Quality of personal networks depends upon visibility
Recently, I sent individual messages requesting some help out to around 30% of my LinkedIn network, and fewer than half of those I have messaged have responded. However, these responses have been revealing (although I appreciate all responses, of course). Some have been proactive, and not necessarily from the people I know best…which shows the power of weak links in action.
But the low response rate frustrated me, and so (given my research background), I thought I’d probe a little further into my network after 10 years or so on LinkedIn. It took a few hours, but what I uncovered amazed me. There’s a big difference between actually having a vague impression of what’s going on, and actually measuring it. So, please read the dot points below:
Half of my contacts came from just five sources (LinkedIn, prior employer, local business group, prior employer, and first university)
65% of my contacts came from the sources above, as well as another prior employer, high school, and a University exchange.
I have never contacted 35% of my connections, and 58% of them only once or less.
76% of my connections have never contacted me, and 92% of them only once or less.
25% of my connections reached out to connect with me first. But of these connections, only 4% are in my top 50% of active contacts. And incredibly, of these people who reached out to connect with me, 66% have never sent me a message!
Of my most active connections, the median length of time I have known them is around 5 years. Over this time frame, on average (median), I have contacted each of them around 6 times, and they have contacted me once.
Some people really do understand how to network effectively. Around 6% of my connections communicate with me on a regular basis, whether it’s to ask a question, or to assist me with one.
Around 20% of my contacts don’t have a profile photo, and around 11% have virtually no information on their profiles.
What does all this tell us?
Maybe the main thing to learn is that effort (and consistency) matters. It is fair to say that the passing of time does have an impact on relationships, but catching up with people, especially face to face can help to mitigate this.
It appears the vast majority of people don’t understand how to effectively network. Many people who are in steady work don’t actually appear to look at LinkedIn very often, or to put much effort into maintaining their connections with others.
There is also a power dynamic at work. Those in full-time work don’t necessarily bother connecting with others further down the tree, or out of work. While this is understandable, I think that this is a mistaken approach. After all, in the next economic downturn, these people too will be looking to activate their networks….which will be patchy if they haven’t looked after the people within it.
The high numbers of people, who have joined LinkedIn…and then done nothing with it, really shocked me. Seriously, folks, why would you expect anyone to take you seriously in the digital era if this is how you market yourself?
My next point is that good manners matter too. Even if you cannot help someone, responding to a message at least lets the sender know that you’ve seen it. And after all, networking is a two-way street…presumably you want other people to help you down the line if they can.
Finally, despite these results, I’m not going to ruthlessly slice my network in half. One of the best things to come out of this experience is hearing from a contact I haven’t seen in years…and I’m going to catch up with this person later this week. So, I think there is value in being patient with people.
What do you think about these results – do they surprise you? Or is it more or less what you find with your own networks? Please let me know in the comments.