As an avid LinkedIn user, and as a member of the LinkedIn Open Networkers group (aka LIONs), it is a question I see being asked on LinkedIn and at other social media platforms and services on a regular basis. I actually think that the answer is more varied than simply the two options of "open networking" or "closed networker," and your individual answer depends on you and your objectives in creating a LinkedIn profile.
The reason that the question exists to the extent it does, is that LinkedIn has created an online network which at its basic level is fundamentally different to any other Social Media network. LinkedIn positively discourages members to connect to those that they do not know and have not met. They even enforce the systematic structure by making supporting statements in both their terms and conditions as well as their User Guidelines. This is in stark contrast to the social side of others online networks which most will be more used to in the form of Facebook, where chatting and connecting to people who seem to be much like you is part of the whole ethos.
But, and here's the crucial difference: LinkedIn users have an average household income of over $140k, with 80% over $75k, the spammers would see an open network as list building shangri-la! Further, when 60% are senior executives and 90% are college educated, it would mean that any affiliate or direct sale would inevitably come with a high commission return.
Hence from a market trust view point, making it difficult to connect is ensuring just that: consistent, believable and hence trusted online networking. Further, that is what LinkedIn's target audience want. They are not used to the fast moving and Farmville-powered coffee corner that is Facebook. They want something more akin to a select and stable club, where one can mix with like minded people, and then be introduced by acquaintances when mutual needs which are mainly business orientated arise.
So, what options are there between open networking and closed networking which can be adopted by LinkedIn users? Firstly, lets be clear here: there is no such thing as closed networking on any social network, including LinkedIn. If you choose to be wholly "closed" in your networking, then you wouldn't even have a LinkedIn profile, let alone connect to known friends whom you work with directly or meet with on a weekly basis. You choose to join a club or network and stay there because it gives you a professional marker post in a popular place, and opens up opportunity on both a personal, professional and business level.
But on the other hand, nor does truly open networking exist. If you were truly open, then you would accept every invite that any "profile" sent to you. The reason I mentioned those statistics about LinkedIn at the start of this piece, was because however difficult a systems designer makes connecting to others, those membership statics much like the challenge of stealing the British Royal Crown Jewels or the Mona Lisa from Paris will always attract ambitious opportunists.
While as a recruiter and CV writer I never encourage non-artiste job applicants to place a photo on their CV, in online networking one of the first signs of a spamming profile is the lack of profile image, or use of one that you may have seen once or twice before: its amazing how many photos of Rod Stewart, Bono and Sir Tom Jones are available! Then there are the names, most often three letters as that is the minimum LinkedIn will allow; or the incomplete profile records of both education and work history: one term at Harvard and a three months on Wall Street doesn't fool anyone!
So in reality, everyone is the same type of networker, but at different points along a line of how much trust they require to develop in others before they decide to offer to connect.
List of Social Networking Sites
This is a quick list of social networking sites, which can be used for traffic generation, or just getting your name out there for marketing and credibility.
Facebook – This was developed for the collegiate market and later expanded to professionals as these people graduated from college. The interface is clean and crisp, without a lot of extraneous stuff. It allows people to connect with others in their own network. It offers a profile and several ways to market yourself to your friends, although you are not allowed to spam marketing hype on your profile or elsewhere. It has many applications you can add to boost your profile or add marketing features to your profile.
LinkedIn – This social networking site has a far more business-like and professional flavor. It is noted for helping people network to find new jobs or business opportunities.
Squidoo – This site allows you to define your brand and even promote and market products. It is more of a marketer's social network and is based on the creation of lenses that are focal points of interest that you want to highlight about your personal expertise or your business.
Twitter – A social networking site with minute-by-minute updates, if that's what you like. It's unlike the other sites, but hugely popular, particularly for mobile phone updates.
By the way, do you want to add a LinkedIn coaching program to your business? If so, join me in Markethive and I will introduce you to someone who provides training. There is no cost to either of these. Good luck.
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Chief Engineer at MarketHive
Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member