Saturday, February 23, 2013

One in a Million (or Two)

On "A Prairie Home Companion," Garrison Keller describes the community of Lake Wobegon as a place where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and the all the children are above average."  In truth, you don't have to go to Minnesota to experience those demographics.  Odds are that right in your own home you can find fit, beautiful and brilliant people of all ages, as long as you use your parents as the judge.

However beyond the subjective measure of mom thinking that you are the best, objective measures of superiority are harder to come by.  Whether you gauge it by money, influence or power, there is usually only one person that can be considered the top: one quarterback, one sorority president, one first-to-cross-the-finish-line.  In some cases, it's harder to delineate, and there's an old expression about "first among equals." But when you add it up, there is usually no doubt as to who really is on top.  After all, you can be an ace swindler, or you can be Bernie Madoff, and there's little doubt as to who wins that race.

Still, people love to think that are special. Even if it means nothing in practical terms, it does wonders for your ego to be recognized as the elite. And recognition of that love of recognition that has led to one of more effective marketing campaigns in a while, courtesy of the networking site LinkedIn.

If you haven't dealt with it, LinkedIn is a social media site aimed at business relationships that way the Facebook is aimed at personal relationships.  You put up your profile, including education, career goals and any salient facts related to your professional life, and invite others to link to you with their info of the same stripe.  It's become a quick way to do a cursory check of a person's professional background, albeit a self-generated one.  For many, myself included, almost any new professional acquaintance gets a quick spin through the LinkedIn lens, giving me at least a Dragnet overview of who they are: "The facts, ma'am, just the facts." You can debate whether it's really of any use in job-seeking or sales, but at the very least you get a person's basics, one that is mercifully free of pictures of kittens.

But back to the campaign.  Recently, some users of the service have been receiving laudatory notices.  In big print, they say "Congratulations! You have one of the top X% most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012," where X is 1, 5 or 10 percent. Click the big yellow button, and you're taken to a "personal" letter from a senior vice president applauding you on your standoutiveness. After all, being in the top 1%, or 5%, or even 10% is a pretty big deal in terms of income or grade point average.  Many savvy social web users quickly flashed the news out, with lots of posts and tweets reading, "SO honored to be named among LinkedIn's top viewed profiles.  Thanks to all you YOU for making it happen."  A mother should be proud.

Now, as the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity.  But as another saying goes, let's do the math.  LinkedIn notes that it is sending out these notices on the occasion of their community hitting 200 million members.  That means that for the 10 percenters, you rank right up there with 20 million others.  The 5 percenters?  That would be 10 million.  And the eltie of the elite, the 1 percenters?  Your profile is tops along with 2 million of your fellow LinkedIn-ers.  We're not talking Navy SEAL kind of selectivity here. More like if they were to call a convention of the top dogs, you could meet in Houston, so long as the entire population moved out and let you use their homes.

Still, it's nice to be recognized for anything.  As the proud recipient of one of these notices, I'm not sure I will print it out and frame it for my wall. But I will learn the secret handshake, and take the key to the special LinkedIn washroom.  I guess I better just be prepared to stand in line for a long time to wash my hands.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is on LinkedIn because he feels he should be. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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