« Structural Market Opportunities | Sacred Cow Dung Home | The Two Most Powerful Questions to Answer in Wealth Creation »

March 11, 2005

"Right Sizing" Your PANs, CANs, and FANs

As far as "who you should connect to" depends on what you do, not on how well you know the connections. The question to ask is: "Do I need to find people?" or "Do I need to be found?" This "quantity vs quality" issue has been a very active area of discussion among the "social networking gurus". I've weighed-in on this topic elsewhere as well and have written a short section on this in Scott Allen's new online social networking book: "The Virtual Handshake." ...

In my view, the real issue is the following:

An individual's social network (online or offline) is divided into three groups:

  • PANs = Potentially Active Network
  • CANs = Currently Active Network
  • FANs = Formerly Active Network


People tend to confuse these very different groups when they are thinking about online social networking. Linkedin and Spoke are very good at maintaining your "FANs" and also useful for growing your "PANs" but are actually USELESS (that's right, USELESS) at maintaining your CANs for several reasons ---

It's fine to maintain your FANs and your PANs with email-only but your CANs are maintained by multimedia communications in a very different and individualized mix: face-to-face, telephone, SMS, fax, and yes, perhaps a few emails. As you may know, Spoke actually measures relationship strength using the number of emails as a proxy for relationship strength (this is actually much better than the digital "yes/no" optin approach that Linkedin takes). Volume of email may be a reasonably reliable measure of relationship strength of PANs and FANs but are likely to be a poor measure of relationship strength of your CANs, since these relationships are maintained mostly in other media (for example my wife gets a very low rating since I rarely communicate with her via email).

Also your "CANs" remain relatively constant in size at about 200-300 for most active people (there just isn't enough time in the day to maintain much more than that) (Note: The upperlimit of your CAN is probably limited by brain physiology to the Dunbar Magic 150) however, CANs can be highly dynamic for individuals in certain professions or growing or changing businesses. People are constantly becoming new members of your CAN (either from your FAN or from your PAN) and inactive members of your CAN become members of your FAN until the next time they reenter your CAN. This is true in both the online and offline world.


My CAN is just like everyone else's (about 200 to 300 at any point in time), my FAN grows in normal course of working with different people and companies at different times in my career (currently about 50k), it's my PAN that I don't mind growing online (I never presume to know a priori whether or not I can be helpful to someone someday about something that comes up ie I don't feel I have any basis to judge the "quality" of a potential relationship a priori) ...


Linkedin its really all about network reach -- your effective network (your direct connects plus all those associated by degrees of separation) creates the total network reach which enables people to "find you" or you to "find them" in the linkedin search engine.

Currently I have about 5000 connections but my network reach has been the same since about 500. Hence deal flow has remained roughly the same "to me", but has increased "through me" for others. This means the value of an incremental connection shifts to those who connect to me .... particularly "newbies" can get "instant reach" across linkedin network just by connecting to me (however, this sucks for me since I effectively become their gatekeeper for all requests in and out bound if they don't get a few more connections )

Several of us who are "highly linked" on LinkedIn have noted equivalent "network reach" can be achieved by connecting to as few as twenty or so ... as long as these twenty connections have large network reach. ie if you connect to just twenty top-networked individuals (in your fields of interest ie your PANs), you will effectively reach 90+% of your PANs -- no need to grow your connections much more than that. The only thing that happens if you grow it more is that you collapse the degrees of separation -- not much of an issue if you are like me and just need to "be found" ... however, for those who send out requests (ie do the "finding") collapsing the degrees of separation does increase the probablility of a request getting through (ie less steps equals less total "lost factor") ....

As far as the "trusted part", how much trust do you really need to give someone to screen your email from "spam"? At the end of the day, the truly brilliant aspect of Linkedin is that it is really just a "giant human spam filter" since every message is fully accountable to someone ... if you get something you don't like, you have someone to yell at, and you can even drop them from you connections if they continue to allow junk through. Try doing that with the anonymity of true spammers! (the reality of this is I've seen very little of this on LinkedIn ... perhaps there are a bit too many Indian Outsourcers trying to drum up BPO business but then I tend not to forward those at this point anyway)

In summary, I believe Linkedin has become successful, inspite of, not because of, Linkedin's expressed belief in "Trusted Connections". If one does exactly what they want you to do: ie "make ones CAN = to ones Linkedin connections", Linkedin is basically rendered useless as a way to find or be found. Luckily, experienced users are discovering this on their own

Christian Mayaud | Managing Director The Verticom Group cmayaud@theverticomgroup.com

BTW, Here is the List of the Top LinkedIn SuperConnectors or SuperNodes

Related Posts

Posted by cmayaud at 01:24 PM | Permalink| Comments (1)
Del.icio.us Tagging | Digg This | Posted to Online Business Networking


Good analysis.
I am spending almost no time on LinkedIn these days, have moved all my electronic networking effort onto openBC. LinkedIn may have a better general level of quality in the network - I'm not sure. openBc is easier to use, more data-rich, and the photo makes a positive difference. The forums add some interest, and the search function - matching the "wants" of others to my "haves" - creates instantly more accurate emails. Rather than just asking if a person is interested in X, you can look directly at their profile and find out. Saves a lot of time.

Another big plus is the regional groupings. Zurich has an active lunch and evening schedule. I will be talking to someone today regarding setting up the same in Zug.

My guess is that openBC is outgrowing LinkedIn already. If LinkedIn wants to survive they should add some functionality, photos, and generally review the business model of their competition.

Cheers, Jon

Posted by: Jon Ebersole at June 20, 2005 01:00 AM

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?