Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Super-connectors

I enjoy social networks. Finding connections with people I've met is a small hobby in itself. I have 441 livejournal contacts (ie those who are reading me rather than vice versa), 1010 on LinkedIn, 1456 on Facebook; basically people whose continued existence in the world I am glad to be reminded of now and then. I realise that this is unusual, as some have been kind enough to point out. But my attention is always caught by research like the Milgram small world experiment or the Erdős–Bacon number.

I was therefore interested to see Keith Ferrazzi's recent article, slightly recycling a chapter from his Never Eat Alone, listing seven types of person who are likely to be super-connectors:
  1. Restaurateurs
  2. Headhunters
  3. Lobbyists
  4. Fundraisers
  5. Public relations people
  6. Politicians
  7. Journalists
I scratched my head a bit at this. My job has aspects of #3 and #5, and I personally used to be an example of #6, but I would describe what I do as closer to consultancy; we are after all a "diplomatic advisory group", not lobbyists or a PR firm. I wondered what other super-connectors I know, and how they would fit in to Ferrazzi's categories?

LinkedIn, which is a more professional social network than Facebook or LJ, conveniently gives the number of contacts for each person in your network, and I discovered that there were precisely ten who fit its superconnector category (more than 500 contacts) and who I know from my list. (Also in the course of this exercise I realised that there were a couple of other superconnectors on my list who I don't know from Adam, so I removed them.) In order of length of time I have known them, they are the following:
  1. a friend from my days in postal Diplomacy around 1983-85, who now describes himself as a "Strategist for Social Investment, Grassroots Lobbying, and Corporate Accountability Campaigns" (he has moved from his native England to Washington DC). Like me, his job has aspects of lobbying and of PR but doesn't really fit comfortably into either category. Interestingly, he is the only one of the ten who is on livejournal.
  2. a fellow student at Clare College, who I only really got to know as he was crashing out of his postgrad science course in 1989, now a "Freelance Business Analyst". He does a fair amount of consultancy in the telecoms area these days, and I get the impression that he actively uses LinkedIn as a means of drumming up business. He does not appear to fit into any of Ferazzi's categories.
  3. a fellow member of the Cambridge University Students Union executive in 1989-90, now a "Search and Talent Intelligence Expert", ie a head-hunter, with over 3600 LinkedIn connections. She clearly fits Ferrazzi's category #2. Interestingly, she is the only one of the ten who is not on Facebook (as far as I know).
  4. a former MEP who served from 1999 to this year, though I have known him since 1993 or thereabouts through liberal politics. A clear case of category #6.
  5. a member of the same political party who I knew around 1996 through young liberal politics, now working his way up the political tree in his country's largest city. Another clear case of category #6.
  6. a Brussels-based management consultant who I have known since 1999 as a promoter of business connections between Belgium and Luxembourg on the one hand and certain other countries in which I take an interest on the other. Probably the oldest person of these ten.
  7. another former MEP from the same country as d (though from a different political party), who I got to know only after she was elected in 1999. Now works as chef de cabinet to a very senior (though not very prominent) international official. Yet another clear case of category #6, though she has other interests as well.
  8. a Canadian guy who I turned down for a research job in 2003, but he forgave me, we got on well and have stayed in touch; he is now a "Principal at a research-based strategy firm" in Toronto.
  9. One of my former interns (from 2005) who has now also gone into business consultancy in the energy sector in Brussels
  10. the youngest on the list, a researcher at one of my former workplaces who I met last year for the first time; also does a little journalistic writing but not enough to qualify as category #7.
Now, of course, Ferrazzi's seven categories will not map directly onto LinkedIn connections, especially not LinkedIn connections of mine - I don't know many restaurateurs, and I am on emailing terms with very few of them; and I imagine that LinkedIn would not be a terribly useful tool for you if you are in the catering business. I do, however, know a lot of journalists, who are not at all represented in the above list; and I suspect that they choose not to share their contacts with LinkedIn, since they are operationalising them daily in quite a different way.

What does strike me is that I think my relatively few friends who are business consultants are over-represented in the above list, and I think Ferrazzi has missed something here. I'm sure (indeed, I know from occasionally passing on messages) that they are operationalising LinkedIn as part of their business approach, as a means of contacting and checking out clients. Possibly they are less likely to put their vast network of connections at the service of a friend or acquaintance (thus not the type of virtuous superconnector that Ferrazzi is highlighting in his article), but in fact that's not my experience of any of them.

Or possibly they are just compulsive about plugging every business card they collect at conferences and receptions into LinkedIn to see if the people they meet are there. <irony>Can't imagine doing that myself.</irony>
Tags: social networks
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 10 comments