May 1, 2013

Has LinkedIn jumped the shark?

It wasn't so long ago that LinkedIn was an important part of my day. I actively engaged on it, cultivating connections, participating in Groups and answering questions in the Answers section. I even manage a group in the site for the RFP Database called The RFP Database B2B Forum which now has over 12,500 members in it.

I was a power user, and I used it to engage in conversations as an active part of my sales and marketing strategy.

But not so much anymore. I believe that LinkedIn has jumped the shark.

For me, two things are at play:

1) spammers have overrun everything
and
2) most of the "new features" that LinkedIn has been adding have fed into the worst aspects of LinkedIn

How did LinkedIn have Value

LinkedIn's value started with the profile you created for yourself, but then even more importantly, the Experience (your resume) and Recommendations (reviews from other professionals) sections. It was basically your resume and references up on the web. When meeting someone new (for example at a business conference) it wasn't unheard of to look that person up later to learn more about their history.

Your contacts were imagined as people you had interacted with, in a personal or professional setting, so in the beginning you knew that a 2nd or 3rd degree contact was not too far removed from a person that actually knew you both. You could keep your Rolodex, while also being introduced to sales prospects through a shared contact.

Answers and Group discussions were places where you could really shine if you put in the time. By engaging in conversations, asking and answering questions, and in general by participating, you met new contacts while also building up your "authority" on a subject through "good" and "best" answers. You could even land a new client/customer or two through this soft-sell technique.

And when I emailed all of the people that were in my contacts I expect their contact emails to be 99-100% valid (recently tested and had 20% failure).

And now?

Now all I see is spam.

People with 100k+ contacts, "LIONs" (LinkedIn Open Networker) that are nothing more than hoarders of contacts that have 0 meaning to them. LinkedIn closed down the "Answers" section entirely.

Groups have become overrun with spammers, people who "link dump" their most recent blog post, get rich quick scheme, job posting or event, not to engage in conversation, but to get search engine karma and click-throughs to their content. The "Discussion" and "Promotions" tabs in Groups should just be one and the same as very little actual discussion occurs in most groups unless the moderators of those groups have decided to take a stand. And most of the time the shares aren't even in groups that would care... why drop a link to a Microsoft Programmers Conference in my RFP group that discusses procurement and purchasing?

And my new favorite, the one that really made me laugh, is the new "Skills & Expertise" endorsement functionality. Every day I get notices about how so and so has endorsed me for a whole bunch more skills. Now I'll admit, I have lots of contacts that I don't know well, or even barely at all. They've connected with me because of the +The RFP Database and the group. So if anything they would only know me as a RFP and procurement expert, or perhaps a discussion facilitator. How can they be endorsing me for all of my other skills? More likely is they're just another type of "social SEO".

(I'll skip my thoughts on LinkedIn's mention feature)

Can LinkedIn get its groove back?

I think it can if it gets back to its roots. It needs to move way from being a social media platform and content dumping compost heap and get back to being a verifiable professional networking platform. Real people, real profiles, real discussion, real endorsements. It needs to become serious and legitimate again. It needs to button up its shirt, put on a tie, and get serious.

User-supplied information needs to be verified, quantified and ranked for value.

If someone is posting lots of duplicate content and links with 0 discussion, that needs to be discouraged by the system.

Network size should have an almost inverse effect on ranking where "performance" matters more than size.

What do you think?

Has LinkedIn jumped the shark? Has it fallen out of your favor? Or are you still in there and going strong?

For those that don't know about jumping the shark...




Update: 2013.05.14


My new theory on the +LinkedIn "endorsement" system:

It's an ingenious way to spam existing members into coming back to the LinkedIn site more often, under the guise of boosting your profile and goodwill, without coming across as spam

The endorsement email says who endorsed you and what they endorsed you for, and there is a big yellow button that says "continue". Clicking "continue" brings you to your profile, but with a big blue site that says "Pay it forward..." then has 4 profiles to endorse. The next yellow button? "Endorse all 4". And the way it is set up is that it's actually annoying to endorse one at a time. They want you to endorse those 4 people and move on to the next 4 people, and every time you endorse someone, they get a notification email.

What you're really doing is not endorsing someone so much as spamming them on behalf of LinkedIn.