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Social Networking Magpies

Written by: Bill Sherman on Tuesday, 1 July 2008, 12:00 PM

Social networking provides a tempting strategy. If you increase the total size of the network, you will benefit by knowing more people. Here are some examples:

  • Pass out a non-ending stream of business cards;
  • Go to more networking functions; and
  • Become a connection collector on LinkedIn.

People who fully adopt this social networking strategy are like magpies. They constantly search for the newest “shiny” (connection) to collect and take back to their nest. Then, once a relationship has been “recorded” in their social networking tool, they forget about it. They leave the nest to create more connections.

What do these social networking magpies do with their collections? Not much. These shallow relationships don’t offer any leverage. In fact, a massive list of LinkedIn connections may be only slightly more valuable than the information within a phone book, a professional association directory, or a corporate directory.

Sure, the magpie met this person once for five minutes at a cocktail party (long enough to exchange business cards), but that’s all that happened. To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “What’s the magpie to him, or he to the magpie?”

Mark Granovetter’s famous work on the “Strength of Weak Ties” shows the importance of weak connections. IT’s a great way to find jobs–search beyond your closest circle of friends. However, there still has to be a meaningful connection between the two people.

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