This week all my various news feeds have been full of comments about two recent events: Connectifier being acquired by LinkedIn and LinkedIn’s share price tanking.
Dealing with Connectifier first; I’ve tried using it several times, it’s not a bad piece of kit. It’s comparable in a lot of ways to 360 Social, TalentBin, Discoverly, Prophet and the like, but with a comparatively hefty price tag. In short, it trawls the internet for profiles connected to a specific person, which can also result in contact details if they’re available. LinkedIn acquiring Connectifier makes perfect sense, as it helps LinkedIn to build an offering that meets the demand for data that exists outside of their own platform. That said, with so many alternative tools available that all do much the same job, it was never going to help counter the other bit of LinkedIn news.
This second piece of news is more interesting. As soon as LinkedIn’s share price started to tumble, links to articles on the subject were being shared by the talent community left, right and centre. I’ve never held back my feelings on LinkedIn, I’ve always felt their Recruiter products were overpriced and sold to people who often didn’t need them. However, at the same time, I realise that as recruiters the sheer volume of useful data the platform holds means it offers significant commercial value to recruiters. Therefore we should expect to pay to access or use this data.
So What’s the Problem?
LinkedIn actually made a whole heap of money in the last quarter, you can read exactly how much here in CEO Jeff Weiner’s Investor Announcement. As mentioned, there have been lots of recruitment and non-recruitment articles on the exact cause of the crash, but in short they are predicting weaker results than the market expects for the first quarter of 2016. Bear in mind that the share market is fickle, as recently as October the same investment advisors who are now telling people to sell shares were saying we should be buying them!
One of the main reasons highlighted for these weaker predictions is poor customer retention, which has resulted in slowing growth. This is a fair argument, LinkedIn’s problem may well be that they struggle to hold onto customers. Just watch this LinkedIn video from a recent APAC Talent Connect where the audience is questioned on how long they have been a LinkedIn Recruiter customer. The percentage of the audience that has been with LinkedIn for less than one year is really quite telling (around 2 minutes in).
The Real Problem
I, like many others, have been saying for a while now that we believe LinkedIn’s biggest problem is user engagement. Yes, there are lots of other issues, such as poorly trained recruiters firing out huge volumes of semi-automated InMails, spam accounts and dodgy smartphone apps; but engagement is the number one issue.
It doesn’t matter how good or technologically advanced the new Recruiter and Referral products are, in the end if audience isn’t engaged on the platform itself then they’re all next to useless.
We all know Facebook, and even the much maligned Twitter, have FAR higher levels of user engagement than LinkedIn (the chart to the right from Pew Research doesn’t make for good reading if you’re LinkedIn).
A Simple Fix?
I accept that LinkedIn has a massive challenge with most users only interested in using the platform when they are thinking about changing jobs. However they could do more to attract people to use it at other times.
Love it or hate it (and most of us secretly love it), Facebook’s draw card is the home feed and easy accessibility of information. You can instantly see lots of content that is of interest to you, and if you wish to dig a little deeper into a specific person’s content it is pretty easy to do so (sometimes scarily so).
There is lots of great content on LinkedIn, the problem is they’ve made it so ridiculously hard to find any of it. On LinkedIn the home feed can only be summarised as horrible and this is the main reason that people aren’t choosing to engage.
A person logs in, sees a bunch of Top Updates which are generally content that has ranked well from global ‘influencers’ (think Richard Branson, James Caan etc), clickbait articles, and those people for whom commenting on LinkedIn appears to be their full time job (we all know at least one!).
Clicking the All Updated button does help to show more relevant content in the feed, but if you’re looking for a specific post it can take hours to trawl back through the list of posts. Plus the average user is not aware this option even exists.
Before someone highlights it, I get that as recruiters we have far higher levels of LinkedIn connections which increases the volume of home feed content, however I regularly get feedback from people with a couple of hundred connections who are also not engaged. This is because it’s not just their connections posts, it’s the companies, groups and influencers they were asked to follow on sign up, the endless requests to endorse people or follow companies they’re not interested in and an increasing number of poor quality adverts.
Other Home Feed Issues
One good feature on the Home feed is the ability to tune out news from a certain connection, but what happens when you would like to hear from them again? You can’t change your preference, so someone has to do something pretty bad to get removed! Most people have a fairly small group of close business or personal friends, the other connections are generally business acquaintances. Why can’t we chose to be connected with someone but have an option to not have them in our Home feed?
Then there is the problem of that interesting post you would like to save for later, or worse, trying to find the same post several days later. In both situations the easiest solution is to click the link and then bookmark this link in your web browser.
Finding an old post, should be simple right? Well in theory it is possible, go to the poster’s profile and click ‘view recent activity’. The problem, at least 50% of the time, is that the article or post you are looking for won’t be there, and if it was posted longer than a couple of weeks ago it will be gone completely.
With the exception of The Lad Bible and Buzzfeed, Facebook gets it, so why can’t LinkedIn come up with some sort of algorithm to tailor a user’s Home feed to their browsing habits and interests? Plus why can’t each user have a user friendly timeline feature. Both of these would make LinkedIn more than a simple one-page platform exclusively inhabited by recruiters and sales people.
Over to you LinkedIn
I really believe in LinkedIn and would struggle to do business without it, but it needs to have a fairly radical overhaul in order to keep audiences interested and therefore hold real value for recruiters. So over to you LinkedIn….
This blog post first appeared on Prominence on February 10, 2016