LinkedIn makes the world smaller. Are you connected to Russian spies?

Originally posted on Oct. 22, 2010 on the Olson Communications company blog. Republished with permission. See original post here, and follow Olson Communication on Twitter: @olson_comm

Every Facebook user gets a kick out of the “mutual friends” feature – it’s pretty cool  to see that one of your college buddies knows someone from work. The professional networking site LinkedIn takes this a step further: degrees of separation! LinkedIn actually tells you if you know someone who knows someone who knows someone.

The professional use of this feature is obvious — it’s almost always helpful to know what contacts you have in common with business associates. Besides, “they say” the Phoenix-area business community has a big-city-small-town feel to it.

But aside from the business application, LinkedIn often shrinks our world to the size of a playground.

For instance:  This summer, in a truly patriotic fashion, the FBI busted a Russian spy ring*. Those spies lived normal lives and were, at least on the surface, legitimate businesspeople living in the U.S. So naturally, I stalked them on LinkedIn. Turns out we’re connected!

I’m three degrees of separation away from Anna Chapman, the so-called “Russian Femme Fatale.” I know two people who know people who allegedly know Chapman, LinkedIn tells me. Check out her profile and see if you have anyone in common. You can try this for another Russian spy as well.

Fun stuff, huh? Next time you see someone interesting in the news, see if you know anyone in common. Unfortunately, Barack Obama has not accepted my invitation to connect on LinkedIn**. But, LinkedIn says I do know 187 people who know people who allegedly know Barack Obama.

If you’re not on LinkedIn, we highly recommend getting on board. Not only is it free and often very useful, it has a habit of quickly becoming the first result on a Google search for your name. It’s free search engine optimization for your resume and your business!

*According to everything I’ve read, the spies were embarassingly unsuccessful at finding out anything of value, and the feds deserve props for building a bulletproof case against them. Go America!

**One of the few times I’ve ever asked to connect with someone I don’t know.

Editor’s note: Matt Culbertson is an intern at Olson Communications. Follow him on Twitter: @mattculbertson

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