How valuable is your LinkedIn network? Could it be rebuilt by any old recruiter/marketer in a day or two? The truth is, LinkedIn networks have little to no value at all these days. Why? Because your network, which probably took fewer than 24 hours to build, can easily be rebuilt by your competition. Go ahead, find a recruiter working in a similar space. Does his/her network mirror yours? If not, send a few in-mails. You're done.
That's because LinkedIn, wonderful as it is, is an open network. Profiles can be spidered; they show up in search results, they can be easily shared. Which means that anyone can access them. A LinkedIn profile, in other words, is not proprietary.
In the olden days, a recruiter's rolodex was his/her bread and butter. A rolodex is a good example of a closed network. Someone owns it. If it has any value, it probably took some time to build. Back in the early days of the PC, I worked with a sales director to painstakingly upload her rolodex contacts to floppy disks. About two dozen of them. When a sleazy colleague tried to make off with her life's work she cried real tears. (We were able to recover her data, but she swore off computers forever.)
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine from way back in the day showed me a demo of his new product, BranchIT. It was a cool product, but I thought at the time, this won't fly with corporate recruiting teams, not in a milion years.
I think I was wrong.*
BranchIT is a closed social networking tool. It allows permissioned users to search the corporate e-mail server for contacts that match search criteria. Yes. Search. The. Corporate. E-mail. Server. At the extreme, it means that your corporate e-mail contacts would be exposed to everyone in your company. Scary when you think about it. Downright creepy. But if you look at it from the perspective of the recruiting or sales organization -- JACKPOT! My buddy continues to market and sell BranchIT. It's only a matter of time before it becomes a commonly accepted tool. As the open social networks continue to decline in value recruiters (and salespeople) will look for ways to build networks of unique contacts with deep value. Each time someone else links to one of your LinkedIn contacts, the relationship is eroded. The special place you occupy in the contact's sphere becomes less special. The relationship is tenuous. Weak. As weak as those lame LinkedIn invites from people you don't know.
Closed networks dangle the promise of building networking capital that provides a competitive edge. A strong network is good. A strong network that belongs to you and you alone is even better.
Something to chew on.