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Networking on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is what you might call a professional social networking website.  Instead of posting pictures and statuses on his/her profile, a person can list their work experience, special skills and talents, upload their resume, and so on.  It is designed to be a tool for people to make professional connections with coworkers, friends, alumni, etc.  In his article, Joergen Sundberg discusses three strategies used by people on LinkedIn in forming their professional network.  Each one of these strategies can be analyzed by considering strong and weak connections and the theory of triadic closure.

The first strategy is to advertise your profile as much as possible and accept any and all invitations in order to create as large of a network as possible.  While this strategy is successful in creating a large network, it does so at the cost of having very weak connections.  If a connection is weak in this context, it means that information about new job opportunities, company happenings, etc. would either fail to flow or would flow very slowly through this network.  In addition, triadic closure would be essentially non-existent.  In this context this means that the person at hand would be very unlikely to help one person in his/her network connect to someone else in his/her network.  Therefore while this person is connected to a large network, they are unable to help make connections and pass information along this network.

The second strategy is to be highly exclusive when forming connections.  The result of this strategy is a smaller network with very strong connections.  Exclusive networkers only form connections with people that they know well and trust.  Information that people would want to pass along this network would travel very quickly because the people in the network are strongly connected and communicate effectively with each other.  Triadic closure would be very strong in this network, meaning that the person in question would be able to connect two people in his network very successfully through mutual trust.  Therefore while this person is not connected to as many people as the first category of person, their connections are very strong and they are able to pass information and make connections for people easily.

The third strategy, which seems to be the most popular strategy, is a mix between the first two strategies.  A person with this strategy makes connections that they deem to be of value in furthering their career and network.  It is therefore a mix of weak and strong connections.  The strong connections can be used for helping people make connections and passing information through the network, and the weak connections help branch out the person’s network to possible new clients, suppliers, and other potential professional or business connections.   So this strategy attempts to get the best from both of the first two strategies.  While it does not form as large of networks as the first strategy, the networks are still relatively large and have regions with stronger connections.

Sundberg maintains that all three strategies are successful and that a person has to decide for himself what purpose he/she wants his/her profile to fulfill.


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