5 things that will sink LinkedIn’s empire

Will LinkedIn last? A reasonable question given the remarkable and monopoly-like position LinkedIn has achieved as a professional network during the past decade.

The announcement that LinkedIn is being acquired by Microsoft came on June 13 and has so far had little impact for the many using LinkedIn to showcase their work. According to their own numbers, LinkedIn has over 400 million users and more than 100 million active users per month.

Clearly LinkedIn will not disappear anytime soon, but people such as Silicon Valley pioneer Andreas Ramos say LinkedIn is about to lose its place at the centre of the social Web for business purposes.

I had a recent conversation with him trying to understand better why he considers LinkedIn a dinosaur. Or as he says in standard Valley jargon:

There is a great opportunity to build a better LinkedIn”

1. The customers are recruiters, not users

LinkedIn started as a social networking site where people posted their professional profiles so they could connect to each other. But people weren’t willing to pay to build social networks. However, recruiters are willing to pay thousands of dollars per month for access to the resume database. So LinkedIn turned into a service for recruiters to find workers.

This means LinkedIn’s customers are recruiters, not users, so LinkedIn pays attention to the recruiters. And ignores the users.

That’s why many of LinkedIn’s user tools, such as profiles, messaging, portfolio, and so on are nearly useless or look like something from fifteen years ago. It’s very easy to spam users, so many requests for contacts are ignored. There is a way to post articles, but it’s convoluted and few use it. There is no way to send an email newsletter to one’s connections. The messaging tool is outdated. The app is nearly useless. Although LinkedIn did an IPO and raised $350 million, they spent very little of it on improving the user experience or interface, because users don’t produce revenue. In contrast, recruiters, who pay around US $1,000 per month per seat, have powerful tools to filter and sort resumes.

So LinkedIn is a resume database. Which means if you have a secure job, there’s little reason to visit LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not a Facebook for professionals, but a site for recruiters.

2. LinkedIn isn’t the place to find the best jobs

When sociologists studied social networks, they learned that a few people have weak or poor connections and most people have okay connections. However, a few have thousand of connections and those connections are to the best people. Those top connections are also the people in charge of companies, projects, and budgets. They are the ones who hire.

Which means top people don’t need LinkedIn. They already have extensive personal networks. And the ones who hire also don’t use LinkedIn to hire; they ask their friends quietly for recommendations. The top people share their resources.

The bias towards recruiters affects how people are using Linkedin. Users see it as a resume site, not a professional networking site. Since the goal is to get a job, it’s easy to buy fake recommendations or create bloated or too-good-to-be-true profiles.

The solution lies outside of LinkedIn, and is quite simple, which I will expand on shortly.

3. LinkedIn are ignorant of the member experience

For a company with almost 10,000 employees, you would assume there would be a sizable team focusing fully on delivering an outstanding customer experience to members.

If such a team actually exits, their progress is weak to say the least. As already mentioned, there are simply so many examples of the member experience failing. To name a few:

  • The mobile app still leaves great room for improvement
  • Groups and community management is far behind anything you would expect in 2016
  • Emails when someone updated their profile. Sure, you will receive emails to make you pay for what used to be free. But useful email notifications, such as a new posting in your group or an important job change: forget about it.
  • Do you enjoy your activity stream solely containing postings about Pokemon Go? Or Chuck Norris jokes. No? Well, who cares? Linkedin definitely doesn’t.
  • Did you like a recent update a friend wrote and want to link to it? Facebook has had the feature for years, but for Linkedin such a feature is rocket science.

4. LinkedIn doesn’t care about your career

You would think that a site built around finding jobs would have helpful career advice, but there is very little career advice or help at LinkedIn. What they offer is generally useless or bad advice, such as telling you how to appear like someone the recruiters want, instead of actually becoming better at your job, how to expand your career, or other fields and opportunities.

LinkedIn could hire the very best career coaches to offer free books and videos on how to create and manage your career to your benefit. It could be argued that LinkedIn and recruiters don’t want you to improve your career because when you move up, you move out of LinkedIn’s and the recruiters’ range. But LinkedIn is already making enough money so they don’t care about this.

If you’re looking for a job or want to improve your career, my advice is to put LinkedIn lower on your list of tasks. Reach out to people who are at the top or ten years ahead of your career. Send them an email, call them, or even better, meet them for lunch or coffee. Join professional organizations and volunteer to help in the organization. Build your network. Take classes, read books, and improve your skills. It’s the oldest advice in networking handbooks and with good reason: that’s how the world works. The few at the top have all the connections: get to know them.

5. LinkedIn provides recruiters with well-educated white people

If the people at the top aren’t on LinkedIn, what about everyone else? The people who use LinkedIn are mostly white-collar mid-level corporate staff. They are generally in companies that use computer technology. Workers at small companies in traditional fields rarely show up.

This means people at the bottom aren’t on LinkedIn. They work in jobs that don’t use computers. These jobs are low-pay so the recruiters have little interest because the recruiter fees are small. McDonald’s isn’t going to hire expensive recruiters to fill temporary jobs, nor will they use LinkedIn’s recruiter tools for this.

To quote Andreas:

I’d hate to see how low the numbers are for black women. LinkedIn has what recruiters want, or to put it the other way, it doesn’t have what recruiters don’t want. This means LinkedIn has a significant share of the blame for low diversity in the workplace.”

Thoughts on a better professional network

There’s a strong need to build a jobs and careers network platform that reflects the world we live in.

People would be able to improve their skills and move up in their career. By building strong relationships, they would have better job security, either by being in better jobs or able to find new jobs when a company shuts down.

A new platform could also make money from recruiters, but a new platform will hopefully focus on a superior member experience.

More about the problems at LinkedIn

Thanks to Niels Rysz from the communications department at higher education institution UC SYD in Denmark who shared several good examples of horrible customer service at LinkedIn in his posting in Danish: LinkedIn kolos på lerfødder.

Patrick Moore wrote a good analysis titled LinkedIn has lost its vision. Why don’t people update their LinkedIn profile? Patrick offers the following reasons:

  • “I am not looking for a new job”
  • “I am looking for a new job, but I don’t want my manager to know I am looking.”
  • “I just got a new job, and I don’t know if it is going to work out so I am not putting it my profile until I know that it will.”