I noticed today when I logged into Typepad that it is promoting the LinkedIn widget (ChipIn is the featured widget in the gallery, BTW). I had it on my blog before, but the now the integration makes it look much better and I've decided to add it back.
I joined LinkedIn in 2004, but I only recently actually completed my profile and given some attention to adding people to my network which now has what one friend say "a crap load of contacts." Speaking of crap, does LinkedIn have any potential value for those of us who work in the nonprofit world? I know I get invitations from colleagues to join their linked in networks (if I know them, I accept). When I've invited people they join, although some have written back to let me know they're skepticism about LinkedIn or that they don't participate.
I've used LinkedIn in a couple of ways.
1.) Networking: I add people to my network when I met them face-to-face at a conference or meeting or virtually. I also search through their networks if I need to find a contact or source for a blog post, research, or other task I'm doing on for a project. Most recently, I've approached contacts in my LinkedIn for personal fundraising campaigns.
2.) Electronic Resume: It's an easy to keep my resume online and be able to point to it.
I've received LinkedIn alerts from contacts in the nonprofit space who are distributing a job description or recruiting.
That's only scratching the surface it seems as this blog devoted to LinkedIn seems to indicate. The articles I've read with hype headlines like "My Space For Grown-Ups" or "LinkedIn or Left Out" describe LinkedIn is as necessary a business tool as a laptop or a cell phone. As one person the article was quoted as saying, "LinkedIn is about identifying a task or a business objective, and then finding someone who can help."
I found article via a post from Maura Welch who writes the business filter blog on the Boston Globe site. Maura interviewed me for a story on Women and Blogging over the summer. She had set as a New Year's Resolution to complete her LinkedIn profile. And, on New Year's Eve, while I was madly working on the Sharing Foundation fundraising campaign, I found her LinkedIn invitation in my email box. So, I figured what the heck, I'll make her a friend and ask her to donate. Well, she did!
I installed the LinkedIn tool for Outlook so when I add people to my Outlook address book (via Plaxo), I can also easily add them to my LinkedIn. While the plugin makes it easy to expand your network, you have to think about your contact acquisition behavior. Just like you would in flickr or other social networking tools.
Do you really want to be friends with everyone? Now, not to sound crass, if I add someone to my LinkedIn network, I really think before I send the invite - can this person help me with a connection to something I'll need in the future? Do I want to be able to recontact this person for something in the future? How might I harvest this contact in the future?
I recently did an interview with a HBS student who was researching MySpace and Second Life (looking at Second Life from the standpoint of social networking). I asked him about LinkedIn and numbers of contacts. He told me that when he comes across someone with 500 contacts or more, he is very skeptical. "How could you ever know that many people?" I asked him, what about people who have been working for 25 years or more? He then qualified is statement by age.
And, at New Year's - when you are being a bit reflective and may want to clean up your contacts, you'll have to worry about the proper etiquette of "unlinking" or "defriending." Or whether having too many friends or contacts makes you less effective.