Everyone knows that networking is one of the keys to business success these days. My belief is that it’s always been a key to business success. It’s just that what we now call networking wasn’t always called that.

It was called knowing the person who could help you, or knowing someone who knew or could find the person you needed to connect with. And that went with belonging to sporting clubs, or churches or synagogues, or political parties or trade unions or professional organisations, university alumni or other groups.

The world has changed and people have developed theories and systems to help us manage more effectively the business of networking. There are books, seminars and organisations – all just to help with networking.

The Internet has provided a platform and catalyst for exponential growth of business and professional networks.

And one of the great online networking success stories of the past few years is LinkedIn. With over 11 million members now, LinkedIn is the leading professional online networking facilitator – No 1 in the field as far as I’m concerned, with its extraordinary combination of high quality connections, sheer numbers, geographical and industry reach and built-in controls and systems to maintain the quality of connections.

Just the other week, as part of a workshop on Web 2.0 I presented at AMP Limited’s Innovation and Thought Leadership Festival, I showed some statistics from my current network on LinkedIn. It showed, as in the images below, how with what some of my LinkedIn colleagues would see as a very modest number of people in my “first circle” of LinkedIn connections, just under 300, I have the capacity to reach, fairly quickly, any of some 3.3 million plus people, in various countries and in a range of professions and business pursuits. Awesome!

And as the text in one of the images below shows, I can actually contact all 11 million plus, if I want to. I think I’ll just focus on the 3.3 million right now .

My fellow b5media blogger and LinkedIn expert Scott Allen, on his Linked Intelligence blog (a must-read for anyone wanting to understand LinkedIn and how to use it) has a very informative post with some great hints and tips from Bill Vick, with whom I collaborated on LinkedIn for Recruiting and the Big Biller Audiobook.

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