I signed in to LinkedIn today. I do that every couple of weeks, usually to slog through the connection requests. But as I was looking at the site, I had to question whether or not the company has simply lost its way. These days it seems that LinkedIn is far less about creating a network that you can rely on and much more about “hey, look at me!”
Taking a Left at Albuquerque
Back when I was still a tech blogger, I wrote about there being little value in LinkedIn. Interestingly, this was in 2010. Four years later, the problems that I called out then are either still alive or they’ve gotten worse. LinkedIn appears to have moved away from its core value statement:
LinkedIn is a professional networking site that allows members to create business connections, search for jobs, and find potential clients.
But it’s really easy to sit back and throw daggers at a stationary target. That hardly seems fair. So let’s take a look at some specific examples instead.
The New Klout?
Klout’s genesis came from finding people, seeing what they talked about and then marking them as a trusted source for certain topics by increasing their Klout score. But then Klout decided to change and add in features such as suggested content and allowing users to designate their own topics. By adding in these features, the idea of a trusted source lost a lot of its meaning.
LinkedIn has recently taken a similar turn in order to boost activity on the site. By introducing a “how you rank” score, it appears that LinkedIn is challenging its users to engage in activities that will boost their ranking among their network.
Let me say this again: LinkedIn wants you to be super concerned that you’re not sharing enough content on LinkedIn.
Maybe I’ve been mistaken all along, but I was under the impression that my LinkedIn profile should be a snapshot of my professional accomplishments and not a picture of how much time that I waste on LinkedIn.
The fact of the matter is that LinkedIn cares about different metrics than you do. The site needs page views, and time spent clicking around. It needs these things because it needs to prove to advertisers that it’s a good idea to spend money on the site. Why? Because less than 1/2 of 1 percent of LinkedIn’s users find it valuable enough to pay for a premium account.
Or the Old Facebook?
While Facebook’s changes to its display algorithm have raised some eyebrows, at least there has been some work on the site’s part to make the flood of information easier to consume. LinkedIn appears to be taking the exact opposite step, displaying every trivial piece of information that anyone cares to post to the site.
Looking through my LinkedIn home page, I’m told that one person now claims to be good with Google AdWords, another person likes a random quote pasted onto a pretty background and yet another is connected to a person that I don’t know and don’t really have a professional reason to know.
How is any of this valuable? The short answer is that it’s not. It’s just spam. It’s some stranger on the street coming up and telling you about their summer vacation plans. There doesn’t seem to be any intelligence to what is displayed, or if there is intelligence it’s certainly not working.
So What’s Left?
It doesn’t seem to be valuable for making real, professional connections. It doesn’t seem to be as good as other sites as sharing social junk. So then what is LinkedIn actually doing? That seems to be the question that nobody (including LinkedIn) can answer.
The company appears to be hopelessly lost down the page view rabbit hole, with no end in sight. It boasts that 40 percent of its active users log in every day, but that pales in comparison to Twitter’s 76 percent or even MySpace (yes, really) which collects 46 percent every day.
In fact, from my own experiences, it seems that the only people who really find value in LinkedIn are the ones with LinkedIn in their job title. Facing facts, LinkedIn has become yet another content aggregator. It exists solely for its own sake, using you as their tour guide. Oh and ideally they’d like it very much if you’d pay for that privilege.
Getting Back on Course
With so much appearing to have gone wrong, it would be easy to think that LinkedIn is a lost cause. But I think that’s actually far from the case. As a recruiting and job search tool, the potential is huge. The difficulty comes in cutting through all of the clutter to find the things that you really want to see.
LinkedIn’s search is one area in which the company excels. Flashing back to my blogging days again, I had a premium account given to me after completing a “LinkedIn for Journalists” training program. The depth of information that I could find was magnificent, but it’s an incredible shame that it took a training course in order to find out how to make the site work for me.
LinkedIn should revert to simplicity. Make it about your connections again. Not for the sake of appearing higher in some BS ranking algorithm, but for the sake of making your professional life better. There’s value in those connections. But pay attention to what I’m saying here – The connections. The contacts. The people. That’s where the value lies. Anything else is just a noisy GPS with bad mapping skills.
GPS Image: Dave Fulmer via Flickr