LinkedIn Introduces 2 NEW ‘Soft Paywalls’, SSI (Social Selling Index) & LinkedIn Lookup App
LinkedIn made some significant changes to the way ordinary users use the platform this Summer:
(1) They introduced a ‘Commercial search limit’.
(2) They introduced a Groups communication quota.
Both the search limit and the communication quota resets every month, both hit non-paying members the hardest, because most Premium LinkedIn members don’t have a search limit imposed and have an InMail allowance. This is classic paywall strategy, which some online newspapers have pioneered with varying success, the ‘hard’ version cuts everything off and insists on payment before content is consumed, the ‘soft’ provides a taste and then closes the door. LinkedIn is tightening the screws – all of this used to be ‘free’.
Unlike newspapers, which provide one daily morsel (news), LinkedIn have 3 items on the à la carte menu:
Information on LinkedIn members provided willingly by LinkedIn members themselves. Access to LinkedIn members because they’re on LinkedIn and nowhere else (or harder to find elsewhere). Data – anything and everything learnt by LinkedIn about its members which can be packaged and sold (most often to recruiters but now also to sales people).
YOU ARE THE PRODUCT
A common saying in Silicon Valley: “If you’re on a platform and using it for free – guess what? YOU are the product”. This certainly applies to LinkedIn, including Premium members, who may not have to deal with some of the daily nuisances and obstacles thrown into the path of regular LinkedIn users, but access to them and data about them is still being sold. We’re all the product, folks.
LinkedIn is behaving like a budget airline, they’re fixated on questions like: How do we charge our customers more, while providing exactly the same type and quality of service? What can we charge for without increasing our costs? Of course this situation only arises because there’s a lack of choice/competition, LinkedIn is still the only game in town when it comes to providing a convenient professional network for the masses. Though this could be changing in respect to long suffering Groups, see an interesting piece in Wired recently: “LinkedIn Faces Death by a Thousand Tiny Competitors“.
The user in me gets frustrated when I’m on LinkedIn. The advanced user in me has figured out ways around these latest restrictions*. The investor in me hopes that LinkedIn doesn’t kill or irreparably damage, the Golden Goose. All versions of me wish that LinkedIn would spend more time, energy and resources on delivering innovative new features which delight, instead of making the old and creaky LinkedIn platform, more difficult to use. A lot of LinkedIn users are fed up, my friend and fellow long-time LinkedIn fan Miles Austin just wrote about other areas of pain (the Contacts download debacle, Groups and killing useful 3rd party software) in his excellent post “Mr. Weiner, tear down this wall!“.
SSI & LINKEDIN LOOKUP
What about the new SSI thingy (Social Selling Index) and the recently announced LinkedIn Lookup App? Aren’t they innovative?
Not really. SSI is a slick marketing exercise, reminiscent of the Top 1/5/10% Most Viewed Profile wheeze. SSI is an attempt to push regular folks towards paying for Sales Navigator and something similar to the Lookup App used to be available (now vanished?) in your Profile Views ranking section (Profile views rank in Your company).
Lookup is only innovative in the sense that it now prods people to update their Employment section faster and forces laggard organizations to build that Company Page already. The reason people prefer to use LinkedIn to look up colleagues, rather than the internal company directory is because they know they’ll get more information. So nothing new or innovative to see here folks.
But LinkedIn bringing the power of publishing to the masses is innovative, right Andy?
It was….. but the shine has quickly worn off for me and dare I say, many other bloggers, because after the thrill of racking up thousands of views on the platform, the new normal today is a double/triple digit view count for most LinkedIn writers regardless of how many so-called ‘Followers’ you have in your network (and I use the phrase ‘your network’ loosely). Some people will shrug and point to the fact that since many more people are blogging on LinkedIn, the competition for eyeballs has intensified. This seems plausible but it still doesn’t explain why someone with 21,000+ Followers only gets 21 folks reading their Publisher post.
The fact is that LinkedIn has throttled Notifications, ostensibly because they’re worried about (you) spamming your network. Here’s LinkedIn’s own Byron Ma explaining some of the process:
“To ensure members only receive high quality and relevant publishing notifications, we do two things. First, all posts must pass our spam and low quality filter before having a notification published for them. Second, only connections whom we deem are strong connections will receive these notifications. We determine this by leveraging the connection strength score from the LinkedIn cloud service. Cloud service maintains connection relationships between members.”
Of course this begs questions like:
(1) What do posts have to do to pass both the “spam” and “low quality” tests?
(2) How does LinkedIn determine strength between connections?
(3) What is the “connection strength score” between me and all of my connections?
Don’t bother asking, I already have and… there are no answers. So LinkedIn looks like a publisher but walks like a content syndication machine. They tightly control anything published on Pulse and they pick favorites (some LinkedIn Authors get help from the Editorial team) and choose winners. They rely on an algorithm to funnel all of the mass-produced content to Pulse but the Editorial team has the final say. Sometimes the team gets it wrong. One of my recent Publisher Posts was about plagiarism, one of the 3 tags I used was “theft prevention” and it appeared in the “Information Security” Channel on Pulse. Not the audience I was looking for. One of my LinkedIn posts gets more love from Google (95% traffic) than LinkedIn (4%?) and racks up 400+ views per week. Should I have written that on my own blog, since it’s been ignored by LinkedIn? If views are a currency on LinkedIn, why are Profile and Publisher views treated differently? How long before LinkedIn users tire of reading about Facebook bashing and saccharine professional advice themes like “What I’d tell my 22 year old self?” ?
When you reach that commercial search limit, log out of LinkedIn and use Google instead. You’ll have no restrictions imposed and you’ll be able to see all of the Public Profile versions of the people you’re looking for (not everyone has a full Public Profile though). You could also use a different LinkedIn account to search (but please n.b that this approach goes against the User Agreement policy). There are many different ways to find an email for someone, if you know how/where to look. You could also use the request to connect feature to overcome the message quota (also against the UA).
I’d love your thoughts.
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By Andy Foote