LinkedIn is a Cocktail Party, Not a Rolodex

You’re invited to a cocktail party but when you arrive, you’re shown into an empty room and asked to sit there by yourself.  Almost immediately after arriving, you ask your hostess who else is there.

“Who are you looking for?”, she replies.

“I don’t know. Who else did you invite?”

“Can’t tell you that. Let me know who you’re looking for and I’ll let you know if they’re here.”

What? Would you stay?  I didn’t think so.

Maybe you’re thinking that nobody does this but it is a decent analogy for people in your network who have chosen to not share their contacts on LinkedIn. This means only shared connections are visible. To me, the point of LinkedIn is for networking so hiding your contacts isn’t very useful. As LinkedIn Ninja wrote a while back:

“The real money level of your network is the 2nd degree; not the 1st  – because that’s the direct referral relationship. You’re going to vet all new people you meet as client material anyway, but the gold is in the people they are connected to who you don’t know yet.”

Unfortunately, you can’t determine whether your contact limits access until after you accept their invitation to connect.  This creates an awkward situation.  What should you do?

Aside from not accepting invitations from people you don’t know or don’t know very well (this is LinkedIn’s advice  anyway), there are basically two alternatives. First, you could ask them before you accept or send an invitation. I’ve done this occasionally, especially with recruiters. Or, second, delete the contact after you discover that this is the case (which is what I do unless I have reason to make an exception).

If someone wants contact information in an online address book that gets automatically updated, I get that. But that’s called Plaxo. LinkedIn is for networking. It’s a cocktail party, not a Rolodex

By Rhys Parry

Digital entrepreneur, early adopter, tinkerer, and helper.