When we think of Social Media there are several Social Media Channels and Platforms that come to mind including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn to name some of the most popular.

Each Channel has a different type of user and participant and those demographics are evolving.

Facebook for example, was started as a college networking community and has grown into a network filled with all ages and from nearly every country around the globe.

LinkedIn began as a “Professional Business Networking” community but in the past couple of years has bubbled over into the non-professional world.

The simple concept behind LinkedIn was a referral network, common to the old boys’ networking principle of getting introduced to people that your friends know via that mutual friend.

And in order to maintain that type of protected network, you had to know someone’s email address when you reached out to connect or LinkedIn wouldn’t let you connect unless you were referred by a common connection.

LinkedIn also became a place to create an electronic resume and even get recommendations from those whom you have had a professional relationship with.

Over the years that I have worked in the advertising and marketing business, I accumulated a lot of email addresses from contacts.

This private email list grew to over 1000 including friends and family, business folks, and also a third category, the “Unknowns”.

Unknowns, are those whom I have never met but somehow I had their email.

How did I get their email?

Best practices in email says to use the “Blind Carbon Copy” (BCC) feature when sending an email to a group of people that may not want their email addresses made public.

Yet not everyone follows this best practice and at least once or twice a year, I get an email that was also sent to dozens of others.  Sometimes I would “Reply to all” with a thank you note to the sender of the email.  By doing this, all of these emails become my email contacts and are added to my email address book.

Let’s take a moment and think about the consequences of this.

If I were a spammer looking to harvest email addresses this is one way to do it.  True Spammers have more sophisticated software programs however.

In my case, I wanted to grow my list of connections for legitimate business purposes.  I left one company after 8 years and wanted to inform every one of my new position and how to reach me.

LinkedIn now has a feature that will help you connect with people that you know if you have their email address.  This is a semi-automated feature, where you give them temporary access to your email address and password; they pull out your list of email contacts and compare them to their LinkedIn database.

Your email contacts are then divided into 2 classifications, those who already have LinkedIn accounts, and those who are not yet on LinkedIn based on the email address you have for that person.

LinkedIn will ask you if you want to connect to those already on LinkedIn and you can pick and choose who you invite, or invite all.  I decided to invite all.

In the second step, LinkedIn asks if you want to invite the rest of your email contacts to join LinkedIn and again you can select individuals or invite all.

Again, I decided to invite all.

A few years ago when I did this and people were less familiar with LinkedIn, the response from those who did not already know me was minimal.  This time it was significantly different.

This time my number of LinkedIn Connections grew from around 600 to nearly 1000.  Out of all of the invitations LinkedIn sent, only one person asked “How do I know you?” which was a common question that people would ask a few years ago.

What has changed?  Are we more willing to connect with people that we don’t know?  Or perhaps we have connected with some of these new LinkedIn connections via the other Social Media Channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

For whatever reason, the ability to make this world a bit smaller by connecting with people who are open to being connected on LinkedIn will only lead to fostering greater relationships both business and personal if you are willing to reach out and connect.