Who Is In Control of Your Social Networking Future

The term stepping on a wasp’s nest comes to mind as tomorrow’s special broadcast titled “The Gathering Storm: How LinkedIn Policy Might Be Alienating Its Power Connectors” fast approaches.  Here it is 10:38 PM EDT and I am still fielding calls from a surprising number of individuals who are offering their input on the growing chasm between LinkedIn and its Power Connectors.

For the uninitiated, Power Connectors are usually individuals who in the case of LinkedIn have been a member of the network from almost the very beginning, and have in the process amassed as many as 30,000 contacts.

What is interesting about this recent turn of events in which the imposition of arbitrary limits regarding the number of contacts and the number of invites an individual member is “allowed” is the fact that a far greater issue is being overlooked.  Specifically, who is in the proverbial social network driver’s seat.

Allow me to expand.

The real issue has little to do with the actual limits that are being set by LinkedIn.  For many of us the 30,000 contact cap represents an unfathomable number that we will likely never have to worry about in a combined 20 networks, let alone one.  However, the number is irrelevant because the real point of contention is the right of access, and who ultimately holds the power to either grant or deny said accessibility to other members of a network.

Take banks for example.  It doesn’t matter if you have $100 in your account, or $1 million.  If access to your money is restricted there is a problem.

As a result, although given the recent bailouts and the past S&L scandals one might reasonably argue to the contrary, banks do have both a legal as well as a moral responsibility to its customers.  This includes the provision of reasonable access and a certainty that one’s funds will be safe.  (Again, you may question the degree of regulation, but nonetheless you get my point.)

Or perhaps some of you will recall the air traffic controller strike that never happened during the Regan administration.   This was due to the fact that the government stepped in to make a strike by what was deemed an essential workforce illegal.

There are of course numerous other examples, however by virtue of the service they provide are social networks really that different from either the banks or the air traffic controllers?  Think about that for a moment.

And as more and more people capitalize on the favorable trade winds of social media, and the corresponding ability to connect with a larger audience on a global basis, the level of essentiality increases exponentially, and with it our level of collective exposure.

This is very disconcerting given what many feel is an abrupt and somewhat draconian attitude on the part of the LinkedIn hierarchy in terms of the network’s response to its more vociferous detractors.  It should give us all pause for thought as to who is actually at the reigns of the various social networks and of even greater importance, what are their agendas?

And this is a light of scrutiny if you will, that should not only be shined on a LinkedIn, but all social networks.

Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Sleet of Night . . .

In one of the many, many conversations I have had regarding this topic today one individual pointed out the fact that while their ability to accept invitations to connect on LinkedIn has been disabled, the flow of invites has not been stopped.

Thinking of the post office, this led me to ask the obvious question . . . are the invites still getting through due to the fact that restricting them would be tantamount to tampering with the mail?  Perhaps LinkedIn’s lawyers have instructed their client that blocking the flow of messages between members, or somehow restricting their ability to read them is illegal however through some as yet to be addressed loophole, the network is not obligated to grant the necessary access to connect on what is still “their” platform.

The long and the short of it is simply this, I believe that we are heading towards a monumental legal battle to determine who ultimately pulls the levers of social media connectivity.  And with only 10 percent of the population using social media today, now would be the ideal time for such a showdown so to speak before too many innocent bystanders (which is usually the public) are harmed by the Kenneth Lay’s or Conrad Black’s of the corporate world.

Too bad (and this is a shameless plug for two good friends), there aren’t more Thomas and Penny Powers’ in the social media world as they truly do exemplify the meaning of the word altruistic.

Tune in to tomorrow’s show as it is bound to be a real barn-burner.  (Note: to think it has taken me almost 30 years to actually use that term in a post or article.)   Here is the link (and remember, call-ins are welcome): “The Gathering Storm: How LinkedIn Policy Might Be Alienating Its Power Connectors.”

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