Some time ago, I wrote a post about how start-up businesses always seem to look for “Connectors” to help their business find sales prospects. As I ramp up my consulting practice at Acorn Growth Partners, I have returned to networking with current and past colleagues, as well as prospective clients. Suddenly, I am receiving LinkedIn connection requests from people whom I haven’t heard from in years, or from people whom I have never met! I hope that’s a good thing but it’s something I am concerned about. Why?
Because being “connected” on LinkedIn is not being a “Connector”.
There seem to be three categories of LinkedIn users I have observed in my personal networking experiences:
Casual Users are people who use LinkedIn on an occasional or even regular basis. They don’t mind using it for business purposes, but they are not out there aggressively recruiting other connections. They connect mostly with business contacts and current/former colleagues. Occasionally, they may use their connections to make a request or help someone out. Most of the time, they respond when a message or request is sent to them. I think this represents 90% of the people using LinkedIn.
These people are out there aggressively using LinkedIn for business. I visualize recruiters and sales people when I think of the person in this category. They are using LinkedIn with a purpose, and their motivation is to communicate with people to accomplish business results. From what I have seen, they will continue communicating until they don’t need to any more, then you never hear from them again. A lot of the LIONs I have met also fall into this category.
This is a relatively small group of people whose annoying activities spoil the whole thing for the rest of us. These people are out there “collecting” connections. While they may seem to have a business purpose, their real reason for connecting is that they feel there is a relationship between their brand value and the number of connections they have. The more connections, the higher the visibility and the more popular they are. Believe me: they could care less about responding to a request or communicating with you. When I think of these people, I visualize the girl in the Toyota Venza commercial:
Boy, do I wish I could figure out how to deal with these connection spammers! The only thing I can figure out about these people is that they are the same folks who think e-mail spam is direct mail!
In my opinion, the value of connecting on LinkedIn has nothing to do with the number of connections you have. Whether you are Casual or Power User, or a Collector (if you are, please don’t connect to me), the whole point is to be a Connector. I’m fortunate to have a few colleagues who are true Connectors, as defined in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point
The people I am talking about are seemingly connected to everyone important to your business. When you connect with them, the first thing they usually ask is, “How can I help you?”. They are eager to use their connections to make introductions or locate resources for their colleagues. It’s ironic that most of the time these people have a pretty average number of LinkedIn connections. The difference is that they are willing to help and they know the right people.
I have met several “Gladwellian” Connectors over the years, and I have found that they are great people whose primary motivation is to help others succeed. Most of the time, the help they give provides them with many times more benefits and rewards in return
I aspire to be this type of Connector on LinkedIn. If you need something in my area of expertise and I can be of assistance, please contact me. I will do my best to help you.
What type of connector are you?