While Endorsements are grabbing all of the attention, there are other more subtle changes which have already taken place which signal a significant shift and some would say, u-turn on LinkedIn networking policy. A significant portion of LinkedIn users got their New Profile a few days ago. With the new look comes new pressure to grow your LinkedIn network and the means to do it.
Let me illustrate. When you try to connect with someone you don’t “know” and you’re honest about it:
LinkedIn duly admonishes the mere attempt. Lesson taught. No change there then.
But, elsewhere on the platform you now have the option to grow your network as fast as possible in a non-choosy manner. Apparently, not “knowing” the person is no longer a barrier. The most obvious example of this 180 in ‘stranger networking’ policy is the “Share profile” option at the top of your New Profile.
Click on “Share profile” and you get a spammy boilerplate message ready to go to your twitter followers and your facebook friends. If you are on Twitter, you’ll have seen an explosion of these nuisance and presumably not very effective tweets. Why would anyone click on them? The L.I.O.Ns (LinkedIn Open Networkers) are tweeting. Huge change.
In addition, when you now click on “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” you get 2 options: “Message” if the person is a 1st Degree Connection or “Connect” if the person is not already a Connection.
If the browser is either Anonymous (“LinkedIn Member”) or Semi-Anonymous (“Someone in X at Y”), there are no options to Message/Connect. That’s logical, but these folks who may or may not have great reasons to remain professionally mysterious will indeed be missing out on the speedy, no-fuss Connection requests.
Clicking on “Connect” gives you the option to send a Connection request with either the boilerplate message or your own.
What LinkedIn have done here is pragmatic and shrewd. They know that people who browse one another have an interest, however fleeting, regardless of how the browsing came about. The primary way that I have built my network over the years is by reviewing my Profile browsers and systematically reaching out to those browsers who look to be a good fit (on location, industry, function etc.) with me. The rationale is that they have already ‘opened the door’ to my Connection request by browsing me. LinkedIn have recognized this dance, embraced it and made it a 2-click process. This is a major shift from the position that you could only connect if you had (Classmates, Colleagues, Groups, Friends, Business) in common. Now, it doesn’t matter. If they browsed your Profile – you have the option of Connecting. Huge change.
This morning, day 2 of investigating the New Profile, I saw the following graphic:
Tantalizing to be just 1 more connection away from “rich info”. LinkedIn really want me to build my network and the carrot is also a stick – if I don’t add 1 more Connection, only 1 mind you, I don’t get to see how my network breaks down in those circles.
Initially I thought the message was a glitch, but then I saw the exact same graphic on my 2nd Profile (which I use for training). And now it’s gone, without me doing anything OR maybe a taste of things to come? Pssst. You grow your network and in return we will share some of the precious data we’ve acquired, because you grew your network. Virtuous? Circle? For whom?
Not Big Enough? You FAIL
If you don’t get with the program and build your network on LinkedIn, there are significant downsides. I’ve previously written about the fact that LinkedIn favors users with bigger networks. This is most obvious when you realize that to compete on Endorsements at the highest level, you need almost 5,000 1st Degree connections to get to 99+ in all 50 Skills. That’s obviously an extreme example but even if you want to look reasonably endorsed, you need a good sized network. Less obvious is that to rank in LSEO (LinkedIn Search Engine Optimization) terms, you need to have lots of connections to ‘narrow’ the distance of the search. The LinkedIn search algorithm favors people with large networks. If you have a small network on LinkedIn you are practically invisible in search terms.
Social Media Pie (DEC 2012)
So what’s the big picture here? It’s a land grab. LinkedIn have decided they need to boost membership. They want a bigger share of the Social Media pie. What do the other SNS (Social Networking Service) providers have that LinkedIn don’t? They do “social” very well. LinkedIn just decided: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
(Dec 2012 – Social Media Market Share courtesy of Karmasnack – http://www.karmasnack.com/about/social-media-market-share/ )
Bigger & More Social?
Having more people on the platform is undoubtedly a good thing for everyone (LinkedIn AND its members) and the initiatives to promote engagement between LinkedIn members are already tried and tested on different platforms. LinkedIn are going to be pulling out all the stops offering integration direct on your New Profile with a very long list of rich media services including Pintrest, Twitter, Comedy Central, Forbes, Hulu, Khan Academy, TED, YouTube, Rdio, Spotify, Google Docs, SlideShare and Kickstarter, to name a few (see the full list here). LinkedIn are giving what their customers apparently want and the URL, still banned from LinkedIn messaging is now the preferred gateway to all the social media you can shake a stick at. Put a different way, the stuffy office just got a new memo – holiday parties, all year round, paid for by the Boss.
Against the Traffic
I do think that LinkedIn users who model their virtual on their actual business life need to re-assess their mirroring strategy. It’s these members who spurn Endorsements, typically shun connection requests from well-meaning strangers, don’t join in on Groups and generally, keep to themselves, who will have the biggest adjustment to make during the ‘socialization’ of LinkedIn. I fear they may be swimming against the tide (traffic). What do you think?
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That’s all from me for this week. Please take a few moments to share this article with your network. I read and respond to all comments.
By Andy Foote