Should an accountant clean up his or her online network? Answering this question has been puzzling me since reading Jenn Herman’s blog post “When Was The Last Time You Cleaned Up Your Connections?”
Jenn Herman told me she was referring to Twitter and Facebook networks, not to LinkedIn. She says that with regards to LinkedIn, it is desirable to collect connections. Is that always true? Is that true for accountants?
I suspect the answer to my questions is that it is better to be in growth mode with respect to connections and your LinkedIn network. Here’s why.
I was leading out in a workshop last year when a retired Big 4 partner (now an instructor) told me that he routinely used to go through his Rolodex (the precursor to LinkedIn) and cull inactive connections from his network. He said that if there was no interchange with someone within three months, their card went into the round file (trash). He opined that in the modern world things should not be any different. “Use them or lose them.” He had a small LinkedIn network. He has a Return On Time (ROT) mentality.
A similar sentiment was echoed by a marketing communications (aka social media) manager I sat next to on a long flight back from California. She worked for a large corporation. She said that her LinkedIn network was characterized as quality over quantity. She would not invite someone to connect unless she knew them well and routinely contacted them (business intent). I checked out her profile later on (she returned the favor), but neither one of us clicked the invite button. She also has a ROT mentality.
Both these individuals choose to have small LinkedIn networks (small = 100-500; less than 100 means inactive). I, on the other hand, have a medium sized network of 1,100 (medium = 500-2,500). I add connections whom I don’t know. Why? If they have an impressive enough resume, then perhaps I should get to know him or her. I am always in growth mode. The retired Big 4 partner and marketing manager are not.
There are three characteristics about LinkedIn networks I want to share today.
The first is that my overall network is comprised of smaller networks. I work each one differently. One is comprised of former students, a network of over 300. Then I have three closely related networks of accounting, business and other professors (totaling 500). I have two related networks of accounting and other thought leaders (250 in all). Finally, I have a network of bloggers, reporters and editors (about 50). I work each network differently. Yes, I work them. The lesson from my experience is that all of us have different aspects of our lives, whether we be accountants, professors or students. Each aspect comes with a collection of people we can view as a network. LinkedIn is a robust contact management system and works for multiple networks. If you view yourself as having only one network, perhaps the time is right to expand your horizon. You may not realize that you have several worthwhile networks and each one can be managed separately.
The second is that I add unknowns because I have decided that I should get to know them. Once I’ve added them to my network, then I start a long process of establishing a relationship. But really, isn’t this something we do in real life. So many times I’ve been at a network event (large room, many people standing around) and walked up to someone because I’ve decided I need to get to know them. Well, LinkedIn can be used the same way by accountants, professors and students.
The third and final aspect is that networks aren’t one sided. I don’t necessarily add people to my network because of what they can do for me. Sometimes I approve a connection because there is the possibility that I might be able to do something for them someday. One of my former students wrote me earlier in the week, thanking me for being her connection. Why? She read my LinkedIn updates where I pass along links to the best articles I come across. She is learning a lot about business this way.
I think life is not solely about servicing clients and making money. The concept of billable hours is useful, but should not be the only guide for life. Life is also about helping others. Sometimes it comes with a retainer, sometimes it doesn’t. I wish more accountants understood this.
Debit and credit – – David Albrecht