There is change, and there is change. LinkedIn or LinkedOut – the social game changer. Recent changes will change the social landscape – and not for the better.
Go back 10 years and Myspace rules the social media world. Yahoo led the field in groups and communities. Linkedin was new, Facebook was a newborn. Twitter was the twinkle in someone’s eye. People who wanted to look for work online used Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com. Things change. But one change that started less than 1 year ago is making a bigger impact that most expected. A change that will dent the business social media space forever.
Anyone who has been around social media for any length of time knows there will always be changes. This is to be expected. But what Linkedin have just done is a game changer.
The journey so far
Before I explain why, it is critical to know the background to LinkedIn and why it has become so successful.
Before Linkedin, the two heavy weights in the jobs space were Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com. Linkedin needed to be different. The reason was simple. In 2004, if you had a profile active on Monster or careerbuilder you could lose your existing job. Employers did not want their employees to be seen to be looking for new jobs.
When LinkedIn started, they started with a simple profile and network. Helping people to connect.
The reason for staying or revisiting the site
In 2004, LinkedIn introduced the concept of groups. The idea being that it legitimised people having a public profile. It gave people a reason to visit the site regularly. It was only a year later that the jobs functionality was made public, once a thriving community has started.
People were not going to lose their job for having a profile on LinkedIn – this was a game changes, and one that Monster and Careerbulder did not see coming. LinkedIn was ahead of the curve. Now it is increasingly irrelevant.
Over the following years, LinkedIn grew to be one of the most popular sites on the web. According to alexia it is now rated as number 16, and sliding. It was number 4! – http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/linkedin.com
What has happened?
LinkedIn has needed to follow Facebook and be more mobile responsive. LinkedIn seem to be focused on people paying them to search for potential job candidates. I get that. BUT without people going to LinkedIn and it being relevant for them professionally, they will not keep their profiles up to date. This will mean that recruiters have less people to talk to.
Last years LinkedIn introduced “Pulse” its own blogging tool. In theory anyone can raise their profile by “showing what they know”. This has created a lot of content (Good for linkedin). However much of it is poor quality, and members in there droves are turning off LinkedIn notifications. People are starting to see LinkedIn as spammy. For the only people creating this low level, low value content are sales people.
At the same time LinkedIn have started to change groups. If you had searched for groups just 6 months ago you would have found 2.2 million groups (yes way too many), today over 800000 are missing! Not a bad thing you thing… but most of the missing ones are those that are well run and spam free. But users of linkedin just wont see them anymore!
The changes to LinkedIn groups for managers is more than many would believe. It is now almost impossible for group managers to:
- Validate members – so alumni groups will soon have non alumni in – this will lead to a lack of trust as to who is in what was formerly a secure group.
- Difficult to stop spam, as members can post without pre moderation
- Removal of “promotions” tab means more members will try to self promote in ‘Conversations’ (formerly discussions)
- Draw attention to useful posts from members – thus encouraging discussion
- Harder to moderate and manage requests to join, as before small graphics alerted managers of things that needed doing. In order to “clean up” the interface, manager now need to “deep click” in groups to see if there is anything to do. Making things harder to do properly and professionally
Interaction has dropped
Over the last few months many group managers have reported less and less interactions in groups. The reason for this is simple. In an attempt to reduce the number of emails to members of LinkedIn, LI stopped sending announcements of group activity. This is leading to an “out of site out of mind” mentality. Put simply members of groups are not being reminded of activity on LinkedIn, so are stopping visiting.
The start of the slippery slope
Actually, this is an understatement. many groups report the interaction falling off a cliff. People join LinkedIn for the personal profile pages and idea of building a network. People visit LinkedIn for content and interactions – groups. Groups are the reason why LinkedIn has been such a powerhouse for recruiters. In addition having multiple groups in the same place made it easy for members to interact. Over the years I have seen many niche communities all but close, as people have migrated from sector and industrial specific forums and communities to LinkedIn groups. If groups are seen as spammy, and adding no value, what is the point in visiting LinkedIn at all? Certainly not the average quality of many pulse articles.
Ignoring the advice of 1000s of professionals.
LinkedIn runs a group for managers and moderators. That group has over 7000 managers of some of the worlds largest and most active communities. These range in size from several hundred members to 1 Million members. When this community of people that know the pitfalls of communities, how to engage members, how to grow groups is ignored. Is not consulted. Is treated with contempt. Then you KNOW that LinkedIn has an agenda. An agenda they are not looking to share. An agenda that says “groups are not important”, WORSE “well run groups are not important”. Group Managers have asked many questions trying to understand, but LinkedIn staff just ignore logical, and reasonable concerns (backed up with evidence!).
Group manager ‘genocide’
Systematically LinkedIn has removed statistics of group size and interaction, member interaction, the ability to moderate people that are set on spamming YOU. As one person put it on a call I was involved with last night “they are committing genocide on group managers”. Manager are leaving Linkedin in their droves. They are now expected to put more effort into keeping groups professional with less tools and abilities than ever, and having to do many more “clicks” to make even the most simple of actions. In effect this is a systematic cleansing of the people that started and have committed vast amounts of their time to supporting groups (professional communities of practice).
People hate change
The change to the LinkedIn platform, much like any major change program is not smooth. There have been errors. The roll out is slow. BUT there appears to be no interest in solving basic functionality problems.
Of course it could be argued that managers are “up in arms” because they hate change. To some extent that is true. But look behind the anger and you will see 1000s of passionate people, which care deeply for their communities. They seek to connect people and collaborate at a global level, and feel they are being straightjacketed to lead groups they know they themselves would not want to be a member of due to lack of controls and increase spam, and most importantly a loss of trust as to “who is in the room”.
I will look back at this post in 2-3 years, and will probable think to myself – Linked What? Myspace did not see the change, here LinkedIn are driving change, change away from helping people like you and I be their product, for in reality what LinkedIn sells is access to people with profiles. That is their core business. If people do not have up to date profile, why would any recruiter pay to access out of date material.
If you want to read the views of 7000 group managers join this group and see the extent to which LinkedIn is ignoring the sound professional advice of people that just want LinkedIn to work for their communities – https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8285624
If I were an investor in LinkedIn, I would be very worried for my future returns and value! With less and less reason for people to spend time “on site”, this can only reduce stakeholder value. It certainly reduces member value.
As a person that has started several groups on LinkedIn, the largest currently at 39000+ members. I feel qualified to comment. These changes WILL change the trust and direction of the very powerful communities that have been nurtured over the years. Yes there were lots of spammy groups. yes lots should have been deleted years ago. But LinkedIn seem to be solving the wrong problem.
Note its your turn – what will you do?
I urge you, in light of this post and other changes to look at your LinkedIn group membership. and if groups do not add value to you regularly – leave them. Only stay members of groups you value
Thanks for reading
What are your thoughts on these changes? Do I have it wrong? Have I missed something?