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As a parent of three awesome young women, I’ve had the distinct privilege to guide them, watch them grow and wonder about them through the years. Probably the most difficult, awkward time was shepherding them through middle school. It’s just not a fun time for said middle-schooler. Or the parents. It’s the time between innocence and emerging maturity that causes most everyone I know to shake their head in either disgust or relief.
What does this possibly have to do with LinkedIn? Well, I remember fondly the days when LinkedIn was a sleepy, member-centric platform trying to find its place in the new world order of social. They walked slowly and treaded carefully. As they managed their bearings they would take a next step, pause and let its members grow comfortable first. And then take yet another step.
Not anymore. Hence, LinkedIn is like a middle-schooler. Filled with Red Bull-fueled energy, invincibility and unchanneled passion, LinkedIn’s force is unbridled, and worse, confusing to most. I’ve been on LinkedIn for a significant portion of the last ten years and I’ve come to see why people give up before they reap the tremendous benefits it offers. LinkedIn’s added new products and features, made smart acquisitions, they have a HBAG (big hairy audacious goal) for the future and have experienced growing pains that can’t be avoided. As an outsider who pays close attention and often talks with folks at LinkedIn, their continued rapid growth has inevitably created a pretty siloed structure. It’s just what happens.
Now, it’s time for LinkedIn to grow up. They haven’t yet grown into themselves. They are racing to meet Wall Street projections, board expectations, their own brain trust’s brilliance and have failed to see that most people don’t know the answers to the most basic of questions:
- If I join Groups how do I stop all the email?
- Is a Premium Membership necessary and which one do I buy?
- Can I have concurrent positions on my profile?
- How do I add a website?
Hey LinkedIn! Here are 10 tips for you that would improve your members’ experience:
- Release all platform updates in a systematic, planned release 2-3 times per year and provide written release updates in one document.
- Simplify the Home Page and let members decide what types of content they would like to see (that was a feature in the Settings area that is now gone).
- Explain the various Premium Membership offerings. (These should be simplified too. And stop pushing Sales Navigator as the first choice). Be transparent.
- Make personalizing Connection requests standard. There are so many places where you hit “Connect” and it automatically sends an unpersonalized invite.
- Figure out a way for organizations to better manage their Company Pages when it comes to people who have left and not updated their profiles. (And others who say they work for the company but never have).
- Idea: How about, when someone adds a company, there is pop up that asks them to confirm this is the right company?
- Add back in the Products and Services tab. They were more significant than Showcase Pages. Right now unless the key person who is trying to clean up the Company Page has a Premium Membership, customer service often does not respond.
- And what about exporting Company Page followers to engage them?
- Add Live Chat to the Help Center. There’s Live Chat for sales, but not for customer service.
- Train your sales consultants to speak your customers’ language and keep it simple. Most of our clients don’t understand what LinkedIn is talking about around “bundling” solutions, and it creates a sales credibility issue.
- Show real case studies of companies who have little brand recognition, a small budget, and less than ten salespeople. All the new features in Marketing Solutions are all geared to large companies. If LinkedIn wants to be successful it needs to lead the way for small to mid-sized business success. Of course, Dell and Microsoft are getting great results with their marketing and recruiting. Duh! They are Dell and Microsoft. I’ve found many of LinkedIn’s recent webinars frustrating for just that reason.
- Mobile – Members should either be given the option to jump over to the full site when they log on via their mobile device or remind them that it’s not the same version and they won’t be able to do certain things (i.e. personalize invites). Today, more than 52% of people access LinkedIn from their mobile device. When members try to log into the full site on their mobile device, they should be able to without continually being prompted to download or use the app.
- Let members visually see how the people in their network are connected. Bring back InMaps or some new version to show relationships within networks visually.
Like the wild middle-schooler trying to manage all the peer pressure, new friends, competing interests, parental hovering (well-intended and totally necessary) ultimately they have to learn to make choices that will best position them for the next stage (high school, college, career) and their immediate decisions influence so much. I see the same for LinkedIn. They’ve decided to become a front to end business tool and solution for brand development, client development, online learning, publishing, lead nurturing and talent acquisition then they need to make decisions that communicate that effectively to their members and get their members excited about what LinkedIn is today and how it will continue to evolve to provide greater value for each active member.
This is a short list, no doubt, but a good start. I am a LinkedIn evangelist and LinkedIn is one of the most powerful B2B channels I’ve ever used. I would hate to see it falter, lose the loyalty of its members and be stagnant in growth. I doubt that will happen, but as the platform becomes increasingly more sophisticated it runs the risk of people losing interest because the learning curve is so steep. Hey, we’re grateful for that here at Intero. It keeps the lights on in our office. But getting people to even understand how much there is in the engine often takes months.
I’d love to hear what you would like to see added to or taken away from LinkedIn. How could it be a stronger platform for you and your business?