Graham King

Solvitas perambulum

What is the point of LinkedIn?


Update 23 Aug 2011: Finally closed my LinkedIn account. To their credit the ‘Close Account’ feature is straightforward.

Update 4 Feb 2011: Steve Pavlina, in his article about leaving Facebook writes:

I nuked my Linkedin account at the same time I left Facebook. Linkedin is supposed to be a business networking service, and I had about 350 contacts there, but I always found that service utterly useless, so it was a no-brainer to dump it. End update

I’m on LinkedIn, I’m connected to 48 people. I go there, I declare to the world that I know these people. And then what?

If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. There’s:

If it takes a blog post, a book, and a community project, to find a point to your web application, I think there may not be one.

LinkedIn tries to explain itself

Take the blog post for example. It says that LinkedIn is, and I quote, “a great way for professionals to strengthen their online brand reputation and leverage their professional network”. Huh?

How about the front page. I bet they have a super-succinct value proposition. It’ll be obvious once I get to the front page:

  • Stay informed about your contacts and industry
  • Find the people & knowledge you need to achieve your goals
  • Control your professional identity online

Let’s be honest, the reason you are ‘connected’ to these people on LinkedIn, as opposed to Facebook, Bebo, Orkut, or Friendster, is because you don’t want to “stay informed” about them. You don’t want to know what movie they watched last night.

What about the second bullet point, finding people? That’s about recruitment, and the trouble is, recruitment has gone niche.

LinkedIn seems to be built around a 1940’s model where you hire someone because they went to the same college as you: “Cambridge lad eh? Jolly good. Welcome to the company. Scotch?”

Maybe it’s all about that last bullet point, your “professional online identity”? LinkedIn is your home on the web, a virtual calling card, MySpace without the teenage exuberance? Well, if you’re in tech and your only online presence is LinkedIn, that’s less than impressive. A bit like a graphic designer printing his business cards on that machine at the mall.

LinkedIn prevents people from contacting you

If you are trying to get in touch with someone, whom we’ll call Chris, you probably start with your favorite search engine. You type in his name. Chris’ LinkedIn profile comes up. You click on it. You now have three options:

  • You can pay LinkedIn $25, and they’ll let you send Chris an email (an ‘InMail’).
  • You ask your friend Alice to ask her friend Bob to introduce you to Chris.
  • You do what I do. You hit Back. Click on the next search result, which is Chris’ blog, select the Contact or About page, and email him directly. LinkedIn just wasted your time.

I may of mentioned this before, but this is not the 1940’s. We Internet types are comfortable talking to strangers. All I want is an email address, and that’s what LinkedIn doesn’t give me.

Let’s recap

You go to LinkedIn. You declare all your connections. You complete your profile, recommend people, answer questions, and so on. You give them a lot. And what does LinkedIn do for you? They prevent people contacting you. So, what, exactly, is the point of LinkedIn?