If you're in my Outlook Contacts list and also have an account on LinkedIn, you know that I recently decided to try using LinkedIn again.
If you don't know, LinkedIn is a web service where you can monitor your contacts and their contacts. It let's you search your extended network and, in theory, see if you really are six degrees away from Kevin Bacon (or anyone else).
Like many people in high-tech, I gave LinkedIn a try when I first heard about it. It was easy to set up an account, and over the years, about 75 people who use LinkedIn and found me on there and have 'connected' to me. I never used LinkedIn to network with anyone. And, I refused any and all connection requests from people I did not know well. In general, I thought that LinkedIn was a waste of time and didn't like the fact that people were 'spamming' me with requests. I may have responded once or twice to networking requests via people I know well. But, I was very wary of putting my contacts up on LinkedIn as I didn't want to be bothered by a lot of people who wanted introductions to my contacts.
In the past few weeks, several entrepreneurs had told me that they were using LinkedIn extensively to network with other people and to find interesting contacts. So, I decided to give LinkedIn another try. I used LinkedIn's Outlook tool to upload my contacts. It seemed to mine not only my Contact list in Outlook, but also all the email addresses on any messages I had in my Inbox or in my Sent folder. Tricky.
Once it put up the list of these 5000 email addresses, I had it select out only those that already had LinkedIn accounts. I didn't want to foist LinkedIn onto anyone who hadn't already set up an account. Given how broad LinkedIn is, I figured that someone who didn't already have an account probably wouldn't set one up just for me.
About 1500 of these contacts were already on LinkedIn. I sent connection requests to those, and about 700 have accepted. Many people told me that they had forgotten that they had a LinkedIn account or that they never use it. Only a couple of people told me that they weren't going to say Yes to the connection because they don't trust LinkedIn. Of course, the rest of the connection requests will probably never be answered because those people, as I used to do, don't reply to LinkedIn emails.
I haven't started trolling through my extended network of contacts, but my 700+ connections lead to 50,000+ people through one level of indirection and 1.5M people through two levels. How many of these people ignore LinkedIn requests or are dormant? Who knows. But, I will try to use it to see who my contacts know that can be helpful to me.
The range of responses I got was quite amazing. Some people absolutely love LinkedIn and couldn't do their jobs without it. Others think it is worthless. Some hate it. Others just ignore it. But, it's a social network you can navigate, and that seems to always generate some sort of reaction.