Asymmetrical Networking

Or “Why LinkedIn Works and Twitter Doesn’t”…

We’re having a great Friday in the rain here, and I hope you’re warm, dry, and comfortable – it looks like seasons are changing.

The concept open for discussion today is the symmetry of networking, and why it doesn’t quite work when that symmetry is lacking.

Symmetrical / Asymmetrical

First a definition – something is symmetrical (or has symmetry) when one side looks like the other.

The human body is mostly symmetrical from the left to right side in that we get two legs, arms, ears, and eyes, but isn’t quite perfectly symmetrical in that the heart is on one side. (And yes, there are other differences, but we’re not going to talk about them now – but you get the idea)

A funnel is symmetrical in one direction, but not the other.

Image of a funnel

This is handy to use when pouring one liquid into another container…

LinkedIn operates symmetrically

As designed, LinkedIn is a symmetrical network. If you and I connect, we both see each other, and by default each other’s connections. If you want to reach out to me, you can, and I can reach out to you.

If I connect to 426 people today (and I do), 426 people connect to me.

When I broadcast an update, it goes to 426 people, and when 426 people broadcast an update, I get it.

Except for those that ignore, disable, or turn down

Now – as previously discussed on the this site, some people try to use LinkedIn as an address book and connect to as many others as possible. I call them “indiscriminate connectors”.

Let’s suppose an indiscriminate connector has been successful – and connects to 8500 people – 20 times more than I connect to.

When they broadcast an update it reaches 20 times more people than mine.

And of course, they will receive 20 times more updates from their network…

Now if you’re a mere “normal” LinkedIn user, you may have already groused about the high number of instances when LinkedIn will send you some sort of notification. Can you imagine getting 20 times as many?

The response is to let all or most of those drop to the floor.

Oh sure, some get through, but it seems not so very likely to me…

Twitter operates asymmetrically by design

And this is the rub.

Follow whomever you choose.

And based on who you are, and what you tweet, you will have some number of followers yourself.

But don’t ever count on tweets actually getting read.

Take someone who follows more than 1,000 people – could they really have that much time to read each and every tweet?

That’s why “groups” were created – you know – the group of people whose tweets you actually read…

And it continues to degenerate as more and more people join in.

The ratio of “good stuff” to “crap” is not very good and getting worse all the time. (And if you ever hear “signal to noise ratio”, that’s what it’s talking about)

Different objective

So here’s the thing to consider.

LinkedIn is a tool that helps you manage direct connections to people you know and trust. (and that’s hopefully a large, but finite number). The implication is that you’re there for each other.

Broadcast tools like twitter exist to push a stream of words out into the world. If you’ve been noticed, picked, or fortunate enough to have a pre-existing following, it’s a great tool to get the word out. (But this particular stream of words may or many not be interesting to others…)

It’s not the same as LinkedIn – and never will be.

To your continued success,


Steven Tylock