11 Nov 2012
People don’t like change, it’s just the way we’re hardwired. You get used to doing (or seeing) something, it becomes familiar. Like driving a car, complex initially but after a while it becomes second nature. The New LinkedIn Profile is a radical change, not just in looks but also in function. The car is now a Formula 1 race car. You should probably take a few lessons before taking it out for a spin. Here’s my analysis of the New LinkedIn profile and what it means for you.
Background The LinkedIn Profile made it’s debut in 2009. In January 2009 there were 32 million LinkedIn members. There are currently over 178 million members. More than 175,000 new Profiles are created every day. Each day brings 25 million Profile views. In September 2012 alone, LinkedIn users conducted 3 billion people searches. Clearly, LinkedIn Profiles are a key ingredient in the networking mix and LinkedIn felt that they needed an major update.
“We want to make it look like [LinkedIn] is from the year 2012 and not like it’s from 1999,” Senior Experience Designer Marissa Dulaney says. “You have to keep up with the times.”
Project Katy As in Katy Perry, which makes no sense for a professional networking platform, right? Read on, all will be explained…“If you look at the average user today, she’s getting a lot more sophisticated, she’s using a lot more tools both for productivity and entertainment,” says Deep Nishar, senior VP of products and user experience. “At some level, we are becoming generation ADD, so we don’t have that much time to focus and spend on things…. At the end of the day, if we have fewer things across which to make decisions, we end up making choices and taking action.” But why Perry? As an avid pop culture fanatic, Steve Johnson, LinkedIn’s Director of Design and web development, sees pop stars as personifications of the state of the world. And right now, he says, there is no star that resonates more with people than Perry. Most people know and can sing a Katy Perry song off the top of their head and enjoy it, Johnson says. “Fashion changes, people’s perception of value changes, people’s ideas of what’s useful and what’s not changes,” Johnson says. “There’s normally an icon in there that we can all think about”. But this is not Katy Perry of garish costumes fame; this is the Katy Perry of simple but irresistible pop hooks — something people keep coming back to. In other words, Project Katy was all about 2 things: (1) a distinctive modern look with (2) widespread appeal.
The references to “she” and citing Katy Perry, a well known female icon for inspiration for the re-design is quite deliberate – nearly twice as many men (63%) as women (37%) use LinkedIn (November 2010 Pew Survey). All other SNS (Social Networking Site) platforms have significantly more female users than male users. LinkedIn clearly want to correct this imbalance and rightly so. No glass walls, so to speak.
“Signal-to-Noise Ratio” (SNR) I have to admit that my initial reaction to the New Profile was negative. I felt that it was all design and lacking detail. Now that I’ve had time to explore the new interface, it’s starting to make much more sense to me. The New Profile does a great job at making the most important pieces of information prominent and tucks away the peripheral stuff with ‘see more/less’ roll ups. This is classic “Signal-to-Noise Ratio” (SNR) strategy applied to web design. Johnson and his Design team deserve to be applauded, they’ve improved both form and function. Bravo.
So What’s TRULY Important On A LinkedIn Profile? Ask a room full of LinkedIn experts what’s most important about the (old) LinkedIn Profile? and you would get a dozen different replies. Opinions differed because there were so many different Profile components and everyone had their favorite aspect (Photo, Professional Headline, Recommendations, Skills, Experience, Website etc.). Well now we know exactly what the most important features are on a LinkedIn Profile. Why? Because LinkedIn have decided this for us and have distilled the LinkedIn networking experience into 5 core elements:
- SUMMARY – Make a great first impression.
- NETWORK – Discover new insights.
- ACTIVITY – Start a conversation.
- CONNECTIONS – Say hello to your network.
- BACKGROUND - Tell your professional story.
The stuff that’s been tucked away out of sight, deemed not as important as those 5 core elements:
- Recommendations – now if you want to read these you’ll need to click on a roll-down, a maximum of 3 are shown per role and you’ll be able to see the reciprocal back slapping. I’ve never been a fan of recommendations, sensible decision here.
- Tagging – the option used by some users to keep tabs on their LinkedIn network, now replaced by “Save” part of a nested menu of the “Send InMail” button. Same functionality, better execution.
- News & Companies – by default these two are at the very end of your Profile under the descriptor of “FOLLOWING”. Lead, don’t follow.
Some features didn’t make it after the re-design, LinkedIn are not known to dwell on the past, so we may never know why.
- “Personal Information” – no longer available, consigned to history.
- “Contact For”- replaced by roll-down “Contact Info”. It was always redundant to spell this out, hey network with me on this network!
- Apps – seemingly unavailable (for now). But SlideShare was purchased recently (May) by LinkedIn for $119m, so what was that all about? My guess is that Apps (including SlideShare) will re-appear in full force, they are simply too important to ignore; they enhance the functionality of LinkedIn and do wonders for engagement. Perhaps LinkedIn are working on a better way to incorporate them?
- vCards – gone, will they be missed? I don’t think so. “The vCard option has been removed from the LinkedIn profile. Please feel free to install our LinkedIn Outlook Connector, which will automatically create Outlook contact records from your LinkedIn connections. This eliminates the need to manually upload vCards to Outlook.” LinkedIn Help Center (9/19/12)
Endorsements Endorsements are currently being heavily promoted by LinkedIn. Every time you click on a person you are connected with, a big pop-up encourages you to endorse that connection for multiple Skills. I can understand the desire by LinkedIn to push the adoption of a brand new feature especially since its usefulness hinges on widespread participation. However, a big downside with this marketing push is that it also encourages feedback by people who may not be in a position to endorse someone’s skill. I already mentioned that I’m no fan of Recommendations but Endorsements are not much of an improvement, yes they bring more specificity to the professional ability arena but they are merely as useful as a facebook ‘Like”. Eye candy. LinkedIn could and ought to do much better. See my in-depth analysis of the new Endorsement feature here.
Groups As Icons
I’m delighted to see that Groups are now presented in the New Profile almost like an iPhone icon list with all the essential information up front; name of Group, number of Members and a blue “Join” link. A vast improvement.
Order Your Profile Sections My LinkedIn sources tell me that the ability to move Profile sections, highlighted in this post will remain and be “even easier” on the New Profile. This is good news since it allows LinkedIn users to emphasize parts of the Profile on a whim and this kind of customization is a very good thing.
Keyword Stuffing/Gaming I covered this in a previous post, essentially it’s a practice employed by some people to ensure that their LinkedIn Profile has maximum visibility when certain keywords are searched on within the LinkedIn database. The price of that increased visibility is a repetitive and incoherent Profile which usually turns people off. I will report back later with my findings on whether the New Profile discourages the keyword gamers and what it means not just for search but also engagement levels on the LinkedIn platform.
People Similar/Viewed The New profile introduces a brand new section (which is featured twice – top and bottom of the right hand column) called “PEOPLE SIMILAR TO [LinkedIn User Name]” which presumably uses the relevance & relationship aspects of the LinkedIn search algorithm. I’m delighted that the “PEOPLE ALSO VIEWED” (PAV) section remains in the New Profile, it’s an incredibly useful feature, if you know how to use it (see my previous post on finding Full Profiles & building a Organization Map via PAV cycling).
When? Will you be getting your new profile? Probably in the next couple of months, apparently you can speed the process up by requesting it here. LinkedIn is gradually rolling out the New Profile starting with their own staff and certain elite users (Richard Branson, Mitt Romney, Arianna Huffington etc.). The roll out could probably be instantaneous imho but you can bet that the velvet rope effect is having the desired pavlov effect amongst the Hoi polloii.
[UPDATE: Nov 19 2012] Apps Slowing The Roll-out There’s a lot of chatter on LinkedIn about the painfully slow roll-out of the New Profile. My LinkedIn sources tell me that this is because of compatibility issues with the various Apps. “At this time, all members with Applications (i.e. Box.net, SlideShare, Reading List by Amazon, WordPress) are being pushed back as we’re still getting all of these features up and running.”. Which explains why Apps are seemingly missing form the New Profiles that others have already got. So the question then becomes: if I delete my Apps, will I get the New Profile any sooner? The official answer from LinkedIn: “Yes, if you removed the applications from your profile, you may increase the chances of being switched over to the new profile layout.” Good to know. But the second part of that answer dangles a few interesting possibilities: “However, there are some other changes and features that are all tied to this project that you may want to wait and see.” Could it be that LinkedIn are about to launch a suite of their own Apps? That work in conjunction with existing Apps? And why would deleting those exisitng Apps be a bad thing? I guess we will just have to be patient. I’m not deleting my Apps btw.
Please take a few seconds to give me your feedback via the Comments box below.
That’s all from me for this week. If you found this post useful, don’t keep it a secret! Go ahead and share this article with your own network (see those buttons on the sliding thing on the left?).
Go network! and have a great week, my friends.