I admit it. I am obsessed with LinkedIn and am a bit of an addict when it comes to collecting proffesional contacts.
I surpassed the milestone of 500+ contacts some time ago and am now rapidly approaching my 2,000th contact. But how valuable really is that collection of contacts?
In the social world I have heard of people clearing out all their friends on Facebook and starting again. However I have not heard of a similar experiment in the professional world. Maybe professional contacts are simply more valuable than friends!
Anyway let’s imagine a doomsday scenario. You log-in one morning to LinkedIn and find that your account has been magically reset and that your 500+ contacts have disappeared and you need to start again.
What next? How long would it take you to recover the majority of the value you once had from that list of proffesional contacts?
Or to put it more directly, how many of those 500+ contacts would you need to reconnect with to deliver most of the value that you once enjoyed from your professional network?
It would seem that probably a minority of those contacts will give you the majority of that professional networking value.
There is a scientific debate about the relationship between the size of a network and its value probably most famously explained through Metcalfe’s Law (See bottom of article for a link to an excellent article on the details of this scientific debate).
As your network size increases, the total value of the network probably does increase but critically by how much?
For most scientific laymen like myself, it seems obvious that contacts are not of equal value.
Although having more contacts will increase the breadth of your networking reach, it probably is not a substitute for also having a smaller number of deeper and more helpful contacts or groups.
The future of networking will be about how two types of networking interact and co-exist in your life.
On the one hand we will continue to have these amazing networks like Facebook and LinkedIn that not only are our social and professional identities on-line, but also enable huge reach of connectivity putting in to practice the old dictum ‘it is not about what you know, but who you know’.
On the other hand there is a need in parallel for much smaller, exclusive networks that live to a different dictum, namely ‘it is not just about who you know, but how willing they are to help.’
Alumni networks are a great example of how this new dictum of networking is going to make a big difference.
The size of your network clearly matters and will always matter. But being in addition part of a small, intimate group or one of your alumni networks, will provide extra significant value.
The age of alumni networking has arrived.