How LinkedIn needs to Get a Life

LinkedIn – what’s it for?  LinkedIn’s recent addition of ‘Endorsements’ appeared at first like a genuinely useful feature, but will it soon devalue like so much of LinkedIn?

An open letter to LinkedIn.

We discuss LinkedIn quite a lot in the office here.  I was an early adopter – apparently one of the first 50,000 – which didn’t sound that early to me until I heard that there are now 100 million LinkedIn users.  For the first few years LinkedIn seemed to be the answer to a question no-one had asked.  Lately it appears to have really got some traction.  The corporate profiles seem to have potential and we have even seen some good results running advertising on LinkedIn for some clients.

But what of the core content – the online CVs?  Who thinks these are useful?  Except perhaps to the seemingly endless number of cold callers and recruitment consultants researching their victims prospects?  Our feeling is that the self-validating profiles are a bit like GCSEs and A levels.  They are more or less worthless because the providers have only the interests of their creators at heart.

In a quick quiz around the office, this is what people thought of the personal profiles in LinkedIn:

  • As a rule of thumb anyone you know who has 500+ contacts (regardless of the improbability that these are real ‘network connections’ ) were the most obnoxious, self-serving and friendless people you ever met.  Careerist though.
     
  • Half of the jobs people you know claim to have done weren’t quite what how they now appear in LinkedIn.  You seem to remember that John wasn’t so much ‘Director of Operations’ as more of chief PowerPoint artiste for the MD.
     
  • You therefore judge people not by how impressive their CV appears to be, but how genuine.  I guess that’s a bit inverted, but not completely useless.
So we speculated a bit about what LinkedIn could do.  When they introduced recommendations – the first bit of user-generated content  – we all thought: ‘That’s good, you can see how many recommendations people have’.  Then that deteriorated into the inevitable mutual appreciation society.  Then along came endorsements.  There is a kind of fuzzy logic behind that one.  Fuzzy logic dictates that what other people as a group think somebody’s good at should tell you something about that person.  But in the end is it much better than self-profiling and recommendations?

We think that LinkedIn should take a leaf out of Review sites.  Currently one of the fastest growing online sectors, they are coming to the fore for two reasons.  1. Google so punished online comparison sites that some are re-positioning themselves as (arguably more useful) independent review sites and 2. Consumer reviews make a big impact on supplier/product selection, so it’s hardly surprising that firms are seeking to influence reviews and ratings, and review sites are pushing themselves as arbiters in that process.

We have worked for two clients to achieve strong online review ratings: Pure-Triumph.com and Chaucer Direct Insurance . I have no doubt whatsoever that by pro-actively working on a review strategy with these clients we have achieved higher ratings than they would have without our help.  Without giving away our secrets (we will of course – contact us if you want to know more!) I would also say without doubt that (a) The clients genuinely deserved those high rankings and (b) Being engaged in the review process has sharpened their customer care and focused the whole organisation on their online reputation and improved their customer service.  And yet – they can influence their reviews and ratings, but unlike with LinkedIn they can’t control them.  The arena in which reviews exists – like (or perhaps today as part of) social media, is outside of brand-owners control – and this works in the consumer’s favour.

So what could LinkedIn take from this?  We think LinkedIn needs to allow a certain amount of real world feedback so how about:

  1. Peer reviews: Profile holders could opt-in to reviews from peers/co-workers etc. There would be rules – nothing profane or libellous etc.  And like review sites, profile holders could have the right to protest a review if they think it is dishonestly provided.  The reviewer would need to provide prima facie evidence that they worked with the reviewed  person, and be prepared to run the risk of having their review removed (maybe lose some ‘LinkedIn points’  for this?) or even being sued.
     
  2. Endorsement Scores: You get four options to endorse a contact:
  3.  
  • Exemplary – this person is a stellar example of a practitioner in this area = 2 points
  • Endorse – I endorse this person’s work in this area = 1 point
  • Not applicable to this person = minus 1 points
  • You must be kidding = minus 2 points
Thus the endorsement scores would be a much more accurate vote for that person’s credentials – in the same way that Google provides PageRank for instance.

  1. Something similar to both of the above to corporate profiles

  2. So come on LinkedIn, stop pandering to the vain, the obtuse and the disingenuous.  You’ve never done anything bold, but your LinkedIn profiles are next to useless in effect.  Let’s bring it all to life!

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