LinkedIn endures in popularity despite its pallid interface and sometimes wonky features, and it is easy to understand why. The premise of having an online Rolodex is a great one, and the ability to filter through millions of profiles to find like-minded professionals is invaluable. LinkedIn’s groups can be a fantastic way to learn about industry trends, important events and find potential contacts for projects. The tool is clearly a bonus for sales and human resources professionals, and therein lie some of the service’s problems. In an era when far too many people confuse connectivity with familiarity, one important skill, or art, is lost: networking.

If you have not read articles on Forbes that discuss networking, then I highly suggest you should. Scott Dinsmore offers several very compelling suggestions on how to build a beneficial and genuine network. While I believe the article simply spells out common sense, unfortunately too many people believe networking means adding people to their LinkedIn profile with no rhyme or reason. The end result, from my perspective, is the constant clicking of the “Ignore” and sometimes, “Report” button.

I have found LinkedIn to be a loser magnet. Yes of course there are fantastic people out there with whom I interact often. but it is no secret that most of us receive those random notifications from people, often losers, who say you are a “friend.” And then there are the folks who outright ask to be added to your network because they have some innovative product or because they just want something from you.

But connecting means linking at a minimum two different points, or in this case, two different people. Just adding someone to your contacts is not networking. Networking is about offering something to other people, not just asking for a connection to someone else. The point is to also offer yourself as a resource, or in simple terms, give and get. A genuine networker will strive to give way more than he or she takes.

I am always astounded by the requests I receive suggesting why we should connect, whether it is an email asking to be added or a comment in a LinkedIn group discussion thread: (with my gut reactions and sometimes responses thrown in).

“Do you want to learn more about a technology that is a game changer?” (If it were a game changer we would have known about it by now.)

“We are looking for investors for our biofuel company.” (Now that is a grey area--read why.)

“Can you connect me to investors who could benefit in our biofuel company?” (If I knew of such investors I would not even be typing this article on the plane right now)

“I want you to collaborate with me.” (I don’t work for free.)

“We went to high school together and I would like to share the health benefits of mangosteen extract.” (Proactively block on Facebook.)

“Please let me know about any projects that I could work on with you.” (Do I know you?)

“We met at a conference (In February 2011) and I thought it would be nice to connect and share ideas.” (Funny I sent you a “nice to meet you email” after that event and never heard back from you.)

“I need more renewable energy contacts.” (But do they need you?)

“This is going to change the face of sustainable business in 6 months.” (I did not know sustainability had a face and that was sent to me almost a year ago.)

"The Royal Majesties of Thailand, Queen Sirikit and King Bhumibol, as well as Philippine's former First Lady Imelda Marcos and many others are on our client's list! You could send our business proposal with YOUR return address as authorized agent to your contacts, getting an interesting commission for every customer made available through you! Please, let me know if interested and connect with me at LinkedIn. Thank you!
Jorg" (Imelda Marcos is still alive and wearing shoes?)

As I have mentioned before, if the person sounds remotely interesting, I will send my contact information and offer to chat via telephone or Skype. My favorite response was the renewable energy contact who said I could just call him at his desk--during GMT working hours, when he was the one who sought me out. The usual response is nothing, and that is fine--I have zero interest in connecting with someone I do not know and have no idea what they are about.

Despite all these fantastic social media tools, the stubborn fact is that they can make us complacent. And nothing makes for a better lasting connection than face time. In fact, I use Twitter as my medium for setting up coffee or lunch meetings, and have met countless fantastic people because of it.

Networking is hard. After all, that middle syllable is “work,” and developing a group of trusted associates takes a lot of effort. But the most important point to consider is not what you want out of that person, but what can you offer them? All of us have a collection of skills and experiences that are valuable. It is up to you to figure out what that is and how you can be of value. And that is why Dinsmore’s article really struck a nerve with me. The upshot is, stop requesting and start offering.

Use snail mail. Use the phone to call people. Buy a Starbucks card and buy coffee. Get some social skills. And use your head.

Random acts of LinkedIn notifications just does not cut it in this era. If anything, it is just plain laziness. And that is why I am on LinkedIn less and less.

LinkedIn, social media, twitter, networking, Forbes, Scott Dinsmore, leon kaye, Jorb Bobsin, Imelda Marcos??

Who else got this winner of an offer?

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.