Don’t tune out just yet! LinkedIn may look boring to you but today I found out that it can look quite sexy as well! Like many other tools, LinkedIn is also moving forward in the visualisation trend and via LinkedIn Labs you can create a map of your connections as well as a timeline of them.
In this map LinkedIn tried, as best as it could, to visualise different networks that I am part of and the interconnections between people in my network. As you can see from the labels given to the different colours, this is not a perfect picture (as some friends seem to have been mixed up with other networks of which they are not really part and some people seem to be connected but are in fact not), but it can certainly provide some insights into my network.
At first sight it looks like there are 2 main network clouds (blue on the right and green/red/orange on the left). But it strikes me that there is also a higher level of interconnectedness between networks – bar a few exceptions – than I might have thought. Apart from a few “loose” connections around the middle, all networks seem to be connected to other networks in turn. What I see is that within my networks people are highly connected and I see that I know a few key people that move in different networks of mine and thus act as a linking pin between them (together with myself of course).
The second thought that struck me was the very limited cloud of family and friends. This is due my LinkedIn policy when I started using it – to focus on professional contacts only and not inviting friends. The only friends that entered my network at that time were those that sent me an invite that I did not dare refuse. Over time, obviously I have changed that policy and now my network does include quite a few friends.
A third thought that pops up is that I should invest a bit more in developing my networks relating to my new activity areas, since these are among the smallest in the cloud. This is something I already planned on doing, but seeing the visualisation of my network brings this message home once more.
A last thought is that the classification of networks is based on from where and when I know people – not on where they are now. In that sense the cloud is a picture of the past as much as it represents present connections. It will be interesting to see how it will develop further and what it will look like a few months from now.
Through the timeline application, LinkedIn Labs try to visualise your network development over time. This, too, is not a 100% correct representation of when connections came about but it is a nice try and it does give an impression of how your network expands in relation to your education and job timeline.
So, apart from enabling you to fool around for a bit – are these applications useful? I would say yes. First of all, anything that makes you pay attention to your network is useful in and of itself. More importantly, these applications make clear visually how you have built up your network (and what choices you have made in this regard) and where it is strongly developed. If you reflect on the pictures, they also provide pointers as to where you might invest your networking efforts, if you want to develop your network further.
I think investing some time in LinkedIn is useful not just for people looking for a new job or a new client. I find that LinkedIn with its groups and update functions is also pretty useful for professional development and for keeping up to date with what’s going on – as well as with your friends and acquaintances. The more you link with the people that are right for you, the more you will learn about the world around you – and without much hassle! It may not look sexy, but it is definitely worth it. I find at least one interesting thing on LinkedIn on each day that I check my updates: a job description I have never heard of before, an inspirational quote, a useful link or an interesting group that someone in my network joined … And if you want to spice up your LinkedIn experience you can always play with these nice applications! Enjoy!