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LinkedIn bows to reality -- shifts to promiscuous-celibate strategy


linkedin.gifWe wrote up a little blurb (free registration) for today's Mercury News about the latest moves by LinkedIn, the online networking company that lets users search for jobs or make other inquiries. Beginning today, it will start charging for more of its services.

More interesting than that, though, is something else LinkedIn has up its sleeve: A capitulation to the reality that there are two types of LinkedIn users, and that LinkedIn needs to move quickly to meet their needs before it loses them all. And LinkedIn's coming moves may be a good start to addressing the "pain in the ass" critique made by Tony Perkins recently (Update: see comments below).

Here's our interpretation of a recent conversation with LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guericke. These are our words, not his. There are two groups of LinkedIn users: (1) the promiscuous -- the folks, like prolific recruiters, who don't really care about nurturing a close network so much as prowling the entire LinkedIn database for potential recruits, and then making cold calls to those folk. They don't even bother to make LinkedIn network requests to get to their desired target. They simply see where the target works, pick up the phone, and dial. Meanwhile, they make up 12.5 percent of LinkedIn's users, but do 80 percent of LinkedIn searches.

And there's (2) the celibate -- the people, ourselves included, who really want to build a great, tight network for deeper needs...(more)

...These people allow only really well-known contacts into their network, so that when they do need to make an important, crucial request to reach someone two degrees away, they can count on a rock-solid introduction from a first-degree person -- a confidant to both parties of the potential connection.

Moreover, these celibates often reject the majority of incoming requests from the promiscuous -- call them quasi-spammers -- seeking to be a direct connection in their network. The reason is because when you let that loose spammer into your network, LinkedIn's database has no way of knowing whether the spammer is really a close contact or not. So LinkedIn might then use that spammer as a go-between when you're making an important request to meet with that crucial second- or third-degree contact. Which weakens the network. "People with lots of connection started to grumble," Guericke admits.

So that's what Guericke wants to change. He says LinkedIn is about to reduce the reach of normal users to three-degrees of visibility across the network, instead of four. Users would continue to use the service for free. That's fine for celibates, because four degrees is really too far to have meaningful connections -- and it takes a long time for contact requests across a four-person chain to get fulfilled. Our best results have been reaching someone two degrees away.

But Guericke will solve the problem for the promiscuous 12.5 percent by letting them pay for access -- giving them the right to search the entire database for potential recruits or other needs. That's cool, but what about the celibate who don't want to be spammed? Guericke will allow the recruiters to see the profiles of their targets, but not their actual names. So no more cold phone-calls. Moreover, he's created a special sort of email connection, called InMail. That's when those recruiters, or other people outside your network, send you requests through the system after seeing your profile. The requests might get batched, say into two mailings a week, so you don't get overwhelmed. And LinkedIn will also offer users the option not to receive any InMail, and to only receive messages from people you already know.

UPDATE: Good comments below pointing out how Perkins' comments should be seen in light of the fact that he's a competitor in some ways.


Tony must like something about LinkedIn, or else he won't be giving us a big award tonight :-)

Konstantin Guericke on July 19, 2005 1:54 PM
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Since Tony's rolling out a competitive service, you might want to put his 'PITA' comment in context. (actually, he already has one - the 'Zaibatsu' - which has gone pretty much nowhere).

Regarding LinkedIn, it's a great service and from the number of inquiries I get I don't see any sign whatsoever that the company will 'lose them all'. But these changes make sense and can't hurt.

Chris Selland on July 19, 2005 3:31 PM
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Technically, a "celibate" person wouldn't connect with anyone.

Matt's behavior strikes me more as "careful" and "embracing strong ties" than "celibate".

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Adam Rifkin on July 19, 2005 7:09 PM
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I have to echo Konstantins comments, you really should be taking comments from AlwaysOn with a "pinch of salt" as they are rolling out a competing service. "Pain in the ass", says who? Tony?

I only ever hear praise for LinkedIn from the business people I know. They are what you might call low to mid level players, they are not generally Silicon Valley power players. The occasions when I hear negative comments they tend to come from those that have something to loose from services like LinkedIn, that is, those who already have extensive networks.

For the majority, LinkedIn is an empowering service, building and creating value where there was none. But by definition "empowerment" means that some power is being taken away from areas where that power had previously been concentrated, protected, and denied others. Notably in this case, very well connected, influential, power brokers who have the presses ear.

These are the type of people who would also see adverse affects from LinkedIn potentially, i.e. many requests for connections from people they know vaguely, a "pain in the ass". It is a shame however that their singularly unique concerns are trumpeted in the press to the detriment of the vast majority who are helping build and grow their businesses/careers with the assistance of LinkedIn.

While my praise is gushing here I should mention that I am in no way "connected" to LinkedIn (pun intended). For a look at a microcosm of the LinkedIn world look at how the ex pat community in Tokyo is becoming increasingly interconnected through LinkedIn. I can say first hand that this is helping our businesses as we meet, maintain our connections and help each other.

- Konstantin, we need a Japanese version ASAP! You are going to loose a vast market that networks by tradition if you dont move quickly here.

Ian Wilson on July 19, 2005 8:52 PM
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It's about time they shrunk the network. 4 degress is way too many. Even 3 is a stretch.

pwb on July 20, 2005 12:39 AM
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By definition I am a Promiscuous user with over 2,700 connections. I think the LinkedIn strategy makes sense in a number of ways. Not that I'm trying to defend them, they are big boys and can do that for themselves, but as a user I feel it is the best tool of it's type I've found and I wish them the best with this effort. If they don't make revenue they don't have a business and I for one want them to survive and thrive.

Bill Vick on July 20, 2005 1:35 PM
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I have over 1100 recruiters in my LinkedIn network. Based on feedback from my large national recruiting team with HireAbility Recruiter Network (www.sarahinfo.com) and all of my industry contacts, I do not see the recruiters going anywhere else. LinkedIn is without a doubt the premier social networking site for business professionals. I have no doubts that LinkedIn will continue to provide value and services to help our recruiting efforts.

Craig Silverman on July 20, 2005 2:46 PM
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I have a confession. I'm a LinkedIn whore.

The promiscuous-celibate debate has been running for many months and is frankly silly. But I'm happy to run with the metaphor. LinkedIn has over 3 million members. That's a mass market with clearly dozens of user profiles that go beyond promiscuity and a typical asymptotic usage curve.

The wonder here is not that LinkedIn has done some user segmentation, but that it's taken so long to actually roll out a new service.

I think LinkedIn is off the mark with the new program. They should be adding functions, not cutting them (reducing degrees to 3).

It's akin to prostitution. You can get your sex (making requests) for free (promiscuity) or now you can pay for it with InMail. Do Johns paying a fee want to wait (2 times a week) for their gratification? In most cases, no. Especially if they're under 30. Make people wait and they'll just head back to the free stuff (promiscuity) or get it on the street (Google or calling the user's employer).

So here's my take on this policy:
> The 'hubs' (the promiscuous) with thousands of connections are connected closely to most of the community and so will have limited need for the InMail Pony Express.
> The average user (the celibate) with under 100 connections gets hurt because he loses 4th degree connections, which limits his ability to make requests. His ability to receive requests is mixed. Businesses who want to reach the user but couldn't now can with InMail. But many non-InMail users no longer can reach the user due to the loss of 4th degree connections.
> Newer business members who haven't yet built up a large network would appear to be the target market.

The program really has little to do with promiscuous and celibate users, except secondarily. It's a traditional business overlay (direct marketing) on the network.

Still, prostitution has predicable consequences, similar to any social activity that is monetized. It will slow the rise of wanton promiscuity, as well as questionable behavior (spamming, trolling web sites and databases for contact). Young whippersnappers now have a choice. They don't have to be whores or try to get around the system. They just have to pay the madam.

With fewer people undertaking the libertine life, the ranks of the old promiscuous guard will stagnate. It will just be me and Bill Vick, Ron Bates and Christian Mayaud, and a few others. Staggering into senility in our increasingly isolated castles.

And so we say goodbye to the swinging free love of the 60s, and welcome the 00s where cash is king, and hopefully LinkedIn can make enough money to survive.

Marc, the Last LinkedIn Pimp Daddy

Marc Freedman on July 20, 2005 11:45 PM
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While others are free to talk about business networking in whatever terms that work best for them, as a networker who is deeply depending upon networking as a way of life, I could care less about the tiresome „quality versus quantityš argument as currently formed. Nor do I care about its latest iteration in disguise, the „promiscuous versus celibacyš argument and the linguistic traps in which both of these equally banal concepts can corner us.

Neither argument solves my business networking issues - nor yours Ų nor do they solve much else as far as I can see. For me, neither has contributed anything to the enhancement of professional business networking and neither gets to the heart of the matter to address my demanding needs as someone who‚s networking with a business purpose in mind.

Quantity versus Quality is like having the H in one hand and the 2O in the other Ų WHILE YOU DIE OF THIRST because you never blended them together so that they could FLOW TOGETHER to bring vitality to your life!

Because I don‚t believe in trying to dismiss a thing without coming up with a positive replacement, I‚d like to suggest a possible alternative conceptualization of the networking universe. I call it The „C.I.A.
T.I.Pš Tip.

Let me explain:

Quantity versus quality is about dichotomy, breaking things down, analysis.
The „C.I.A. T.I.Pš Tip is about chemistry, a blending of elements, bringing things together, a kaizen, synthesis.

In using The „C.I.A. T.I.Pš Tip for your business life, it is okay to visit the subjects of quantity and quality, but these elements must be seen as continually FLOWING together towards a centralized PURPOSE.

And that purpose is to get wealth - the purpose behind the purpose of our being in business in the first place.

Deep down we know we want to get wealth so that we can live dynamically Ų POWERFULLY Ų and FEEL JOYOUSLY ALIVE, FULLY alive in the process of networking on purpose!

That is all that matters. Not quantity by itself; not quality by itself; but, rather, quantity and quality both interactively alive in our lives, generating the power to live and to do business - and to do business DYNAMICALLY.

While the „C.I.A. T.I.P.š tip is not just about „quantity v qualityš, it is also not about charts and lines, nor even degrees. Ų For if 6 Billion people were 1 degree away from you and you couldn‚t influence at least 1 person to come together to help you do business better, you and your business are in for a long dry haul on your way through a short business lifespan.

The „C.I.A. T.I.P.š tip is about interactivity. LOTS of interactivity. FLOWING interactivity. Kaizen interactivity. The „C.I.A. T.I.P.š tip is about communication. Dynamism. Interacting with people. The very thing life is about. Indeed, it‚s about LIFE! Not charts. Not lines. Not degrees.

Though Linkedin is my favorite platform and the one I intend to pay even MORE attention to as I seek to earn a 6 figure income in using it over the next 12 months, it doesn‚t matter to me whether its topology is 4 degrees of separation or 3 or 2 or 1.

You can‚t interact with degrees or lines or charts.

You can only interact with people Ų the most challenging AND the most exhilarating and rewarding/costly thing you can do, by the way.

Successfully finding people, attracting people, bringing people together, and moving them towards a specific business purpose, towards the light I see from time to time, is the way I plan to get wealth and to live more dynamically over the next 12 months.

It is energy and ability and speed that you need. It is power that you need, power from people.

IF you‚re going to solve your problems through the concept of networking to get the power you need from people, then the concept of networking boils down to these three things:

1. Confluence,
2. Influence,
3. Affluence.

1. To get the power you need, you must bring people together: Confluence
2. To bring people together, you must effectively communicate with them: Influence
3. To derive power from people, you must interact with them the right way: Affluence

1. Confluence is what most people think of as „networkingš.
2. Influence is actually closer to networking as I see it. For in addition to practicing effective communication skills, you can also put into practice such true networking concepts as „givers gainš.
3. In the last one: Affluence - the right way Ų is VERY IMPORTANT. The right way is about the HOW of relationship building: creation, nurturance, growth, and maintenance & repair. It is about power generation at its best.

NOTE: It is intentional that all three C.I.A. concepts suggest „flowš, „waterš, „liquidityš, fluidityš. There is so much power in flow that we sometimes look right through it. And for those who think that „flowš as a concept is powerless or anemic, think about the power „flowš
displayed on December 26th, 2004. Humanity was helpless against that particular flow. A flow whose associated earthquake was so powerful, it affected the earth‚s rotation and LITERALLY CHANGED TIME that day. The
C.I.A. concept can change time for you, too. Giving you more of it by helping you have an abundance of hands continually available to help at just the time you need them: the right time.

If you can keep your focus on Confluence, Influence, and Affluence, and if you can work on getting them positively interacting in your life, THIS IS POWER! You‚ll be giving yourself power. And that‚s the best networking power T.I.P. I can give you today.

Vincent Wright
My Linkedin Power Forum

To add more power to your networking, join MLPF on Linkedin Groups: https://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/1304/10BE4F71AFD0/

NOTE: I think classical language has greater flexibility and greater power with which to influence the 3.2 Million Linkedin users from around the world than the vernacular language that merely seems to have power but only gets that impression of power from its ability to annoy and to
drag discourse off course - and downward at that. We can be strong and POWERFUL Ų WITHOUT HAVING TO BE PROFANE.

MyLinkedinPowerForum on July 22, 2005 11:22 PM
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