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LinkedIn: Using Status Updates to Mobilize Social Capital

Written by: Bill Sherman on Tuesday, 16 September 2008, 2:55 PM

What are You Working On?

Yesterday, LinkedIn created an opportunity for me to solve a challenge for a good friend of mine. Here’s the story.

In May 2008, LinkedIn added a “status update” feature. On your LinkedIn page, there’s a question that asks “What are you working on.” When you answer this question, it appears on your friends’ homepage. It also gets picked up in the e-mail blast.

Typically, the e-mail blasts are snoozers. They over-emphasize “who connected with whom” and they provide interesting (but really useless) status updates.

  • Ravi connected with Maria
  • Ted connected with Walter
  • Anna is enjoying Saturday
  • Andrew will be traveling to NYC soon.

Yesterday, buried within this laundry-list, I saw the following gem from my go friend Patti Hill; she’s the CEO and Founder of  Blabbermouth PR which provides executive-level service to each of its clients. Here’s what Patti wrote:

Patti Hill is interested in interviewing PC gamers. Know anyone?

Wow! Patti’s request is clear and direct. Most importantly, it contains a genuine call-to-action. There was a genuine request for help cutting through the noise. I knew instantly what to do.

Moved to Action

I’m a PC gamer myself, but even more than that, I’m well-connected with a lot of avid PC gamers. So, I reached out to Patti and asked how I could help.

She told me she was looking for high-end gaming enthusiasts. Within 10 minutes, I sent out an e-mail to key folks in my network, and asked them if they’d be willing to help Patti. They’re gaming geeks who work in the tech field and chat gaming and tech daily. I knew they’d be willing to help.

Then, as the answers started rolling in, I forwarded the responsed to Patti.

Online social networking tools represent a way to locate and mobilize hidden social capital within your network. Patti had no idea that I was a PC gamer, but since she has a large network, there was a good chance that someone could help her.

Savvier Ways to Ask for Help

Generic status updates are nice to share with your social network, but they remain low-value activities. If you want help, you have to ask–clearly and specifically.

Here are a couple of learned-lessons on ways to fine-tune your use of LinkedIn’s status-update feature:

  • Share your tough challenges with people;
  • Remain humble and genuine; and
  • Create a call to action (ask for help).

As always, you have to be known as someone who will be willing to give help (rather than just ask for it).

I wish that more people used their social networking status-updates this way. Facebook offers a similar tool.

Ideally, LinkedIn would let me customize the e-mail alerts. I’d prefer to know more about my network’s needs/projects and less about “who-connected-with whom.”

3 Responses to “LinkedIn: Using Status Updates to Mobilize Social Capital”

  1. kare Anderson Says:

    Makes so much sense once you wrote this. Thanks. Will you be writing a book… I hope?

    September 17th, 2008 12:02 pm

  2. Bill Sherman Says:

    Hi Kare,

    Yes, I’m writing of a book on social capital and global relationships.

    Look for a first teaser bookcover sometime in the next month.

    September 17th, 2008 6:28 pm

  3. Expanding Your Ability to Find Answers through LinkedIn | aha-moments Says:

    […] Using Status Updates to Mobilize Social Capital […]

    June 16th, 2009 8:37 pm

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