Archive for the ‘LinkedIn’ category

Salesconx: Business Slow? Sell Your Contacts!

25, August, 2008

I’m getting really skittish about proclaiming some new Web 2.0 scheme spectacularly stupid, wrongheaded, or immoral.  It seems like every time I do so the scheme immediately gets traction and the perp gets rich.

So it’s with some trepidation I introduce you to Salesconx, a marketplace for the sale and purchase of personal business connections. Essentially you can sell access to your contacts–I mean the actual live people you know personally and/or have done business with–in an open marketplace. You can also buy access to others’ connections.

Connections are priced anywhere from $35 to $1,000 and up.

I know, I know. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around this at first too. Could this marketplace be as nakedly crass it appears?

Let’s look at one current listing, which appears in the “Buy” section. This is where people make their connections available to buyers.

In this case, Kris N says he has a “strong connection” to the chairman of an oil drilling company in Thailand. He is offering anyone who wants to buy crude an introduction to that chairman for $100.

It’s not clear whether the CEO knows that Kris is charging $100 for a meeting with him (or if the CEO thinks maybe he’s going too cheap). Whether Kris’s connection to the CEO remains “strong” will depend, I suppose, on whether Kris’s introduction is beneficial to the CEO or just time-waster.

Let’s look on the other side of the market, where people say how much they are willing to pay for connections to certain kinds of people.

This guy sells high-end custom men’s clothing. He’s hoping to get introduced to some agents that represent professional athletes. [Good prospect targeting, by the way!] He’ll pay $35 for an introduction.

The secret sauce of salesconx.com seems to include aspects of eBay, eHarmony, LinkedIn and those blood banks that pay for pints of plasma.

It is easy to ridicule this as a tool by which grubby salesfolk pimp out their Outlook files for some extra cash.

Let me strain to view this another way.

The charitable view is that Salesconx is a marketplace that can produce win/win/win scenarios. Mr. Thai Oil gets someone to buy his crude. Someone who needs oil is hooked up with a key decision maker. They are unlikely to have met otherwise. The fact that Kris got $100 for his trouble is kind of icky–dishonest, if it’s not revealed to Mr. Thai Oil–but not intrinsically harmful.

[An actual real-life salesguy from Salesconx called me on the real live phone an hour or so after I signed up for an account. He thought I was a real community member; I told him I was a blogger. He told me the site will use a ratings and recommendations feature, like eBay offers, so anyone who makes a bad match will get rated down by the community. And (he said) Salesconx will either refund money or give credits to anyone disappointed by the quality of a connection.

[I tried to find written elaboration on this but the Salesconx FAQ isn’t posted on the site yet. Beta, I know.]

Taken up a notch and viewed from 30,000 feet, Salesconx is a remarkable economics testbed. It provides a platform by which the most important intrinsic currency of commerce–personal connections–is assigned a transparent market price.

So why does this all seem so spectacularly stupid, wrongheaded and immoral?

For me, it’s because I can’t imagine being on either end of that transaction.

I like it when people I know match me up with talented people, point me to a good deal or recommend a product. And vice versa. Social media like LinkedIn, Yelp and Twitter have oiled that machinery. So have pleasant nights of drinking and chatting.

But no money has changed hands in those transactions. If someone in my personal network who knows I buy software silently recommended a vendor hit me up–and quietly pocketed $60 for his tip–I’d be disgusted. If LinkedIn had a Circle of Hell [not a bad idea, by the way] I’d send that contact there with one brisk click.

Now I’m no salesguy. And sales culture appears more tolerant of things I consider vulgar. I also realize that transparent “introductions” are different from stealth pointers toward unwitting sales prospects.

Who knows? Maybe Salesconx will help millions of people unlock the value in their rolodexes, and help billions of dollars change hands efficiently and legally. As a press release on Salesconx points out, a lot of money is spent trying to develop sales prospects. This could just be a faster way to do it.

Hey, maybe by 2011 “free” networking sites like LinkedIn will be seen as sweet throwbacks, relics of the days when people actually helped each other along without collecting anything in return.

As I said, I’ve been wrong about this kind of thing before.

Which brings me to the punchline: According to the press release, on Sept. 9 Salesconx is expected to announce series A funding.


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Obama Gets LinkedIn

19, June, 2008

When grazing my LinkedIn page today, I came across this “LinkedIn Answers Featured Question”:

This inventive use of social media by Obama was new to me. For those unfamiliar with this LinkedIn feature, members can ask and answer questions among themselves. As a neat social network currency feature, those deemed by the asker to provide the best answer win a little green medallion that follows them around LinkedIn.

Featured Questions are paid for, like ads. They’re used by various interests to collect a crowd and thereby (subtly, perhaps) transmit a message, form a link, etc.

When I started writing this entry, 31 answers had been posted. As I post, 44 are up there. They are mostly quite earnest and substantial.

p.s. As I hit “publish,” 48 answers are in. Wonder who will get “best answer”? I’ll bet it’s not John McCain.

p.p.s.: One day since my posting, 1,066 people have posted answers.

Adam Nash of LinkedIn: Gentleman, Internet Tactician

11, June, 2008

Yesteray, while liveblogging the often tedious Graphing Social Patterns East conference, I digressed into Snark mode while writing about the presentation by LinkedIn’s Adam Nash:

Data viz plans: New apps to (for example) show who’s moved where, understand relationships between people and companies, etc. [I’d love to see my LinkedIn network represented as a Venn diagram.]

Unbelievable quote: “I have a number of interns starting next week [!]” that will explore new kinds of visualizations. [Dude: If it’s a strategic priority, why are freaking interns getting the work? What, you can’t find people via LinkedIn who can do the job?]

I posted the above at 9:45 a.m.

At 6:28 p.m. Adam posted this as a comment on my blog:

Just thought I’d say hi here. Very tight synopsis, although I think those last four paragraphs are actually part of the Q&A rather than the presentation itself.

I’m don’t think I actually said that visualization was a strategic priority – right now, we are very much focused on utility and applications that deliver professional value. Visualizations are extremely interesting, but not one of the top application types that we’re focused on internally. The question was from the crowd, from a developer who focuses on visualization. It’s one of the areas that I am sure developers will be able to expand on with the platform.

Thanks for posting these notes (of this and other GSP talks).
Adam

Worth noting here is how Adam–in a way befitting the professionally oriented nature of his enterprise–responded so perfectly to my intemperate post. He started with a compliment and shifted into a clarification that reframed [and corrected] what I’d written. He ended with another compliment.

This is a near-perfect display of best practices when responding to a negative post: Remain calm and respectful, do nothing to escalate a the exchange, clarify the point, keep it short. He comes off looking good, representing himself and his company very well.

Had he responded to my snotty post in kind, he might have written [BUT HE DIDN’T WRITE THE FOLLOWING, JUST TO BE VERY CLEAR. I WROTE IT–CS]:

Dude: If you’d been listening to what I was saying instead of trying to show off your ‘tude, you’d have noticed I didn’t say data visualization is a “strategic priority” for LinkedIn. Frankly, the fact that we’ve put interns on the task shows we’re paying attention, which is more than I can say for you.

If you want people to actually read your blog, dude–which not many people seem to do anyway–you might want to get your facts straight. You could wind up getting your ass sued. Hey, maybe you can find a lawyer using LinkedIn!

p.s. The rest of your write-ups sucked too

Anyhow: Good job, Adam, and thanks for not feeding a flame war or making me look particularly bad on my own blog.

In fact, I think I’m going to go send you a LinkedIn invitation. If you don’t mind.

Dude.

GSP Liveblog: LinkedIn Presentation

10, June, 2008

Adam Nash, Sr. Director of Product for LinkedIn [My comments in brackets]

[Intro: A video that shows Toby of The Office, talking about social network abuse at Dunder Mifflin]

What sets LinkedIn apart? Unlike purely goof-with-friends networks, LI is a “purpose-driven Network.” [Which is to say: Business only. Duh.] Based on trust, developing a business profile. Users: Time-starved business folks who value their privacy.

Dataspit:

  • 8.6 million monthly page views: 361 pct growth in year. Now fourth highest social network in PVs
  • Demo: 41 years old, avg. income $100k-plus
  • New[ish] feature: Company posting employee directories on LinkedIn. 65 percent of them have fewer than 200 or fewer employees

LinkedInnies are “suceptive to messages” aimed at small business users. “You won’t find a page with 12 different ad spots.” Advertisers can do broad campaign, or aim at certain kinds of users, or custom segments. All that data in your profile? It’s used to match you with ads.

Members want productivity applications–things that will save them time or do things they can’t now do to reach people.

Open Social based applications to be launched. . . in Q3.

LinkedIn makes money four ways: Ads; classified job ads; premium subscription products for some users; enterprise deals for big companies. [Note to self: Am I paying for a premium subscription? If so, why?]

Data viz plans: New apps to (for example) show who’s moved where, understand relationships between people and companies, etc. [I’d love to see my LinkedIn network represented as a Venn diagram.]

Unbelievable quote: “I have a number of interns starting next week [!]” that will explore new kinds of visualizations. [Dude: If it’s a strategic priority, why are freaking interns getting the work? What, you can’t find people via LinkedIn who can do the job?]

iPhone plans: “It’s a little bit spoiling” that with LinkedIn mobile you can now walk into a meeting and find out about people five minutes beforehand. “We’ll pursue” mobile “very aggressively.”

FaceBlogLinkedWikiVibesGroups: Mommy, Make It Stop

15, November, 2007

New media salonista Amy Gahran recently wondered aloud in the “My Questions” module of her Facebook page whether she should create a Facebook group for readers of her popular blog, Contentious.

Jim Lackey–a Facebook friend of Amy’s, but not of mine [note to Jim: Since we’re both friends of  Jim Brady, he of washingtonpost.com fame, I  really ought to “friend” you soon]–responded to Amy’s query this way:

One potential drawback: If you start a new Facebook group and I join it, does that mean I’ll feel like I have one more group to check on? I’m already in too many groups that I never have time to visit!

To which I say: Testify, brother! You’ve asked the question of the moment.

I, like Jim–and Amy–and [I’m guessing here] you–are beginning to suffer social network circuit overload. It is the ’07 version of the ’06 RSS feed flameout, of the ’04 bookmarking debacle, and the ’02 e-mail catastrophe.

Take my social networks, please:

  • Joining blog reader communities was a kick at first–I regularly ventilated my opinions at about five. Then I launched by own blog, and needed to tend to that community.
  • Next came LinkedIn, with its invitations, closed-circuit e-mails, questions and “see who’s checked out your profile” gimcracks.
  • NetVibes isn’t so much of a community, but it sends me dozens of RSS feeds, some from blogs whose communities I still participate in.
  • Next up, Facebook, and all the good people I’ve gathered there, followed by the inevitable Facebook groups that spawn additional interactions with like-minded strangers.
  • Oh, and the wiki I’ve set up for about a dozen folks I’m collaborating with on a year-long project. Lots of discussion threads to follow there.
  • Oh, I forgot, the Technorati tags I track.

It’s getting to the point where I hardly have time for my full-time job, which of course is tending my e-mail inbox and writing my blog.

The point is that this is unsustainable, for me and all of us who have been sucked into the social network vortex. We have become servants of a networks of networks of our own making.

The only way to regain control at this point is to drop out, tune out and log out. Or, less apocalyptically, pick one or two communities that matter the most personally and professionally and [respectfully, regretfully as appropriate] step away from the rest.

So: Amy, please don’t set up that Facebook group. And Jim, please don’t be offended if I don’t friend you on Facebook. If you want to talk, just drop me an e-mail.