You learn a lot when you ask

For this month’s LinkedIn Unleashed teleclass, Konstantin Guericke, LinkedIn’s VP of Marketing, asked me to set up an “exit poll” of sorts, prompting people who visit the registration page but don’t register for their feedback. Honestly, I was skeptical about the value of doing this, and what the response rate would be, but I agreed to set it up.

Turns out it’s been very enlightening, and I’m glad we did it. Some of the feedback has been great — very useful for helping us plan future events. We’ve gotten exactly what we wanted: feedback about time of day, format, length, content, pricing, etc. Several people have even written a note that they were interested, but just couldn’t attend this one and wanted to know about future ones (glad we got those!).

There are a few questions that have come up (all from people who chose to remain anonymous) that I’d like to address here:

“Why isn’t this a web seminar?”

I will be putting it on as a web seminar in the future. Outside of the tech industry, though, where web seminars are commonplace and everyone seems to be set up for them, the incidence of technical complications of some sort has consistently run at about 20% of attendees, and it hasn’t mattered which service I’ve used (I’ve worked with half a dozen). Telephones simply work. Plain HTML simply works. Since I’m not demonstrating an application, and not doing video conferencing, the benefits of a web conference over the simpler teleclass with presentation materials are minimal.

The main reason I will be offering it as a web seminar is so that we can run the audio over the internet, allowing non-U.S. attendees to participate without paying outrageous long distance charges.

“Why isn’t it free? This should really be a free event to help you promote your product.”

Quite simply, because a) it’s valuable, and b) you can’t get it anywhere else. This is not a basic how-to — it’s about how to realize business value from LinkedIn.

Just for clarification, though, I’m putting on the event, not LinkedIn. They’re co-marketing it and co-developed the curriculum. This class is my product. It took me time, effort, and money to develop and promote the class, and I deserve compensation for my efforts. Besides, LinkedIn is currently both free and ad-free.

(A variation on the above…)

“Not interested in paying to learn how to better use linkedin. I haven’t gotten benefit out of it thus far and thought it might be worthwhile learing a bit more but as I can’t see value yet, I am not interested in spending money or more importantly time, when I have no ROI.”

Quite simply, you have no “I”, therefore you have no “R”. It’s working for a lot of people — high-level executive placements, strategic partnerships, start-up funding, and more. If it’s not working for you, it’s because you don’t know how to work it. Take the class.

(This next one was really interesting…)

“I looked at Scott’s number of connections and was not impressed. I almost have as many as he does!!!”

OK, no offense, but I chuckled when I read this. Listen up, folks — It’s not about the numbers!!! I’ve been studying this intensively for nearly two years, and beyond a certain point, there is no direct correlation between the size of your network and financial success.

The strategy for every person is different — some people need bigger numbers of very weak ties, while others need smaller numbers of stronger ties. It depends entirely on the product or service you’re selling, the competitiveness of your market, and a number of other factors.

Furthermore, LinkedIn works best when it’s based on well-founded trust, not merely casual acquaintance. You can’t help make an effective connection across three or four degrees of separation unless you know the people on either side of you pretty well.

Just out of curiosity, I took a look at the number of LinkedIn connections of some of the people who understand social software extremely well — industry experts — to see just how many they had:
– Joe Bartling – 264
– Mitchell Levy – 202
– Dan Keldsen – 197
– Me – 194
– Rick Klau – 187
– Ross Mayfield – 171
– Stowe Boyd – 138

There are, of course, some higher and some lower. My point is that a lot of well-connected people who are “in the know” about social software are right in that same range.

Bottom line, though, is this: I’m saturated. I have all the opportunities I can handle. Getting “more connected” would actually be a distraction. I can’t even conceive of what my life would be like trying to process requests for 3, 5, 10 times as many people as I do already. AND, I would not be able to add value to those connection requests if I connected with people who I barely know their name. That is not an effective use of the system.

Quit trying to “super-size” your network and instead think about “right-sizing” it.

Interesting feedback, eh? I’d love to hear your comments here, or your comments on the comments.

FYI, the next class is Wednesday, May 26.