I just got an e-mail and on one of the forums I’m on (a Yahoo Group) there was a message sent from a LinkedIn insider that they busted right through the 8 million member mark. I think it was around May, when I first signed up for LinkedIn that they were about 5.5 million.
This is significant, obviously. Here are a few misc. thoughts:
How come they haven’t grown as fast as MySpace? Understand the demographics — MySpace was/is flooded with a ton of teenies that haven’t a clue what they are doing (or, I should say, what lasting footprint they are leaving for their future employer to review). Lot’s of “me too” in that group, and a propensity to embrace the viral buzz… in LinkedIn there are lots more professionals that are “busy” or want to analyze whether they should sign up or not. Do you want to sign up for another account on something?? I think its a way harder sell, and I’m very impressed with their progress. They have a ton of buzz (more on that below).
How helpful is this, really, for my networking and job search efforts? I don’t know… it depends on where you are at in your transition (pre, post or right in the middle?). I joined right in the middle of my job search (I had never heard of it before) and was uber-lonely – I couldn’t seem to get past 10 connections. I didn’t try really hard, but I didn’t think I would be able to get value out of these virtual connections that early in the game.
Should I get an account now, and really beef up my networking? Well, I personally think the jury is still out – I don’t think it is for everyone. There is a super-useful way to use LinkedIn (I’ll blog on that in a later post, after Monday’s carnival), there are annoyances, there is the ettiquite issue, and of course there is the question of whether the connections you make will really be quality connections. etc. My advice right now is yes, go get an account, especially if you don’t need it. More and more folks are signing up and its more likely that you get an invitation… its better to begin to build this virtual world now than when you really need it (and may look desperate).
When I get an account, I’m done, right? Not really, part of the “strategy” is that you invite others and have the ability to tap into their network. Let me give you a simple example… let’s say you have a target company. This applies whether you are in a job search or in a sales capacity, and I did this very thing twice this week. Go into your account and search for the company (for example: JibberJobber). The search results will show you anyone in “your” network that has that in their profile… whether it is one of your contacts or one of your contact’s contacts. You should be able to quickly figure out their title/role in the company, etc. Or you might find someone that doesn’t work there anymore but might have some great information (for a job seeker, ask what the problems are that you may be able to solve!). But this magic only happens if you can build your network… and according to the brains over at LinkedIn, this happens when you have about 30 1st degree contacts.
What about … the others?? Yep, there are others. Spoke, Ryze, MySpace (don’t get a MySpace account to develop yor personal brand, or do networking if you are a professional)… I just read something about there being around 200, and I see more and more pop-up. Back in April, before JibberJobber was live, I sent it to a buddy in Malibu to get feedback. He wrote back and said he didn’t see the value in JibberJobber unless tons of others were on it, and even then, how was I going to differentiate from LinkedIn and MySpace (???). Obviously he had stuck JibberJobber into the same pot as all of the social networking sites… and it isn’t even close. Babara Safani gave a presentation where she picked apart a bunch of business social networking sites and at the end said “and if all of this gets confusing you can use JibberJobber to keep track of it all”… nice job Barbara! I didn’t intend for it to be the keeper of your social networking efforts but it certainly can do that! I guess the question becomes, how much time do you want to spend getting new connections, updating your profiles (on each site), etc. Food for thought: on all of the recruiting blogs I read, LinkedIn is the only one talked about… so if you want to be visible to recruiters, have your LinkedIn profile optimized, and get to work on those 30 connections.
You know that I’m all about the real relationship… and tools are great but no substitute for the relationship. I wonder if any of these sites will follow JibberJobber and provide real CRM-like tools to manage and drive this relationship? I hope not – but one interesting thing is that JibberJobber would be uniquely positioned to be the customer relationship management tool that crosses boundaries, whereas I don’t see these social networking sites opening up to manage relationships from other sites. We’ll see!
Congratulations to LinkedIn for maintaining growth and hopefully maintaining profitability. If all this intrigues you, don’t lose sight of what networking really is (social networking, unsocial networking, all that jazz)… my buddy in Austin, Texas put together a quick little networking test to see how savvy you really are. Spend a few minutes and go take his test here.