LinkedIn Jumps the Shark

The once-useful business networking site has mutated into a love child of Facebook and USATODAY

When I was first introduced to LinkedIn, about a year after its launch, I confess that I didn’t understand its value or usefulness. (Remember that “social media” was just a gleam in the Internet’s eye at the time.) A colleague in Public Relations Society invited me to join her network, so I did manage to sign up and create a profile. But it sat, fallow, until a couple of years later when the light bulb came on over my head.

Oh! It’s like a networking event, only online. I get it!!

After seeing the light, I enthusiastically expanded my profile, built my network, courted clients for testimonials (called “recommendations” on LinkedIn), and started answering questions in LinkedIn’s excellent Q&A area. Several of my answers were top-ranked, and provided me with some nice kudos from colleagues, and a few leads for new business.

Later, I went to the effort of connecting this blog to my LinkedIn profile, so every time I posted a new set of marketing or PR-related ramblings, they were automagically displayed on my LinkedIn profile. Traffic and inquiries ensued.

My LinkedIn efforts paid off in spades, as several new clients confessed that they had found me somewhere else, but viewed my profile on LinkedIn (and read through my nearly 40 testimonials) to find out if I was “legit.” Other clients found me on LinkedIn to begin with. The business networking site was doing its job: it was helping clients find me and hire me.

LinkedIn is becoming less effective as a business networking resource. Image by colaja on deviantart.com

LinkedIn is becoming less effective as a business networking resource. Image by Nikola Lazarevic.

LinkedIn jumps the shark, ROI plummets

For the past couple of months, I’ve noticed that traffic and inquiries from LinkedIn have plummeted. The culprit is the “new and improved,” “social” profile, and LinkedIn’s elimination of its most useful features.

The first useful thing to go was the profile layout that emphasized my Recommendations. (In fact, it used to be possible to link directly to that section of my profile.) Instead of my long list of detailed written testimonials, my less informative profile now prominently features thumbnails of other members who have “endorsed” one of my stated skills. Endorsing someone takes less than a second, offers no detail about the reason (if any) for the endorsement, and for me (and everyone else I know on LinkedIn), carries no actual weight. They’re close to meaningless…LinkedIn’s version of Facebook’s “Like” button, or auto-following back a stranger on Twitter. In fact, I’ve received a number of endorsements from total strangers I’ve never heard of, much less done work for.

Since discussions are now limited to Groups, my conversations are now limited to other members of my profession (i.e., the people least likely to hire me.) Back in the days of Q&A, I could answer questions posted by potential clients, and thus demonstrate my expertise. I suppose I could join every other group on LinkedIn in an effort to find prospects, but who has the time to wade through all those notification emails?

Then finally, a few days ago, I discovered that this blog is no longer integrated with my LinkedIn profile. That explains the new lack of traffic.

Sigh.

Yet another useful feature wadded up and thrown in the garbage for no good reason. Being active on LinkedIn used to be a high-ROI use of my time…but no more.

It’s disappointing that LinkedIn is trying to become more like the USATODAY of social networking sites…shallower and less informative, but with pretty pictures. In fact, it appears that LinkedIn is also trying to become more like Facebook, and is adopting Facebook’s same “activity stream,” plus the same user-hostile management style, which is characterized by eliminating the features its users find most advantageous, and replacing them with time-wasting frills—usually without warning or input from those users.

I’m used to Facebook treating me like dirt…but et tu, LinkedIn?

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