Is there any value to joining LinkedIn ? That's the debate happening over at Inc., where Marla Tabaka has written a thoughtful post about how to maximize your use of LinkedIn to in some cases find a job, but in most cases network with others. (Meanwhile, Fast Company got LinkedIn's SVP to serve up his top three career tips for novice networkers .)
The question about whether there is any value in a social platform is typically a statement of frustration from people who don't seem to understand that a social platform like LinkedIn is not a vending machine where you put a few coins in a slot to get exactly what you want.
When my father would take us to work on the weekends, he definitely had work to do. Yes, there was a vending machine quality to the mission. He had to sort "x" amount of work for ""x" amount of hours to get a "y" result, usually routing trucks to do "hot shot" deliveries of Pepsi to stores that had a sale on Pepsi and lost product faster than they could replenish on a regular route cycle. As a kid, I didn't pay much attention to that aspect of his work, but I did pay attention to what went on while we were there.
Lots of socializing. My father was a manager. He had to manage other sales personnel, who were also there on the weekend. What I noticed at an early age is that the sales staff at the Pepsi plant were doing more than just fulfilling "x" amounts of work to get a "y" outcome. They were showing up for my dad. They knew he was in a position of influence and could help them with their careers.
These were sales people. They worked by the force of their rhetoric, their logic, and their ability to hustle and solve problems. It was clear that by putting time in for my father, they were also representing themselves as people who could be trusted, who supported his efforts, and had enough ambition to see the job through.
Today, when many of us work remotely, and, if you are like me, you work for clients you see face-to-face intermittently, you need to show up for them. That's why you would go to a platform like LinkedIn, for example.
You can communicate there. You can recommend clients to others there. You can get your work done, and you can get other people's work done. That was the subject of my radio talk last night  with Soluto's Tomer Dvir. We are in this game to win, but we want to win with others. We want and need to help others in the dynamic and chaotically changing structure of capitalism these days.
So when commenters write something like this , let's pause:
- If I'm not in marketing or looking for a job, is there any value in LinkedIn? I've joined for the second time, but I now recall why I canceled my first account. I don't know how to get any value from it.
- I'm an IT tech for a medium-sized business. I don't interact with our external customers or vendors. While I am aware of the current economic issues, we've turned the corner and I expect to remain employed here until I retire in a decade or so.
- I don't participate in other social networks, so that may be hindering me. I don't understand the...use of the word 'conversations' or how to conduct one. (I have the same problem with my attempts to use Twitter.) Most of my contacts are co-workers. I don't have a 'real world' network.
We are nothing without the network. Networks will be our most significant source for rises in income, new job offers, and the rise of what I will call the Freelance Globalist Population in which we will work not for a corporate entity, but in service to many entities, people, and missions.
We need to start learning how to use the network , and to utilize the network to feed ourselves.
There is value to a platform like LinkedIn. Without platforms like it in the real world, the dry and mundane aspect of work kills us. It kills our chances for promotion. Ironically, as I was writing this blog post, the Inc. commenter who questioned the usefulness of LinkedIn wrote in again to say that he needed to use platforms to improve his social skills and enhance his real-world network.
I hope that works for him. We are nothing without our networks. After all, as we have written before, the new MBA is to manage your business and your team as if you are a social worker.
Nothing in a social web environment exists for the sake of its users alone. Social platforms are not vending machines. They are not vending machines, because you cannot, in a digital age, work with the assumption that "x" + "y" = "z", where "z" is quality of life, and "x" is an input like hours, and "y" is an input like "quality of work."
We don't live that way anymore. You cannot put a coin in a slot and get exactly what you want.
You now have to make what you want, and making what you want, creating your vision, starts with starting relationships, building relationships, and becoming partners with people -- even complete strangers.
Want more food for thought? Read our latest post on changing your life by changing your networks .
[Image: Flickr user Chris Devers ]