The Power of LinkedIn and The Speed of Trust

Recently, my team identified 189 high-traffic web sites that we want to approach in the coming months with a very innovative partnership opportunity. We think we can increase their web site traffic and that our proposal makes a lot of sense.

But cold calling 189 these companies would likely be frustrating. Who would we ask for? How many calls would it take to find the right person, or to find a helpful person who could direct us to the right person?

And then, even if we found the right person to talk to, how interested could they possibly be in a startup company from Utah, even if we do have a few million monthly visitors to our web sites? In a phone conversation where we are hunting around for the right person to talk to, trying to catch them at a time when they are interested in hearing our proposal, well, the odds just aren’t good at all.

But then there’s the LinkedIn approach. Since I’ve been investing time regularly over since LinkedIn first launched in building a trusted network of connections, and since I’ve worked in so many companies over the years, and lectured, and taught, and blogged, and networked, and continually refreshed my loose social connections via LinkedIn, I happen to have a mind-boggling LinkedIn network.

My Network Stats show the following:

  • 139,600 Two Degrees Away
  • 986 Trusted Connections
  • 5,715,400 Three Degrees Away

Out of more than 25 million LinkedIn users, I can reach 20% of them through a friend of a friend. The success rate for me of LinkedIn requests has been probably greater than 90%. I never abuse the system. I carefully read profiles before sending requests. I carefully choose who to send the request through. And I always have a legitimate reason for contacting them that I sincerely think they will be interested in.

I’ve used last minute LinkedIn requests to get meetings in London with a top investment bank with less than 24 hours notice. I used it last week to make sure I got an invitation to attend the invitation-only Social Ad Summit in New York City. I’ve used it dozens of times with great results.

So recently I invited one of my (trusted) employees to login to my LinkedIn account, and to search for “marketing” or “business development” employees at the 189 web companies that we want to partner with in the not-too-distant future. Here’s what she found:

  • I have 3 1st Degree Connections
  • I have 31 2nd Degree Connections
  • I have 48 3rd Degree Connections

I actually have LinkedIn connections at almost every one of the 189 companies, but we were only looking for employees who had “marketing” or “business development” roles within the company.

She put all her findings into a spreadsheet, which I shrunk to 6-point font, and printed it out, so I can have it right by my computer and look at it every day. When we are ready to proceed, I’ll budget a bit of time every week to reach out via LinkedIn to some of these partners.

In the past week it has become apparent that FamilyLink.com, with our super popular We’re Related app on Facebook (5 million monthly active users and growing fast), is ready to reach out to brand advertisers and marketers who want to reach some of the families who are using our app.
I just searched for “media buyer” and “internet” on LinkedIn, and found that there are 390 matches that are within my network.

We think we can provide media buyers “the best way to reach families through social media.” Next week we’ll start using LinkedIn to reach the ones that really do seem most likely to be interested in placing relevant ads on social networks.

In the past, when I’ve tried to raise capital or advised others on raising capital, I’ve been amazed at how many thousands of people in the Venture Capital and Private Equity category are using LinkedIn. Since almost all angel and venture deals are done by referral, it makes a ton of sense for an entrepreneur to invest adequate time in building their LinkedIn network, and then when they are ready to find potential investors, to spend serious energy in reading the profiles of all the angel investor or VCs in their network. And then, to choose carefully who to send each request for a meeting through.

Stephen MR Covey wrote a best-selling book in 2006 called The Speed of Trust. I believe wholeheartedly in his premise that when there is trust, business can move at a very fast pace. But without trust, there can be infinite delays or gridlock.

LinkedIn is without a doubt the most powerful “Speed of Trust” tool ever invented in the history of the world, and I think modern entrepreneurs and business people who learn how to fully utilize its capabilities and help others in their network to benefit from it in appropriate ways, will find like I have that it it creates a wrinkle in time where all of a sudden you find yourself through some kind of invisible transference of good-will doing business with people you’ve never met before but that you feel that you have, because you’re friends of the same friend.

Does any of this make sense to you, LinkedIn user or not?

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10 Comments

  1. paulballen

    Sorry that the original post here was empty.

    It was my first post to my Drupal-powered blog using the Chrome browser, and it completely failed. Fortunately, I was able to backtrack, and copy and paste the original entry (none of which showed up in the actual post) to a Firefox session where I successful updated the blog entry with the original text. But the formatting is really weird.

  2. David Pihl

    Paul, I sometimes work as a shuttle van driver. My boss radioed me from the airport once while I was out driving. He explained that he’d just seen Kevin Bacon boarding a yellow cab. So if you need somebody to act as your third degree of separation, I’ll be your huckleberry.

  3. Interesting post. I think that the power of linked in as with any network is exponential as the network gets larger. I have a over a hundred linked in connections and approaching 200 facebook connections and am starting to see some benefit. I think that the individual links of my network get stronger as my overall network grows (assuming that all my links are true connections, not people I don’t know very well)

  4. Greg Link

    Hi Paul, Greg Link here. This is very useful. I have been gradually accepting selected linked in and Facebook invitations only for those I know and trust. The test of trust may be too high a standard as most folks seems to link to any mere acquaintance they can find to run up their number. You have just convinced me that there may be some merit to that approach from a marketing potential standpoint. Glad you liked our book The Speed of Trust and we agree that referrals from trusted friends is the essence of The SPEED of Trust. Let’s talk sometime.

  5. Paul,
    Thank you for this wonderful insight. I have been on LinkedIn since 2004 and am a partner and trainer in a LinkedIn training company called Integrated Alliances. As we train people on the functionalities available within the LinkedIn tool, we are always learning new uses for this amazing site.
    I’ve been fortunate to be able to faciliate many business deals and to help many people create business relationships.
    For someone with a “pay-it-forward” mentality, LinkedIn is a phenominal tool with which to help many.
    Thanks again for sharing your insight.
    To your success,
    Kevin Knebl

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  7. Badri

    Hi Paul, a very practical demonstration of the power of linkedin with your strategy in place. I very clearly see that you are precise in what you want out of linkedIn and that has in turn led to your strategy and your investment in execution.

    Most people that I see on linkedin or facebook or twitter for that matter are clueless about why they are there in the first place and get really caught up in the whiz of activity that produces no results at any point of time. I was one of them (until this early morning) who aimlessly added connections and delivered no value for them at all because my reason for joining linkedin was merely to connect to people i knew from work earlier. I am now present to the need of establishing my objective or my purpose and am in the process of doing so.

    If you have any posts that would support me in this new journey, I would appreciate.

    Cheers

    Badri

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