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.
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."
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?
[Image: Flickr user Michael Bentley]