Is LinkedIn even a valuable site for your career?

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Are there LinkedIn benefits? Sure. Do people make connections on there, convert them, close deals? Of course. This is the much-balleyhooed “social selling.” Does this happen as much as thought leaders want us to believe it happens? No. There are some people and companies who “get” all this stuff, of course. But by and large, a lot of companies are using 1991 funnel models, metric evaluations, and sales processes. Change is hard for people at the individual level. A company is often 1,000+ individuals. Try changing at that level. It terrifies most of us. We often bury our heads in the sand and ignore what’s happening, or listen to some consultant advice. You could probably gag a farm of horses with people claiming to be LinkedIn experts or extol all the LinkedIn benefits for you. Half those people probably lead their slide decks with “Have a professional-looking profile picture.” That passes as advice, somehow? People didn’t know that? OK, then!

As some of you may know or have seen, LinkedIn just got a redesign. There’s already a bunch of breathless thought leadership on it, about how to “maximize your profile” for “revenue growth and leads.” A lot of it is hogwash. I personally think the redesign kind of sucks, and a lot of the features a regular user would want/need are harder to find — but I guess in the grand scheme of Jeff Weiner’s race to three commas in his net worth, I don’t mean very much. It also seems to load slower. (Again, though, I ain’t listed as no “influencer” on there.)

Rather, I wanted to run through — quickly — a couple of problems with LinkedIn and the supposed LinkedIn benefits. Maybe we can make this better?

LinkedIn Benefits Issue №1: Active users

This is the dirty little secret of LinkedIn. It has a huge user base, but only about 1 in 5 of those users check it monthly. Now, 1 in 5 of a huge number is still a huge number — I’ll give you that. But: here’s a situation I just had. About 8–10 months ago, I was messaging one person a day on LinkedIn, just as a networking play. This week — essentially a year later — I heard from two of those people. “Hey, what’s up?” It’s like, “Uh, I messaged you 10 months ago. Now you get back to me?” If that happened on email, people would literally light their entire body on fire and run through the cubicle rows screaming bloody murder.

Does LinkedIn’s supposed effectiveness sit on a throne of lies?

This is all logical, of course. You would regularly go on LinkedIn if you were a recruiter, a “thought leader,” or looking for a job. If you don’t fit those three categories, you almost never would need to log in.

LinkedIn Benefits Issue №2: It’s not really that professional

Facebook is boring as hell now (Trump this, Trump that, maybe a baby picture here or there), and it’s a major driver of depression. So eventually, you figure it’ll get beaten by Snap or something we haven’t seen yet. (User base is huge, yes. It will take time.)

LinkedIn has no clear competitor, plus Microsoft owns it now. Glassdoor, Indeed, and similar sites that have the “scale” to be LinkedIn don’t have all the supposed LinkedIn benefits. But here’s the problem: LinkedIn is honestly not that professional. Because of social media automation suites, a lot of people share the same stuff to Facebook (personal) as LinkedIn (professional), so all the time I get updates about kid’s soccer tournaments. Then there are number puzzles, bikini shots, spammers, and people who use self-publishing to talk about an award they just won. (That’s not what self-publishing was invented for.)

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It’s hard to be construed as “the professional network” when all this kind of stuff is flying around all day long.

LinkedIn Benefits Issue №3: Recruiters seem confused by it

Written about this before. This is just a sample based on my experiences and those of my friends/family. But if I’ve interacted with 150 recruiters on LinkedIn (I probably have), maybe 3–4 of them “get it.” Most send canned messages, or know nothing about you even though tons of stuff is on your profile. (I have an “All-Star profile,” if you care.) If this site is ultimately a tool for recruiters, and recruiters are using it in a canned, impersonal way, well, I fail to see the LinkedIn benefits therein.

I don’t actually think LinkedIn has made recruiting that much better, because while entire conversations on a topic can take place in Messenger or Twitter DM, you basically have to leave LinkedIn to develop that relationship. It has to move to email or phone, and oftentimes that’s a long, sloppy process because of that “I don’t check it so much” issue above. In the case of recruiters, the issue is “I’m so busy” because they’re probably juggling 94 canned interactions at a given time.

LinkedIn Benefits Issue №4: Lots of noise

LinkedIn would be an awesome site if it was a place you could log on and find good job advice, jobs catered for you, etc. But because LinkedIn had to make money and prove growth to investors, it could never be that. Consider how many things are posted to LinkedIn each second. It’s massive. I’m sure Microsoft looked at that and said “BA-ZINGA!” But an average person trying to navigate their career in uncertain times? It’s just a miserable cacophony of noise and people up-selling you.

LinkedIn Benefits Issue №5: Their sales side

Small sample size for me, but every time I’ve interacted with LinkedIn sales teams, they are total KPI-chasers who just want to get the sale. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. A few months ago, when they rolled out ProFinder, I wanted to be featured on it. I got a few messages from some guy at LinkedIn asking me to search for other people. When I replied and asked how I could be searched, I got crickets in return. It’s always amazing to me how these companies claim to be “customer-first” and “service-driven” and clearly just view most people they interact with as wallets with fingers. A true shame.

Final thought: I know a bunch of people. I have something like 2,200 Facebook friends. (Admittedly that means nothing.) Of those 2,200 people, I bet I see about 50–75 active on LinkedIn. I really feel as if most people, in the regular slog of day-to-day work/etc., just don’t see any value to it unless they’re in an active job search.

What say you on LinkedIn benefits, real and imagined?

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