Jenny Sussin

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Jenny Sussin
Principal Research Analyst
2 years with Gartner
4 years IT industry

Jenny Sussin is a princial research analyst in the ITL Enterprise Software group of Gartner Research, with primary focus on social for CRM. Read Full Bio

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Why I’m So Crazy About LinkedIn…And You Should Be Too

by Jenny Sussin  |  July 9, 2013  |  19 Comments

By this point, everyone has seen the donut analogy regarding what social networks are used for what.

Facebook – I like donuts

Twitter – I am eating a donut

LinkedIn – My skills include: donut eating

Pinterest – Here is a recipe for a donut

Foursquare – This is where I eat donuts

The creators and the audience of this analogy find it witty and interesting because there is a difference between social networks, and there is a difference in how you conduct yourself on each network. For an example, we can use what I do personally:

Facebook – I “friend” my friends, classmates, family and co-workers who I talk about things other than work with

Twitter – I “follow” friends, comedians, colleagues, industry experts, companies, news outlets, and anyone or anything else that interests me with no expectation they will follow me back

LinkedIn – I “connect” with friends, classmates, family, co-workers, clients and anyone I can personally or professionally vouch for – good or bad

Pinterest – I “follow” friends from Facebook with interesting pins, cooking magazines, DIY-ers

Foursquare – I “friend” people who are local, and people I’m uncomfortable turning down, but people I know

The faux verbs: to “friend”, to “follow” and to “connect,” all carry weight. But there is even more weight in the verbs, the actions you can take, once you’ve looped someone into your network on these sites.

So why bring this up now? The other day I had turned down four LinkedIn connection requests, all from people I didn’t know. One was even someone from Gartner who I just haven’t ever worked with. Anyway, I took to Twitter, as I tend to do when this sort of thing happens, and I said something along the lines of “if I don’t know you, don’t bother requesting to connect with me on LinkedIn. The answer is no.” Nice and obnoxious, but you can see the frustration, me having repeated this time and time again. Last night I got a tweet back asking, “don’t you see the value in connecting with people and broadening your network?”

OF COURSE I DO! But LinkedIn isn’t the place for that: it’s all in the verbs.

On LinkedIn you’re asked to “introduce” connections to one another, “recommend” connections, and “endorse” connections. How can I possibly introduce one person to another if I haven’t met either of them myself? How can I recommend someone for a position when I have no idea who they are? How can I endorse a person when the only thing I know about them is they have the search skills to find me on LinkedIn? If you were hiring someone and came to me asking about one of these people and I made this face…

…who looks stupid?

If I were to “connect” with every stranger (because even an introductory message via InMail still makes us strangers,) then it would ruin the integrity of my word as it pertains to my entire LinkedIn connections network, which then benefits no one. Each social network needs to be recognized what it is, and businesses aren’t the only ones guilty of social media faux pas. It’s important that we as individual mind social cues and network verbs to keep the integrity of the sites many of us have grown to rely on intact.

19 Comments »

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19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ajit Balgi   July 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    I have a different opinion here. I would not mind connecting to anyone unknown if I see him/her to be from a known circle/industry/allied domains,in today’s hyper-connected world you never know who comes to your rescue, be it for getting a job, finding a vendor, acquiring a new client etc etc. It is at the end of the day leveraging on all kind of contacts to get to the helm.

    As far as endorsements/recommendations/introductions etc are concerned, you certainly have to play it correct as it your name at stake! But otherwise I do not see any harm with Linkedin.

    Cheers!
    Ajit

  • 2 Jenny Sussin   July 9, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks for your comment Ajit. We are certainly of two schools of thought here. Let’s see if anyone else has an opinion to add!

  • 3 Garrett   July 9, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Thanks for this article, Jenny, it’s a good perspective on the different social networks and LinkedIn’s context and appropriate connections. Interestingly, this article appeared today with a similar take: http://chronicle.com/blogs/onhiring/the-company-we-keep/39871

    I haven’t been so careful yet seldom does anyone ask me for anything on LinkedIn, though a few have tried to sell me stuff. I’m not a big name so no one will quote me.

  • 4 Jenny Sussin   July 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Wow that is coincidental! Thanks for sharing that article, I like it a lot.

    And did you ever see “E! True Hollywood Story” or “Behind the Music?” People can always come back to quote you. I just see mine now…

  • 5 Delaney Turner   July 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Jenny, I’m with you – of all the ways we can connect with friends and colleagues, it’s our LinkedIn network that we need to be the most careful with and strategic about. Not every connection has the same weight or influence. And, as business becomes more about and more driven by personal relationships, the more attention we need to pay to the people we endorse and the connections we create. Our professional credibility really rides on the way we manage our networks. I’ve even heard of your network being referred to as a “portfolio” to be managed like a mutual fund. It’s mercenary, but it’s not far off from where I think the business world and social networking is going.

  • 6 Jenny Sussin   July 9, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Thanks Delaney. That is a good point and similar to the one made in the article Garrett alluded to above, “The Company We Keep…”

    It’s the whole concept of “guilty by association” or “influential by association.” While I suppose people are after the latter, the former is the one you need to be cognizant of.

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  • 9 Simon Levin   July 11, 2013 at 10:35 am

    There is a fundamental assumption in your assertion that the purpose for LinkedIn is common. At its outset this may have been true. As LinkedIn has grown however its become a multi-purpose tool whose use for some, for example, is connecting with friends/colleagues, for others its advertising their skills to potential employers, for others its seeking opportunities for their business.

    The question is whether its suitable for all these purposes or indeed whether its growth in uses has rendered it increasingly less useful in each specific category. Now that people will befriend others who they have never even met it has clearly rendered your anticipated use as being of reduced value.

    Its clearly very early days with all of these social media tools but I suspect one early learning will be that they are not truly “all things to all men”.

  • 10 Jenny Sussin   July 11, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Hi Simon,

    You bring up a good point about the evolution of sites and their purposes. I think one of the clearest illustrations of that was MySpace. In trying to be all things, it became noisy and “nothing.”

    As for the uses of LinkedIn you’ve brought up: totally agree that those uses all make sense for the platform and I believe the platform is of value for all 3. However, we do agree on one fundamental point: as soon as complete strangers start to connect just to increase the perceived value of their connections, there is reduced value.

    And this is where we loop back to “all things to all men,” a la MySpace. The reason these sites all co-exist is because they all serve different purposes. People can claim they use Facebook as they use LinkedIn, but they don’t. The site isn’t built for it. And that goes both ways. Both the user experience and the verbs dictate what the most useful use of a site can be.

  • 11 Angie Tarasoff   July 11, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    The only people I connect to that I haven’t met are those who are thought leaders in my industry (I want to follow their updates or periodically reach out with a question), or who are people working in my industry locally (I want to reach them with my updates and encourage them to reach out to me with their questions).

    I decline connection requests from people I have never met and who are working in industries entirely unrelated to mine.

    I do not recommend or endorse anyone unless I can say from personal experience that the person in question does something well – and I would stake my reputation on it.

    My approach is based upon a clear understanding of the goals I want to achieve.

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  • 13 Tim   July 12, 2013 at 3:42 am

    Hi Jenny,

    I agree with what you are saying from your job position (I assume you don’t have sales responsibility?), but in a business development environment linkedin is an excellent tool for finding and connecting with people to do business with. The world is big and no matter how efficient you are at traditional networking, you will never build relationships with everyone that you could possibly need to meet. Connecting and establishing a virtual relationship through linkedin is a perfectly acceptable alternative (as is communicating that you ‘like donuts’ to your friends is via facebook rather than in person).

    I think generally those who benefit from virtual networking will be open to connecting with others freely, while those who have no business need to connect then generally will not.

    Tim

  • 14 Jenny Sussin   July 12, 2013 at 11:59 am

    @Angie – I could see a purpose there, but at the same time, isn’t that what groups are for? Conversing with people who have a similar purpose and eventually connecting 1 on 1? I am on the same page with you re: endorsements (obviously) which is why I try and edge away from connecting with people I don’t know. But hey, to each their own!

    @Tim – I am not in sales, you are right! I have spoken with sales people about this exact topic actually. A lot of sales people go the premium, InMail approach to reach out to people they haven’t had a conversation with versus going for the “connect” right away. I think laying a conversational foundation prior to connecting is extremely important. For example: if I speak to a client or even someone in sales at Gartner on the phone, and they want to connect after a 10 to 30 minute conversation, I am much more open to connecting as I can now speak on my initial perceptions of them. Sales and HR are tricky tricky fields for LinkedIn so I hear you, I just think that InMail may be the better first step.

  • 15 JohnC   July 15, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    It feels like Linkedin is missing a “business card” function; a segregated set of connections for your own private, non-public list of potentially deeper contacts whom you may find reason to follow up with. I suspect that’s what says strangers really want; they’re not interested in your recommendation or being introduced (not getting into fake personae here), they just want to stay in your radar for future business together. Isn’t that one of Linkedin’s original “contact me for…” tags?

  • 16 Jenny Sussin   July 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    John that is an excellent point.

    I remember those “I’m here for…” tags too. It’d be cool if when you tried to connect with someone else, you could click which one you’re after and segment yourself into a group/auto-list/auto-circle. That was you only receive information related to that particular topic when the person posts.

    It would also require people think about why they’re posting something (because they’d have to tag it) and potentially cut down on spammy posts.

    When someone else views your connections, if they roll over your name it could say something like “Acquaintances” or “Colleagues” or something like that, so that other networkers have the context of your relationship.

    I like this line of thought.

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  • 19 Doug Laney   August 19, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Love it! How about these newer social media faves:

    Group SMS chat — We’re all eating donuts together.

    Instagram — Look at me eating a donut.

    Vine — Watch me eat a donut in 6 seconds.

    Snapchat — I’m eating a donut. (Now I’m not.)

    Xbox chat — Kill that zombie eating a donut.

    Jenny’s Blog — All the things you can do with a donut. ;-)