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June 10, 2009

LinkedIn, Virtual Handshakes and the danger of accepting all invites.

So you met this character from a rival consulting agency. You hit it off, he seemed like somebody that you could do business alongside at some stage, and you decided to stay in touch.

This happens to us everyday right? You never know, and a good alliance is always helpful for pulling down big contracts.

During the conversation there were a few mentions of mutual contacts, and a few quick mentions of prospects etcetera. But of course, you never lower your guard too much do you. Not because others are unethical, but this is business after all. The survival of your family and so on...

Then you find out that this guy had gone and introduced himself to one of your prospects, and that he had used your name as a way to do it!

You feel like you have been played, and worse, you feel like your trust has been betrayed. But in all honesty you probably left yourself open to it...

When you connect to somebody on LinkedIn you are giving them certain capacities to see part of your network. For example, if I connect to you, and you are connected to (say) a manager in GM, and she is connected to the General Manager of Operations - then I can see the GM's profile when I search for it. 

He is now in my network, thanks for that.

This changes things a little bit doesn't it...should your competitors be given access to your connections and network? If you leave your contacts as visible then they can immediately see who is in your network, how connected you are, and how "dangerous" you are as a competitor. 

And...they now know the names of significant, often economic buyer types, at your clients firms. Information they possibly didn't have access to before connecting with you.

LinkedIn to me is a B2B networking and lead generation tool, and one with a substantial upside if you treat it correctly. Not just a platform for connecting with your friends and past acquaintences. Facebook is great for that...

Please don't misunderstand the message here... I have always expected the best from people and I have very rarely been disappointed. But there is a glaring difference between trust and naivety.

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