The ROI of personal networks (especially LinkedIn)


Image: An email from LinkedIn prompting me to tell my network what I’m up to…

Yesterday I had a conversation with someone who told me that over the past year that had learned how to use LinkedIn and that they reckoned that they could directly attribute several hundred thousand pounds of profit to it. Not vaguely, not hypothetically – they knew exactly which items on their balance sheet were the result of doing things because of and through that social network tool.

They were a fiftysomething avowedly non-techie businessperson in a service industry and I found their account of their experience very useful, as it had the fresh perspective of someone outside of the connected world I most live in.

They were of course highly successful in their field already, and implicitly understood the importance of personal networks in business.

Their nightmare scenario in business was missing out on an opportunity because they weren’t in the right place at the right time, that they weren’t front of mind when someone in their sector was pulling together a short-list for a contract or similar. What Twitter was doing was helping them to increase both their presence and profile in their personal network and their ability to listen to the needs of their connections and contacts.

These were some of the points they related which stuck with me…

  • Paying attention to what is happening: They weren’t a compulsive checker of what was happening on their LinkedIn account, they used a weekly email update to see who was doing new things, connecting with someone else, saying interesting things or asking for help on status updates.

  • Light-touch presence: They update their status every now and again, but had grasped that in LinkedIn less can often be more. I agree with this, which is why I don’t connect Linkedin to Twitter. In Twitter I am much more chatty, and when the mood takes me update several times a day or even hour. In LinkedIn that’s not useful – I leave status updates there only when something significant has happened, or I am travelling somewhere that I think I might meet others from my network or I am looking for input on a particular project or issue. They also mentioned that changing their photograph or updating their profile details every few months was a useful way of keeping (sociologists would call that a phatic expression – the online equivalent of waving as you pass or saying “hi” briefly).
  • Being useful to their network: As well as answering obvious business opportunities, they stressed the importance of connecting others who would be useful to one another, when they spotted an opportunity. This connecting behaviour is a classic networking approach, and one that leaves everyone feeling positive toward one another. Often it can also result in direct or indirect commercial benefits for the connector.

LinkedIn is a productivity, networking super-charger: It’s not just about LinkedIn, of course – it is about understanding your personal networks and how to behave, to be useful in them. Tools like Linkedin accelerate and augment our ability to successfully work with our networks, in them, through them. But the real, underlying superskill as I’m calling it at the moment, is all about networks.

Categories, shmategories…

I haven’t ever seen the point in categories for my blog before now (I’m still not sure I do).

But making a virtue out necessity and ignorance, I can’t turn off the category thing in the theme I am using for this blog and rather than having it jarringly state “UNCATEGORIZED” in the byline for each piece, I thought I’d set some up.

The challenge is that my ideas about categories change all the time, its partly why I prefer the versatility of tags to the taxonomy approach.

So rather than focus on topics, I’m going to have categories based around the different ways I am thinking and working on this blog:

  • Public notebook: This is the default – my blog is my public notebook ahead of anything else.
  • Speaking: Notes and slides and things that support specific events where I am speaking.
  • Me and My Web Shadow: Things connected with the book I wrote. I think I will write posts here from now on and then cross-post them out to the book’s website. I don’t have enough attention/time to divide myself between different blogs and do much with them, so Open… will continue to where I post everything and connect to the rest of my online presence.
  • Brilliant Noise: This is my new project. A think/do tank of sorts, a home for a lot of projects. But more of that later this week, I hope.
  • Media & brands: This is what I started out writing about as the main focus for this blog, and mainly what my career has been about up until now. I expect to still write about it, but it is not the only focus of this blog.

: : Now, unless I can say that I am ignoring all the dates in the calendar and renaming them all “J” I am going to have to work out how to fix the number thing in the byline for my blog posts…