A recent article “The Finer Points of Using LinkedIn” by Nancy Roberts Linder, in “Marketing The Law Firm” (Law Journal Newsletters, available by subscription only), addresses, among other issues, the case for keeping your connections private; a position that I think borders on urban myth.
Ms. Roberts Linder suggests that:
“The biggest advantage of connecting to clients via LinkedIn is that you have access to your clients’ LinkedIn contacts.”
She goes on to say that “Some attorneys opt to make their connections private” because “clients who are your arch rivals can also pose problems if they are in your LinkedIn network. Connecting with clients opens the door to other individuals connecting with your clients through your network, and not necessarily with your knowledge.”
Splitting hairs is not my business, however, some clarification here may be needed to avoid panic. And your experience and opinion is needed, too.
Your Connections vs. Your Network vs. Your Contacts.
First – where is the editor? Do you have clients who are your arch rivals? Waaaht?
Okay…moving on. LinkedIn states in Learning How Browsing Connections Works that:
Browsing Your Network
You can now get a better feeling for who is closest to you in your network.
Start by visiting the profile of a connection. If your friend or colleague allows it, you can see the people they are connected to. You can then quickly look through their profiles to find old friends or the contacts you need.
- You still control access to the connections linked through you
- Only other connections can see your list — no one else in your network can see it
- You can help particular connections find the people they need faster
- You can help two of your connections meet each other
If you want, you can always hide your list again in the future
Arch-Rivals and the Urban Myth
I’ve heard this hypothesis before: when people allow their competitors – even friendly competitors – into their Connections they risk having their clients’ “stolen” from them. I’ve never talked to a real person to whom this has happened. Have you?
This hypothesis assumes that Competitors would reach out to your clients and win them away. If it’s that easy, then you have more problems than opening your Connections on LinkedIn.
Forgive me for being cynical, but those are not the kind of clients I want, who would?
A.) I don’t want “arch-rival clients” and B.) I don’t want clients that would be wooed away by a LinkedIn connection.
Prospects vs. Clients
Logically speaking, you may have prospects, friends, alumni etc. in your Connections that seem fair game, but, you also, according to the LinkedIn rules, have the right to make the introduction or not. So why worry?
Advantages of Open Connections
If Ms. Roberts Linder’s statement that the “biggest advantage of connecting to clients via LinkedIn is that you have access to your clients’ LinkedIn contacts,” is in fact true, doesn’t logic imply that it goes both ways?
I believe that one, not the only one, but one, of the values of investing my time networking on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other industry specific networks is that I can expand my network by including other interesting people that are “connected” to my Connections.
What’s your opinion about opening up your Connections to your Connections on LinkedIn? I may be a Pollyanna and missing something. For me its a mute point. Help!