So you have 20,000 plus contacts on LinkedIn . . . now what?! (Part 1)

con·tact  [kon-takt] noun – an acquaintance, colleague, or relative through whom a person can gain access to information, favors, influential people, and the like.

Source: Dictionary.com

In the broadest sense of the word, having contacts suggests that one as a high degree of influence.  However, and especially within the virtual realms of the social networking world where it is much easier to “build” a sizable list of names, does a large number of contacts on LinkedIn connote a proportional level of influence?

I thought about this question recently when I cracked the 20,000 connection mark and read that this lofty number of contacts when rippled outward in six degrees of Kevin Bacon fashion suggested that my total reach was 21,981,700.  Wow, that’s almost two-thirds of the population of Canada . . . not counting the beavers, which means that I could in theory and despite the absence of any practical experience, have the kind of reach to be elected Prime Minister.  Well it worked for Obama in the U.S. Presidential race didn’t it? And no, I am not a Republican . . . I am just a smart alec!

My point is simply this . . . what do the number of LinkedIn connections – or for that matter connections on any social network mean, in terms of practical and/or tangible benefit?

What is interesting is that so far there has been very little research and even less data as to what connections mean and how you can quantify their effect in terms of for example revenue for your business.

While on-line advertising has for years tracked the click through rate as a means of enabling you to calculate a return on your Internet-based advertising program, there is no similar method as far as I can tell, to correlate the number of contacts with meaningful business numbers.

Interestingly enough however, there are no shortages of numbers when it comes to proclaiming how many people are involved with social networking as illustrated by a PEW Research Center study which estimated that 82 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are interacting on-line in some network or another.  Of course to prove that social networks are not the exclusive domain of the young, a Forrester study claims that more than 50% of adults between the ages of 35 and 44 spend varying degree of times on-line.  As for those over the age of 45, we like to take naps.

So there you have it!  Lots of people coming in but what is actually coming out relative to a return on the investment of time and yes even money?  Or to put it another way, how do you justify the time that you spent on LinkedIn to reach the 20,000 mark?

As you contemplate this question, the answer to which we will delve into at some length in Part 2 on Thursday, why don’t you take a few moments to respond to our LinkedIn poll and let us know the answer to this question . . . With what percentage of your LinkedIn contacts do you actually interact with on a regular basis? (Hint: the answer to this second question may actually help to answer the first question.)

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