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Friday, November 30, 2007

Getting Value from LinkedIn

For a person who I generally think is pretty smart Thomas Davenport (his book Thinking for a Living is generally quite good), I find him saying some pretty weak things. A couple months ago, I took him to task in Thomas Davenport and Blogging - He is Wrong!

In his book he tells us basically that blogs have
detracted from productivity, not increased it. ...
He misses the value proposition of Blogging as a Learning and Networking tool.

Now Davenport is at it again with a post (on his blog no less - I guess he doesn't want to be productive himself) - LinkedIn Is Not a Social Network. In this post, he says:
I’ve been on LinkedIn for several years. I never initiate a “connection,” but I dutifully accept invitations to connect, even when I don’t know the person. When I do know the person, I often wonder why, if they really want to connect with me, they don’t just send me an email or call me on the phone. I can safely say that I have gotten nothing out of the site other than emails saying that so-and-so would like to connect. Occasionally people I know have asked me through LinkedIn for access to my connections -- which an email notifies me of -- and I wonder why they didn’t just send me an email themselves. It’s a funny world.
He never initiates a connection? What!?!

Either Tom doesn't get it, or Tom doesn't ever need to find expertise on a topic. Maybe he should look through his network for something like "social networking" to find some expertise on the topic as he's thinking about the possible value proposition?

I've met fantastic people through LinkedIn. The key ingredient is being able to formulate what you are looking for. Most people I've met through LinkedIn are quite willing to spend time talking with me about the particular issue. I never abuse it. I've done my homework first. But there's nothing like drilling down on a topic with a person for 30-60 minutes.

Or maybe Tom should ask a question on LinkedIn such as "How do people get value from LinkedIn?" to help him learn how to formulate requests? He would get wonderful responses on this.

Tom also wonders "why people didn't just send him an email" when they are making a connection. It's because, the person making the request has done a search on LinkedIn and is routing it through you.

I'm really convinced Tom has never tried this before. Once you've done this a couple of times, it's pretty clear how it works and how you get value.

Note: I personally no longer ever go more than to a 2nd level connection. One hop away. That way the person doing the introduction knows both people. With a few hundred connections, depending on the specific need, you often have quite good people only one hop away.

Tom did say in his post...
let me state that I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. At a conference a while back on social network issues, a speaker asked the audience, “How many of you are on LinkedIn?” Virtually all of the 100 or so attendees raised their hands. Then he asked, “How many of you have gotten anything valuable from LinkedIn?” Only one person had his hand raised. I didn’t know him, but I’m guessing he had used it to look for a job.
I've heard similar things as well. I believe that many people, not just Tom, must not have really tried this out. Or they've gone onto LinkedIn without a specific need. If you are just browsing around, you will be disappointed. But with a specific need, it's a fantastic tool.

And, of all people, Tom should understand this. He talks very specifically in his book about being able to maintain a network and access it when needed to derive value. Quite often I find value from my direct connections using LinkedIn - and I didn't realize they knew about the topic until I searched. It's a very efficient way of tapping into your network. I wonder how Tom does it? I'd be curious about the productivity around his approach?

Oh, and while I'm complaining about Tom. Cmon man, respond to comments left on your blog. Respond to blog posts - like this one. And stop putting things like:

If you're interested in my consulting services ...

If you know you want my speaking services ...

as the only possible reasons to contact you (on your contact page). It makes it seem like you wouldn't want someone to contact you unless they are willing to pay.

Or maybe this is starting to explain part of the reason why Tom's not seeing value in LinkedIn, blogging, ...

For more discussions on networking and LinkedIn see Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California, Secret for Networking at Events – Prenetworking, Pre-network with LinkedIn, Local Event Organizers Need to Adopt Social Media.


Donald H Taylor said...


You're right about the worth of Linked In and other SN tools for research and networking. Even if you don't post a question, answering other people's makes you think.

There is one other use of Linked In that often gets missed, and it's nothing to do with learning or social networking.

Increasingly it's just part of life. A regular stream of people will check your profile to see who you are. They want to know your history, the companies you have worked for, which contacts you may have in common and so on.

Just as companies are expected to have web sites, so individuals are - increasingly - expected to have a Linked In profile.


Jeff Cobb said...


You've hit on two of the social media tools I have consistently found to be the most valuable: blogs and LinkedIn. The former from a personal learning standpoint, and the later from a professional networking standpoint (though blogging also fits in that category).

Your posting resonated because it came at a point when I had just been using LinkedIn to connect with people in an industry where I have really not done much work before. I needed to build a knowledge base fast. To have achieved the same thing even a decade ago would have taken tremendously more effort, if it could have been achieved at all.


Tony Karrer said...

Wow - these are two great comments!

Unknown said...


What he needs to recognize is that you get what you put into it. Sounds like he signed up, sat back and waited for things to start happening. Sort of like the person that attends a networking event, stands in the corner by their self, and then leaves saying that was worthless.

There are monetary and non-monetary (which likely lead back to monetary) value to be gained. LinkedIn has generated some sales for me and it has also provided knowledge, enhanced my offline marketing and allowed me to share information and introduce some of my connections to each other.

Could it be better? Yes. But what would make it better for me might not matter to someone else, and likewise. For what's available I find it very valuable.

I share my thoughts on LinkedIn through my blog at