LinkedIn often comes up in social media conversations as the network who pretty much can't do wrong. It's the Marcia Brady of social media – she does everything right.
LinkedIn counts over 200 million members in its network. Not bad for one that's only supposed to be for business. Did I mention it's stock price? Up, up, and away! Since it's IPO, the stock is up 90%.
Then I came across "LinkedIn is a Virus" from Matt Haughey recently. Aside from the eye-catching title, Haughey made a good point about how LinkedIn works – or doesn't.
With three clicks, I (accidentally) asked 1138 people to connect on LinkedIn using their import feature. Goddammit, I hate you LinkedIn.
— Matt Haughey (@mathowie) March 6, 2013
"It's unfortunate that LinkedIn works the way it does and that this happened, most people that responded to me with messages thought I was making a concerted gesture and trying to reconnect, and/or about to look for a job. I think of business contacts as a pretty serious thing, I don't hand out business cards readily unless I really want to be called up by someone, and yet, LinkedIn just pushed out connections to over a thousand people on my behalf without me knowing what it was really doing."
So, I decided to take a closer look at LinkedIn and here are some of the items I found where there could be some definite improvement.
In September of 2012, LinkedIn introduced Endorsements as a way to "give kudos with just one click." I don't think that anyone can disagree that Endorsements have been front and center, especially with the "one click" ability. In many trainings I've given on LinkedIn since the introduction of Endorsements, I've likened them to a "skill-specific recommendation."
Recommendations require some effort to complete, so most people only write Recommendations when they have something to say. Endorsements, on the other hand, only require a single click (by design). I call this "Eliminating the need to think." In this case, LinkedIn dramatically devalued Endorsements when they eliminated the need to think.
When does the chase for the most connections become the chase for the most endorsements? Or has it already started?
Currently, LinkedIn splashes "Does (Blank) have these skills or expertise?" when you visit a person's profile. Where does it ask me do I want to endorse that person? It doesn't. Asking if someone has skills is completely different than asking if I would personally endorse that individual. Instead, LinkedIn should ask the question "Would you endorse (Blank) on these skills or expertise?"
LinkedIn would still accomplish their goal of "one-click kudos" AND increase the value of Endorsements by simply changing the wording of that splash graphic.
2. "You Scratch My Back…" Privacy Mentality
In almost every training I've given on LinkedIn, someone has asked a variation of the following question:
Yes. Unless you change your privacy settings.
Now, let's give LinkedIn some credit on privacy settings. Want to change them? Go to Settings and Privacy is right there. Much easier to handle than Facebook or any other social network (save for Twitter, which is Public or Private).
But what happens when you change your privacy settings?
Say you don't want people to see that you've looked at their profile? Simple enough. Check the box. Oh wait, by checking that box you don't get to see who looks at your profile anymore. LinkedIn basically says that the only way to see who is looking at your profile is to allow them to see the same thing.
Why does Privacy have to be a two-way street?
Instead, if you want your information to be private, it should be private. However, someone else should not be penalized for you wanting to keep your information private.
3. Narcisistic and Spam-filled LinkedIn Groups
It's a common belief that LinkedIn Groups suck.
Did I say that? Yes, I did. They suck for a couple of different reasons, but also for two different groups of people, the participants and the managers.
First, group participants.
You've joined the latest "HR Professionals of Financial Basket-Weavers" Group thinking you're going to have conversations that lead to a new level of HR nirvana, right? Instead what you get is random job postings, links to self-promotional spammy sites, and no conversation whatsoever.
The group emails suck, too. As a participant, you want to stay up-to-date on the group. I mean, you joined to be a part of the conversation and the emails help you be notified of new conversations? Right? What you end up with is an inbox full of emails that you never read, so then you end up ignoring all the emails you get from LinkedIn.
Solution Number 1 is to join locked or private groups. They tend to have at least some semblance of control over the group, including the ability to kick out members who don't follow group rules.
Solution Number 2 is to find a group that encourages conversation and helping the other members. Once you start down that path, you might actually start to enjoy LinkedIn Groups!
The second group of people that LinkedIn Groups suck for is the owners and moderators of those Groups. It's practically a full-time job to moderate posts, comments, and make sure participants are following group rules. While I have yet to start or moderate a group on my own, I've heard nothing but horror stories of managing a LinkedIn Group. And while there's not really any solution for the time-suck of managing a Group, it's still a valuable place to gather like-minded individuals — which is an important aspect of digital marketing.
4. LinkedIn Premium
That privacy thing I mentioned earlier? Goes out the window if you pay for the Premium features of LinkedIn.
Even signing up for the lowest priced Premium plan, you can see who has viewed your profile, and also the full profiles of everyone in your network. At the highest level, privacy goes completely non-existant and you get the ability to see full names of anyone who you would want to contact.
Again, selling privacy but only in a different way is how LinkedIn sells the other part of their Premium plans.
If you sign up for the premium plans, you get InMail Messages. Also known as "Ability to ignore other people's privacy settings."
Now, I do have to admit, there are some useful features of the LinkedIn Premium plans, and that does include InMail Messages. On the sales side of the equation, they do help warm up a cold contact more than just a cold call or regular email. And the OpenLink feature allows other people to message you for free – something they would have to pay for otherwise.
5. Black Hat Web Design
The article that got this whole thing going was about how easy LinkedIn made it to "Connect" with 1100+ individuals. The day after I read that article, my boss mentioned the exact same behavior and how he almost connected with his whole address book. Just like the Endorsements, LinkedIn makes it very easy (or I could say, encourages) to connect and engage with others on the network — to a point, of course. LinkedIn gets you on the network through much the same manner those "Classmates.com" website work as well.
What human being doesn't like knowing that someone wants to connect with them? LinkedIn thrives on that emotion and designs the website to encourage the addictive behavior. And once they get you, well, they can only offer you so much for free.
Does LinkedIn do anything right?
Actually, yes! From providing a space extremely conducive to business to being the Rolodex of the 21st Century, LinkedIn is successful for doing its main job very well. I've nitpicked on a few things above, but that doesn't not mean that LinkedIn isn't right for you. It's the place for professionals to connect, especially for the B2B community. But that's for another post.
Do you agree with these shortfalls of LinkedIn? What have you wished was better about LinkedIn?