Friday, 26 April 2013

Linkedin, OpenNetworker & Referral Key - a Puzzling Triumvirate

In the past few months I've had a whole spate of emails from different people offering to refer new clients to me.  Now, in my online business I work only for myself, and the only clients I take on are clients for counselling.  So I dismissed the emails as spam because not only did I not know any of the senders but many of them seemed to live in other countries. 

But at the beginning of this month the subject line of these emails changed from "Are You Taking On New Clients?" to the name of a counselling agency I worked for until March this year.  I found this a bit worrying until I worked out that the senders must have got this information from my profile on Linkedin (I must remember to change it, since I no longer work for that agency!).

The earlier emails, I assume, also came from Linkedin - or possibly from OpenNetworker - contacts.  OpenNetworker claims to "help you build larger, more diverse and more valuable networks on the world's top social networking sites."  I joined it about a year ago and suspect that many of the people who send me invitations to connect on Linkedin find my details on ON.  It has resulted in my having a large number of contacts on Linkedin which was useful when I wanted to publicize the special promotion of my book "Say Goodbye to Sleepless Nights".  But whether people who are networking to find new business contacts find it of value, I don't know.

Having worked out how these people were getting my email address, I paid a little more attention to the message.  It seems to change about once every month or six weeks.  It always starts "Hi Ruth, If you're taking on new clients," ends with an invitation to click the link below and, between the two, the sender tells me that he or she would "like to send business your way" or would "like to include you in my private referral network".

I decided I'd take a chance (I have good antivirus and antimalware programs installed) and click the link because I was really curious to find out what this was about.  It led me to the website of something called "Referral Key".  The home page is pretty uninformative, saying only "Build valuable partnerships through live networking".  Remembering all the people from other countries who had sent me 'new client' emails, I wonder quite how valuable any partnership forged through this site would be.  But one can find out no more without signing up and, even though it's free, I didn't really want to do this.  So I Googled 'Referral Key' and found an excellent article by Claire Diaz-Ortiz.  Her description of what happened when she signed up to Referral Key is highly entertaining but leaves me (and her) still wondering what the site is all about.

I wonder whether we have all been told so many times that "the money is in the list" that we are blindly reaching out to people we don't know and with whom we have nothing in common in the hope that we will find customers, and whether these various sites are just feeding off that.

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