Yesterday a business student interviewed me for his master thesis about the perceived trustworthiness within social networking sites. He wanted to know how I shaped my judgments about people on LinkedIn. His last question blew me away, although is was very simple. “How will LinkedIn be evolved in five years?”. I had never really thought about this. After a few minutes, I realized my LinkedIn network will be quite useless then. When we were discussing this devaluation, we both acknowledged it had two main reasons. We’re too friendly, and a lot of people go separate ways.
We’re too friendly
LinkedIn tries very hard to convince us not to accept people we hardly know with their explanatory “Which invitations should you accept?” link. According to this page, we have to consider replying or deciding later when we don’t know the sender well. Fair enough, but you’re not gonna reject that guy with who you had a nice chat during a conference? Most of us are too friendly. We don’t want to offend the chap who invites you to connect. What do we have to lose anyway?
Of all these people we accept, quite a few make sudden career moves to a totally different industry or stop working at all. Some might even die. These occurrences make some of our connections useless. After a while, say five years, a whole lot of connections are not relevant anymore. They can’t help us with questions, because there out of the game for quite some time, or they have left everything business-related behind.
The network will lose its value
So in five years, your first grade network will be as cluttered as your third grade network is now. You’ve forgotten who half of the people are, and from some, you’ll never hear again. Moreover, have you ever thought about how many contacts you’ll have by then. A few thousand maybe? To sum it up: your network will become quite useless. LinkedIn will evolve in something else, a phone book on steroids.
LinkedIn as the ultimate phone book
I assume you’ll keep your profile up to date, so will other people who take LinkedIn seriously. That will make LinkedIn a rather great phone book. You can always look up ANYONE, as the chance is really big this person will have registered on LinkedIn by then. The value of the resume stays in touch. The ways of contacting people as well. There’s just thing that will be pretty useless, the graph showing you’re connected to this person trough 132321 other people.