The phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words” is one that I’ve heard and used thousands of times, mostly to convince clients that the right image, or diagram can convey pages worth of text content. We can learn a lot from an image: messaging, intent, emotion, value, connection, etc. It’s easy to tell what we can learn from a diagram, they are merely illustrations to convey a specific idea or process. Recently LinkedIn launched a beta feature called InMaps. InMaps are essentially a visualization of your LinkedIn network. I posted a screenshot on the SoMe Friends group I started on Facebook and got a mixed reaction. Mostly folks thought it was interesting but ultimately useless. Oh, but how I disagree!
Everyone’s InMap is unique as it represents their network. Each node represents a person, each line a connection. As you click on each user you can see how they are connected to other people in your network. The larger their circle, the more these folks are connected to others you know, and others you don’t. Their color defines which group they belong to. You also get a side pop-up showing more details about that user including a mini-profile and a few shared connections. I’d love to be able to click on these shared connections to locate them on the map but unfortunately clicking on them only launches their full profile.
Clicking on a node in you InMap while highlight that connection. It draws lines from that connection to other shared connections. You also get a pop-up in the right of the map that gives you a brief bio that includes their current position and employer, a brief list of previous employers, a snip-it of their education and a link to their full profile. You also see a list of a sampling of shared connections with their associated group colors.
Different groups of users are assigned unique colors. You can label these to better understand where each portion of your network lies. In this image I’ve clicked on friend and former colleague Amy Greenlaw. She and I met as the first hires at a small Boston ad agency. You can actually see most of the team we built if you follow the pink lines including my friend Steve. More on him later. As you can see, Amy also has orange lines because she is one of my close social media friends (we spend a lot of time drinking together at social media networking events and SXSW), and orange lines because she is part of my list of connections that I consider Social Media Heavy Hitters including Chris Brogan, Scott Monty, and C.C. Chapman.
As you zoom in on specific contacts you can see some size differences in your connections. This indicates a couple things:
- How connected they are to the rest of your network
- How many connections they have in general
How does this help you? It’s a great way to visualize who your most valuable connections are. In this case you can see that Chris Brogan’s circle is almost as large as Amy’s. Now, I am connected to many of the same people as Amy, but Chris is connected to a lot of folks I’m not connected to. He becomes a valuable gateway to people I may want to connect with.
Knowing how your connections are related is very helpful. In my case, I have a large group of contact that aren’t very well connected within my network. In this case my boss, Dave Dupre, has many connections to my colleagues at Boston Technologies but only 4 connections outside this group to my network, one of whom is his wife. This may be a great opportunity to introduce Dave to other members of my network or request that introduce me to members of his network. Looking at my InMap I can also see I have some holes that should be filled. Luckily I can see a few people in these holes that may have other connections I can leverage beef up my connections in these areas. One thing that the visualizer doesn’t offer is the ability to edit contacts and their group relationship. My friend Steve worked with me at 2 agencies and is now at Monster. He’s also a good friend of mine a a pretty close neighbor. I know all of this because he is a friend. For contacts I don’t know as well it would be supremely helpful to be able to reorganize them by geographic location, or where they work now, or where I know them from.
The only negatives I feel about this visualization are that you can’t change colors of certain contacts or groups of contacts to further organize them. You can see that there are a lot of dark blue connections marked Miscellaneous. This is a massive group I’d like to break into my connections in PR, in startups, those I know through LinkedIn Groups (how great would it be to organize those connections according to Group?), or through specific companies. I can see this visualizer adding a lot more value as I can get really microscopic in managing it.
- More Colors
- Ability to change a contact’s color
- Overlays to show better relationship status such as Companies, Groups, Location
- Ability to click on color code to isolate groups
I doubt we’ll see too many improvements as this is merely just an experiment the good people at LinkedIn have allowed their staff to create as part of their LinkedIn Labs initiative. Hopefully they’ll keep it around for awhile though, I hate it when companies add a beta feature then yank it. It’s like seeing cool concept cars that will never make it to production. LinkedIn has a few other interesting experiments and beta functions I’ve been playing with like Company Products & Services, LinkedIN Swarm, and Resume builder that I’ll try to review in the coming week or so.
I’m sure the smart folks at LinkedIn can explain InMaps better than I can: