I don't like to brag, but I happen to be directly connected to several million people through this cool tool that's free. It's called the phone book. Now, I can't remember the last time someone cracked open their phone book, flipped to "H," and called me up and said "Let's do business." And if they did contact me that way, I would be more skeptical than receptive.
I am also connected to quite a few people through LinkedIn. Although I currently am not signed up on any of the other many other online networks (such as Ryze, Xing, or Ecademy) the lessons to be gleaned from this and other future articles can be broadly applied. In my networking through LinkedIn, I have encountered two kinds of users: the Megaconnector and the Discriminator.
Megaconnectors are those who will connect with anyone with a pulse and a valid email address. They are the ones who have legally changed their name on their profile to John Smith 5000+. Through them, you will be instantly connected to millions of other people. At the same time, most of these Megaconnectors will be hard pressed to remember your name, or even know that you two are actually connected. So why bother then? The same reason you submit your site to Google even though there are millions of others who do. You want the exposure and the breadth. Let's say you are an accountant. The more people you are connected to with many connection, the more likely you are to turn up in a search when someone is looking for an accountant. The fact that your name pops up is not enough to make someone contact you or do business. That job is for the Discriminator.
The Discriminator is someone who is extremely discriminating as to who they will connect with. Typically, they have 30 or fewer connections, and for you to be number 31 may take considerable effort on your part. They will typically want to speak on the phone first or meet in person, and often want to know what common ground or acquaintances you have. Again, so why bother? Because most treasured relationships require effort to attain and maintain. That effort will pay off. If someone will only connect with you once they know you really well, that means that she knows everyone in her network really well too. She will be in a very good position to recommend who you should connect to help you find what you are looking for: a new client or a specialist whose services you require.
Let me be quick to add that like any classification system, when you narrow it down to two, there are degrees of each. There are those who are pure Megaconnectors. You also have Discriminators who have tinges of Megaconnector in them. What I am actually advocating is a balance. On one hand you should connect with the entire world, and on the other hand you should pursue those who are worth pursuing. Through this combination you will be able to reach out to millions of people and yet improve your reputation and business, one connection at a time.
Because we are talking about relationships, online or not, we have to recognize that this is a two-way street. In order to make connections we also have to make ourselves look as attractive as possible. In a future article I will discuss how you can attract both types of users by beefing up your profile.