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As an SAP Mentor, I’m privileged to participate in an SCN forum where we can have closed-door discussions of high technology software topics, sneak peeks into SAP announcements, discuss the merits of development trends, and, once in a while, flame each other with no holds barred.  One topic that fascinated me earlier in 2011 was on how we use different social media, starting with the question “How do you respond to linkedin requests from strangers?”  I’ll paraphrase the responses (rather heavily):

 

  • I reject people I don’t know.
  • I don’t use LinkedIn, because _ _ _ _ .
  • I check out their background, and accept if they meet certain criteria
  • Another tool is more valuable, because _ _ _ _ .

 

For my colleagues who embrace LinkedIn, all had a working rule set for accepting contact requests, such as actual previous networking contact, content and/or style of the invitation, and presence or absence of a profile picture.  I’ve followed similar rules of my own, including one that I don’t accept invites from people who do not share their contact list.  It’s a gamble in openness that I see as beneficial, with the potential for a future viral vector destroying my confidence (as the mailto link form did many years ago).

It was interesting to hear from the detractors, who have either minimal or zero interest in LinkedIn.  While some are early adopters of pretty much anything new that comes down the street, others are “late adopters” who demand a value judgment before committing their time and resources, and exposing personal information, on the internet.  In a presentation I did at an SAP road show (or Insider, or ASUG Chapter meeting, or something), I shared my opinion that LinkedIn is the outsourced (or in the cloud) address book that someone else maintains; others gave similar accounts.

When I began using LinkedIn, it was rather slow progress, until I noticed certain people had, instead of “174 contacts”, the somewhat mysterious “500+ contacts”.  This level seemed to be set as a goal, or special access level, and if you worked diligently to build your network, you too could have the golden “+” sign of an overachiever by your name.  It took me at least a year, and several ASUG annual conferences and SAP TechEds to get to that level, but I did (and of course, now there’s the 1,000+ as the next plateau; it never ends).  Along the way, I had a few warnings from the admin bots telling me I was being rejected too many times because people either forgot who I was, or were just not interested (see above).

Is LinkedIn useful to me?  A little, but not a lot.  In some cases, I’ll look up peoples email addresses that aren’t on their SCN business card. But I find often they’ve used a non-professional address (like gmail instead of corporate) for self-protection, and don’t always get answers.  I get occasional email from people that I can’t answer.  Will it help me if I need to find a new job some day?  Boy I hope so, for all the seeding and fertilizing I’ve done.

Are there downsides to LinkedIn (skipping over the conversations about similar networks, or comparisons thereto)? A big one I’ve seen in the SAP community network context is the broken feed to SCN points.  If you’ve worked hard over time to establish your bona fides, and they aren’t visible on your LinkedIn profile, that’s bad.  From what I can tell, SAP does not have much leverage to fix this, despite owning a minority investment.  The bigger one seems to be “groups” which to me turn out to be community sites for flame wars, advertising bombardments, and general mayhem.  The plus side of groups is that I can tell a lot about a person by the quantity and quality of their group icons on their profile page.  Wearing lots of “fruit salad” doesn’t mean you an expert (to me); it means you’re a groupie.

What’s the future for LinkedIn?  One Mentor hinted that they purge their contact lists annually.  I’d like to be that disciplined, plus I’d like tools to tell me if I’m leveraging my contacts or not.  I’d like to see more about the falsification of history on LinkedIn, such as an automated plagiarism detection tool (see my earlier non-SCN blog about the ABCD firm). Perhaps some Mentors or other early adopters would share their vision?

 

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24 Comments

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  1. Susan Keohan
    Hey Jim,
    Although I love the ability to get in contact with folks that I have worked with or met, I am often puzzled when I get a LinkedIn invitation from someone I’ve never heard of.  I think if these folks would put a little info in their request – such as why they would like to make contact – then I’d be much more likely to accept.
    BTW, I *think* you are on my LinkedIn list 🙂
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    1. Derek Loranca
      I agree with Sue…its nice to catch up with coworkers past and present.  But the out of the blue requests are a little strange.  I look at it like Facebook for business.  Do I actually know or have had a relationship with you at one point?  If not, then I’m likely going to ignore the request or ask for clarification.

      Luckily for me, I’m not as popular as you and Sue!  8^)

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  2. Matthias Steiner
    Hi Jim,

    happy to see you stepping up and sharing the diversity of opinions with the public (outside the SAP Mentor forum that is.)

    i’d say tt depends on the individual use-case one has when investing time in such network paltforms. Some may have hundreths or even thousands of contacts, yet the sheer number says little about the quality of this network. If the only interaction between an individual P2P direction was just a single click of a button – what value has this connection? Some people may opt for keeping their network to people they really have worked with (successfully.)

    On a sidenote, you raise a lot of valid points. Especially on the tooling and integration side. But hey, real-time interaction on social media… sounds like a great use-case for HANA and BI tools 😉

    Cheers, Matthias

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  3. Jarret Pazahanick
    I enjoyed your article as could relate to many of the points first hand.

    I think there is value in using linkedin as I have had future clients reach out me directly as well as got introduced (or introduced myself)to strangers that later turned into friends. I have had a SCN article draft “7 Ways Linkedin can help your Career” for a few month now and maybe this will give me the push to finish it.

    The only thing I will disagree with is regarding the linkedin groups as I think multiple group doesnt necessary mean expert or groupie. I am in 50 groups, contribute in many of them am a “lurker” in others to get a pulse of things. Overall the linkedin groups in their current form do not have a lot of value but that is conversation for another blog.

    Wish someone would fix the SCN Community Network issue as that has been outstanding for awhile.

    One thing I know as you will be getting several new Linkedin requests in the coming days based on this article 🙂

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  4. John Kleeman
    I find LinkedIn a good way to keep in touch with people, and also to meet or connect with people who you’ve met obliquely – a way of making the world smaller. The Internet allows us to find like minded people much easier than it used to be – though more often I find that Twitter or other vehicles are the way to meet people and LinkedIn stay in touch.

    Also some LinkedIn groups (perhaps the more specialized ones) have good conversations.

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  5. Nathan Genez
    I’ve done all I can do with LI in terms of building out my profile and my network but I just don’t see much value in it anymore.  I would like to think that it acts as a resume for those that are interested in hiring me but I’m sure that few of my customers look at my profile ahead of time.  So, what is it good for? Well, I get the periodic email from a recruiter but the jobs are always lame (recruiters = lame jobs). There is no real community over there and the groups are awful… I’ve tried a few but since then opted out of all of them except a small handful because they had no value. They seem to all be job boards without any real discussion or linkage between the members. 

    I’ve become more diligent about managing my contact list; I prune it a few times a year and am selective about who I accept invites from. But I don’t know if that’s because I’m more or less interested in using LI.

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  6. Witalij Rudnicki
    “hi bro this is [name] from [place],have seen ur profile in linkedin n like u ,wanna to share knowledge on SAP BI,plz add me as a frnd…thank u…… “
    🙂
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  7. Gregory Misiorek
    but just have sent you an invite. we did meet in person and i think this is still the best way to be in someone’s contact list. i do accept “strangers”, too, especially if they send me a personal note, but i think somebody has already said that.

    @greg_not_so (no tweet this time)

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  8. Vijay Vijayasankar
    Other than serving as an address book, the only other productive use I see of LinkedIn is as a repository of references.

    Some references – including some I have given/gotten – are mutual. When I am recruiting, I don’t give much weightage to those. But if I see a candidate being endorsed by someone who is a leader in his space, I do give that due weightage.

    Groups are a nuisance – absolute pain for me, and I got out of several, and have to get out of more.

    Not sure if my LI profile will ever help me get a “good” job – I get an average of 5 emails a week offering some job or other, and invariably they are irrelevant to my skills and experience.

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    1. Witalij Rudnicki
      Seems, we are extending the same discussion from Mentors forum to this weblog, but I need to speak it: there is one topic group at LinkedIn that worth everything for me. And for this only group it is worth for me to stay there 🙂 Very subjective opinion, I know.
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  9. Natascha Thomson
    Jim:

    you have some good points in your blog, no doubt, especially that LI is not SCN, but I don’t think it’s mean to be.

    Here what I like about LI:
    ** Recruiters contact me
    ** I maintain contact details of professional contacts (would be overkill in Outlook)
    ** I communiate with people who I am not on Twitter, FB or email with
    ** For social media marketing, LI yields the best referral rate of any other channel
    ** I like writing recommendations for people that do a great job; nice way to say “thanks” in a public forum
    ** Forces me to keep my resume somewhat current
    ** Allows me to research professional background on colleagues, friends, business partners (alone HOW they write it tells you a lot)
    ** There are other nice features for marketers like paid questions etc.

    What I don’t get:
    ** Don’t fully understand groups yet. Started my own for social media practitioners in Silicon Valley recently and so far I am underwhelmed by the features (don’t seem to even be able to poll my own group without including the world) but I understand that groups are very successfull

    I am a member of lots of groups but that’s out of social media professional interest, mainly :-).

    I also pretty much only LI with people who I know well enough to ask for an LI referral.

    Quite frequently do I get requests from people in my network to introduce them to somebody else in my network for a job interview. I’ve used this myself (not successfully) but I hope that it has helped others.

    I could go on…in summary: LI is a professional group for your resume and network with a bunch of other neat features; it’s the place where youc an connect if you don’t want to be a FB friend with somebody.

    What needs to change: that we have all these different social media channels to go to, with different logins and status updates (why does SKYPE have status updates? Beats me)…

    Off my soap box, thanks for a great discussion,

    Natascha

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  10. Mark Chalfen
    I believe LinkedIn could become a powerful tool but it lacks the functionality and educated users.

    The groups functionality could be better used, I am a member of a few groups and contribute to them. I have found some good groups, I posted one open business question, and started a conversation where I had over 70 replies with some interesting and valuable content.

    Some groups seem to be highjacked by spammers and recruiters. The groups need to be managed correctly to add real value to the members.

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  11. Marilyn Pratt
    I took a look this week at a separate debate on this topic which incidentally points to the same youtube clip that Ajay surfaces here: Job boards vs. Linkedin.  Since the author is ON a job board website it is clear that she would be inclined to be a proponent for continuing to use job boards (vs. LinkedIn).  Which leads me to think further of how we are influenced by our “loyalty” to an environment that we are comfortable in or why we frequent one place or another.
    SCN platform hosts multiple types of conversations hosted in multiple modalities by multiple vendors (blogs, forums, wikis, rich media) including a host platform for an SAP Career Center, it seems to all come down to user preference for engagement and visability and topic affinity.  Many of us have made themselves “less available” in environments that make “less sense”.  And I believe the environments we prefer are also influenced by who we are and what we are about.  If job hunting, I might for example, be more concerned about my brand representation in a specific topic related environment, if job recruiting, I might look at the different mediums in a different way than a job seeker.
    What I am discovering is that it isn’t hard at all to make a valid case for or against any medium, modality, or platform but at the end of the day the proof is in the presence.  I may hate Facebook on many levels but they have more users (and by extension more business users) than the populations of some industrialized countries have citizens.  So can I afford to be absent?  Jury is still out.  Same holds for LinkedIn.  As long as I am not overwhelmed by distracting noise or can find ways of reducing noise, being visible in multiple environments doesn’t seem like a foolish thing to be.  See you on LinkedIn? 
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    1. Ajay Das
      The ‘Can I afford to be out when every one else is in’ is persuasive and works. In the end though it is not much more than lazy thinking.
      Downside of these x-networking sites is that you may spend (too much) time maintaining your presence in the hope that it may really be of use some day. For most (let me say 99%) people it is a sheer waste of time and that day never comes.

      Only people whom these sites are proven to be of value – the owners of these sites.

      There are people who claim, no, insist, you are missing a part of life if you are not on twitter/facebook/whatnot. I have yet to see one substantive argument on that. And I have seen many.

      And then there is this whole ‘follow me on..’ shtick; to such I would humbly like to submit that were  you such a followable fellow, I would have found a way to do that already. A little humility to go with such misplaced proclamations might make it a little palatable, but no,anything less than an instruction/command ‘Follow me on….’ would not match the super-sized-me.

      All these sites are of  use but they feed into illusory superiority of people specially the ones already inclined towards it. Just another thing to inflate your ego about you being in the thick of things or shall we say center of universe?

      To me all these sites are a little like toilet paper. I may find them useful but wouldn’t think of them as virtuous.

      /end of rant/

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      1. Gregory Misiorek
        Ajay,

        you have responded to the “social” thread on SCN, so you must see some value in it. LI, facebook, twitter, disqus, wordpress (?) are here to stay just like iPad is and even though you may not see the value of blowing your own horn in a more or less subtle way, it’s an indispensable part of promoting your business, skills, etc.

        i agree with you that a lot of content is very fleeting and most of facebook “friends” are not your friends and will never become your friends and you probably would not want them to be your friends, but just like any other tool they serve their purpose and when approached realistically they will fulfill it. i’m not asking you to follow me, but i will post a link to this post, so i can keep all my notes in “one” place. let’s call it taking care of your own online persona.

        i really appreciate the ability to post and interact with others and if it’s in an area that interests me we already have something to talk about. there are a lot of people who are not inside the social media and we really miss them as we know they have a lot to contribute, so all we can do is to tell them how beneficial our participation has been.

        whether we like it or not we have to use the tissue. just think of alternatives.

        tweet3 by @greg_not_so

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        1. Ajay Das
          Greg,

          I think I agree with much/all of what you say. My rant was more directed towards people who think facebook/twitter is second coming of Jesus and Zuckerberg is Da Vinci.

          As I said I use most of these sites. Their usefulness is up to how one uses it. Some sites, eg LinkedIn, require significant maintenance effort; and I have yet to see a case of significant benefit from it – though all of my professional acquaintances are there and have been there for years.
          Facebook is a significant time-hog, it is not much different from idiot box of yesteryears which got people hooked and dumb. And for majority of users, twitter serves this primal urge to be the first to get the ‘news’ nevermind what relevance that news has. I see twitterfeed of some and they are announcing they are headed home after flight from Djibouti. And reading that makes their followers what – wiser? In my mind it is a disrespect to your followers to post such innuendo and a general act of bad manners to add to all the noise on internet.

          There is a general tendency in people these days to throw things out there, and the audience is expected to cut through all the noise and look for any useful crumbs. One goes on facebook to talk about a blog he has written on wordpress and then goes on tweeting about the facebook post and so on.
          I see corporate emails with a one page disclaimer signatures claiming ‘This is … property…intended recipient…discard….’ basically pushing the responsibility of determining whether the recipient is eligible to receive it on to recipient itself. And sometimes all the email says is ‘c u @lunch’. It is intellectual dishonesty and laziness of the first order to not remove the crap disclaimer from such an email where it has no place. But, no, putting that legalspeak disclaimer in your email signature makes you feel professional and important. And so the hypocrisy goes on and gets picked by other wannabes.

          This is a big rant, and partly off topic. I am sorry about that, but I do feel strongly about putting my side of arguments against this onslaught of electronic noise – in internet networks, in emails, in groups and so on.

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  12. Nathan Genez
    I’ll give LI credit in that they are developmentally active. They came out with a visual map a few weeks ago, which was pretty but not very practical or useful to me.  Now they’re rolling out another item called LinkedIn Skills.  This might actually apply to the SAP market since it’s so skill intensive and there is such an endless list of SAP skill area (FI, BI, QM, XI, etc.).  But if it does, it will be the first thing I find useful on LI.

    http://blog.linkedin.com/2011/02/03/linkedin-skills/

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  13. Veruschka Stevens
    I have a sense that we are only seeing the early days of what the true benefits and liabilities are from social media in general and LinkedIn specifically.

    Having said that, I also think that this will be a co-creative process, where the expanding benefits (and liabilities!) of LinkedIn are not going to come from the LinkedIn creators and developers alone, but the community of users and third-party entities.

    My company is a good example of that. We are an SAP Niche Job Board and we used LinkedIn’s API to be able show our SAP JobSeekers in our site not only a “JOB Description” like any other job board; but a list of links to all the people in their OWN network in LinkedIn, that work or are related to the company that they are interested in. The functionality was povided by LinkedIn, but the “use” was created by us.

    The more and more LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media grow their respective’s communities, the more they will spark other people’s imaginations on how to make these networks of connectivity work for us, and unfortunately (at times) against us as well.

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