Social Proximity: are LinkedIn's days numbered?

A new service named Reachable has the potential to dislodge LinkedIn as the premier social media network for business professionals.
Written by Gery Menegaz, Contributor on

The Small-World experiment was comprised of several experiments on what we today would call Social Proximity. The research for this experiment (conducted by Stanley Milgram and other researchers in 1967) examined the path-length of real life social networks long before the rise of what we today refer to as Social Networking.

Milgram's research suggested that human society is a small-world-type network characterized by short path-lengths, a theory that was truly ground-breaking for its time.

Most of us have heard the phrase "six degrees of separation" which is used to imply that we are all just six short steps from any other person.

This is exemplified in the trivia game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which is a play on the term. The game is based on the concept of the small world phenomenon and rests on the assumption that any individual involved in the Hollywood, California film industry can be linked through his or her film roles to actor Kevin Bacon within six steps.

The small world concept also applies to social media with sites such as LinkedIn.

As you build your network on LinkedIn you are linked to professionals you know, as well as to the professional contacts of your contacts. For example, I am linked directly to 285 people in technology, which links me, or allows me to reach over 3,744,308 other professionals, given an introduction by a business contact.

But I am limited to only the people that are on LinkedIn.

A better approach would be to have a larger set of individuals to chose from. What if you could link all of your social media sites and contacts? The potential number of introductions would grow exponentially. That is the concept behind Reachable.com.

The name of the company was recently changed from 7 Degrees, a play on the small world concept, to Reachable.

According to their site, “Reachable is the developer of a social business solution that enables professionals and organizations to leverage their collective relationships and extend their professional networks to reach more people and close more business faster. Reachable helps sales reps close more deals, recruiters find more talent, and professionals establish new business relationships.”

Their mission is to, "...help professionals leverage all their contacts, both on-line and off-line, to extend their professional networks so they can reach more people, build stronger relationships, and conduct business faster and more effectively," said Al Campa, CEO of Reachable.  "We feel that the name Reachable is more consistent with that vision, and the value that we provide our customers."  

He stresses that, “the transition is one of moving from a personal experience to a business function, where online will follow offline behavior. The focus continuing to be on relationships.”

How is Reachable different than LinkedIn?

First, Reachable is multi-network, drawing information from many different resources. Reachable has a database of more than 60 million contacts seeded from purchased data bases, public data, company data, as well as personal information mined from Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and others.

With LinkedIn, as noted before, you are only connected to the people who are on LinkedIn. So, for example, where you would typically not find a CEOs on LinlkedIn, you would find it on Reachable.

Second, Reachable is focused on the enterprise rather than on personal contacts, which would make this more desirable for sales and marketing people, as well as recruiters. Especially with the hooks that Reachable has to email and CRM.

Social proximity, arguably is more desirable than geographic proximity. Consider your recommending a friend for an internal IT position, or recommending a product as a solution for a specific organizational problem. In either of those scenarios, the internal recommendation would trump (ideally) any vendor.

In this way social proximity has the potential to dislodge the current approach to selling technology products, marketing, or recruiting technologists. Instead of aligning representatives by geography, social proximity would have organizations align their representatives organizations to which they have the most connections (i.e., the one with the closest social proximity to an account).

The real power in this model is the behavioral change which, Al Campa feels, is starting to sink in. He sees it a a move from Social Proximity versus Geographic Proximity. Social proximity could be employed to determine which markets to enter into, and which to stay away from.

With 10,00 registered users telling him that it is a “great” idea, and “so obvious”, he is getting some solid results. And, I have to admit, I am also a fan of this new service.

At the end of the day it's not what you know, but who you know. And, now, who you can reach.

Have you gotten a job through a personal contact? Let me know.   

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