accomplish your goals.

The focus is a shift from tasks to people – really nurturing the relationships you currently have and strategically meeting and building with new people.

I do feel like my network has significantly grown into a jungle this past week. The potential for truly connecting is far more than I can imagine.

For the next few weeks, I will use this Relationship Action Plan and see what comes of it. I’m going to start with my mission for the next five years. Try it with me – it may just bring more meaning to “social networking.”

“Would love to be linked in for live and hang out again with the crew!”  ~Anonymous
I might too, if only I knew who you were.

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