The Simple Question That Helps You Use LinkedIn Better

LinkedIn can accelerate your career--if you understand this key to the site.

For its founder Reid Hoffman, launching LinkedIn ten years ago was like jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down--but what vehicle hath he wrought upon the working world?

Writing at HBR, social media ninja/author Alexandra Samuel observes that LinkedIn--and those with whom you are linking--are a quizzical bunch. They aren't the public-facing chatterers of Twitter or the friend-comparing engine of Facebook or the fun-envy-inducers of Instagram, but rather a tentacled rolodex, a kraken of a network that is unquestionably powerful, should you learn to harness it.

But how to harness the LinkedIn kraken?

What this careerist octopus does best, Samuel says, is work as an introduction machine, "an address book in which all the entries can see and connect with another, to create a mini-network with you and the things you share at the hub."

Should you become a LinkedIn Jedi, you will also become a superconnector--a person with the privileged position of network centrality--and be able to master the art of the tele-introduction.

However, Samuel notes, you can only attain this krakenly mastery should you be discerning in who you connect with. Her litmus is thus, she writes:

The favor test is simple: Would you do a favor for this person, or ask a favor of them? If so, make the connection. If not, take a pass.

What kind of people pass the test? Those who'd you'd help out at least a book--review their book, attend their conference, support their charity--even if you would just love to move them across town.

This, Samuel, says, is a marker that the LinkedIn thing is a nonsleazy two-way street--the favor test helps you articulate the quality of the working relationship you have with a person. Would you do an act of professional kindness for them, would you help jumpstart their career?

Should I Accept that LinkedIn Invitation?

[Image: Flickr user Michael Bentley]

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17 Comments

  • Christian

    Often when receiving invitations from people I don't know, I ask them straight out: What would you like to get out of our connection? The answer, if any, is often good enough for me to connect. Bad answers (clearly, totally objectively) :-) or no answer lead to me ignoring the request. So, not the same as Drake Bear suggests, but fairly close. Still, mine, I think, is better. Maybe the potential connection has an idea I haven't thought of - I consider that, Bear doesn't. Rocket science? No. But, common? No... So, maybe Bear's article still was worth reading.

  • James123

    This article was a total waste of time.  It told me nothing.  I also completely disagree with the author's conclusions as LinkedIn is much more valuable if you connect with people you don't already have a deep relationship with currently.

  • Steve Moran

    I was expecting so much and the whole point was to say the big question is:  "Should I assist with a connection?"

    I am a so called "super connector" and I . . .

    A:  Don't get all that many requests for introductions.
    B.  When I do get a request I always pass it on with an explanation of my relationship or lack thereof. 

    So I just do see how this has any value to newbies or super connectors.

    Steve Moran
    www.seniorhousingforum.net

  • Anthony Finno

    Thank you for sharing this.  @Alexandra Samuel,  I'm not clear how this litmus test improves the performance of LinkedIn, as performance relates to connecting with people.  Are you suggesting quality over quantity?  And how does quality benefit over quantity strengthen my reach?  I'm asking because there are a lot of people who have reached out to me and others that I've reached out to who I don't know on a personal level and may or may not pass the litmus test.  I still value their connection because of the potential benefit that it provides.  Thank you.

  • burpeema

    I thought the article was fine enough, nothing earth-shattering but yet a pretty interesting way to look at it . My question to Drake and/or folks is how do you let people know this is the criteria you like to use and that they shouldn't be offended if you ignore their request or if you accept that this is why (and what you expect). Do I add to my profile - I only accept requests from those that I am willing to do a favor for and vice versa. do I include that in the message when I accept/ignore their request? Maybe linked in needs to evolve to have a "someone I've done business with" and an "inside circle of trusted colleagues I would do a favor for"??

  • robin ackermann

    FAST COMPANY is becoming a joke..what were you thinking when you publish such trash?? DRAKE LONGS FOR KYOTO BUT STAYS IN BROOKLYN HEHE.. WHO THE FUCK CARES ABOUT DRAKE?? 

  • R_garneau

    Robin, I think you should ask yourself, "Gee, irrespective of how I feel about this article, I wonder if adding a posting with such trashy and inappropriate language will make people pay any more attention to my worthless comment".

  • Tech

    Let's see, I think I'll gaze at my navel today. The article seems a drug induced fascination with something totally removed from anyone's else's experience of Linkedin. Whaaat is this?

  • richard bubb

    Adding to previous comment, I suggest going to link at the end of the above article from Harvard Business Review. It has a couple of tips on leveraging LinkedIn. Some of the comments postings are educational.
    One feature I'd like to see L-I try is a social/graphical version of a program I use called "Personal Brain", which is a great program that I use for personal (and some companies) for information organization, and 
    ( see http://www.thebrain.com/   ) for a better explanation, and user tips.  They have a free version, but the paid version is much better. The interlink-able organizational linking and graphical capabilities are possible using Personal Brain, but a version directly using the L-I data and connections and "you might also know" possibilities would be a real time saver.

  • Dr. Lisa

    This "posting" does not deserve a Fast Company byline.  It is very simplistic and almost a joke. Obviously, the writer does not value the possibilities that open up by being involved with LinkedIn.

  • DB

    Was this supposed to be an article? Something of value? There's no "there" there. Don't waste people's time unless you have something to say. Heads up, Fast Company. Don't print items of no value.

  • Lynne Lloyd

    Gosh, I was waiting to see what the BIG question was to really understand how to use my "social media site of choice" LinkedIn to its ultimate degree.  I am underwhelmed, to say the least. 

    Many people would disagree with this advice to assess and pre-judge a potential connection in this manner which seems very "old-hat" and even elitist.  

    I believe connecting with others and accepting invitations with a spirit of generosity is far better than judging people on the basis of what you think you know about them and their intentions.  As well, how do we know the future ways we might work collaboratively with another professional?  How do we know who that person knows.... as I recently read somewhere (i.e. not my original thought!) LinkedIn and other social networking sites have cut the 6 degrees of being connected to every other human being on this planet by half....it's now only 3 degrees separately us.

    So my philosophy is not to pull up the drawbridge and screen people out very often, but to connect with others on LinkedIn in a spirit of openness and generosity.  

  • Jason Burby

    This article is missing some of the key values of LinkedIn beyond just making connections.  What about the value of career or industry advice, not just when looking for a job but content from some of the LinkedIn influencers or targeted groups.  While it isn't all earth shattering information (and in some cases, even good) there is a ton for people looking to improve in their career, industry, etc. beyond just connecting and jobs.  Some brands are doing interesting and educational things as well...