Jan 31

In response to my open query about whether LinkedIn actually matters, Scott Allen over at LinkedIntelligence points out that there are many people who are getting hired through LinkedIn.

Scott makes a good point — LinkedIn certainly hasn’t grown its user base by being useless. Users are certainly deriving some value from being on LinkedIn, or they simply wouldn’t be on LinkedIn.

Yet what I see happening (and this of course, is highly unvalidated and subjective) is that there is a growing middle market on LinkedIn — users that have joined and now aren’t quite sure where to go with their LinkedIn experience.

There are certainly people who have used LinkedIn and Jobster profiles in innovative ways, but that knowledge doesn’t really seem to filter down to the average user.

LinkedIn has its share of ‘superusers’ who have hundreds of contacts and have devoted the time it takes to build up such an impressive network.

But for the rest of us, perhaps LinkedIn could:

1. Provide suggestions for how to use your contacts when you sign up for LinkedIn.

This would provide newbies with a brief primer on what to do with the connections they make. The LinkedIn folks are certainly the most familiar with what to do with LinkedIn, so would be in the best position to suggest what we could do with our connections.

2. Point users to external resources.

Sites like LinkedIntelligence provide great resources on LinkedIn (as did Guy Kawasaki’s post on ways to use LinkedIn), so why not point to external resources that users could take advantage of?

3. Provide discussion on what to do with LinkedIn connections.

Why not have a forum, wiki or other method to post ideas about using LinkedIn profiles and connections in innovative ways? There’s certainly no shortage of great ideas for how to use LinkedIn, so why not provide users with an open way to get at those existing ideas.

LinkedIn is a great online networking tool (heck, you could even argue it’s the online networking tool), and I think the LinkedIn team has a great opportunity to provide a bit more guidance to their growing user base.

And while I certainly haven’t devoted the time to LinkedIn that I’d like to, I know I’ve certainly made some great connections through it.

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5 Responses to “3 ways LinkedIn could help its users.”

  1. Jason Alba Says:

    Lucas, great post – good suggestions. My first few months on LinkedIn was very lonely as I had one connection and didn’t really know what I was doing. It wasn’t until recently, with around 100 connections that I started to get some real value out of the network that was starting to develop. I’m not even close to the level that Scott Allen is, I consider myself a little less than the average person. But you are right on, there’s lots of opportunity for LinkedIn to do some handholding.

  2. Scott Allen Says:

    I’ve thought this since day one, Lucas. In fact, it’s the missing ingredient in just about every business-oriented social networking site. The tool itself may actually be very simple to use, but knowing how to intelligently apply it to your business needs is non-obvious, and that will be true for most users no matter how good the tool is. The same argument could be made regarding, say, Microsoft Word or any other productivity tool.

    About three years ago, I co-developed a training class with LinkedIn that we delivered under their brand, promoted on their site, etc., for several months. We both considered it a pilot for taking up to a larger scale, but even though the feedback on it was great, in the end we didn’t continue it.

    Basically, LinkedIn said (and I couldn’t argue with them, really) that rather than offering training like that under their brand, they wanted to have multiple people out there providing training, books, etc. So what they’ve done is work with folks like Guy, me, et al., to provide information & support, to help us to do things independently.

    Regarding your specific points…

    1. There certainly could be more, although I think LinkedIn does an exceptional job — far better than most sites — at working some usage tips into the interface, etc. There are bits and pieces of this throughout the system, but there definitely could be some more.

    2. That’s what I certainly hope to see happen. They should have some kind of “authorized partner” program or some way of pointing to the many outside resources available. Amazing how many people will follow a link for something, but won’t take the time to go look it up in Google. For example, a search on “LinkedIn profile” will turn up plenty of good results in the top 10, including Guy Kawasaki’s profile extreme makeover post. “LinkedIn discussion forum” will lead pretty quickly to the Yahoo Groups. And “LinkedIn blog”, “using LinkedIn” or “how to use LinkedIn” all turn up plenty of good results.

    3. There are several LinkedIn-focused Yahoo Groups. See my blogroll for them. LinkedIn has been very good about supporting these groups in the sense of a) participating in the groups, b) providing insight into the reasoning behind some of the company’s decisions, announcements about new features, etc., and c) offering some give-aways as contest prizes, and so on. But LI hasn’t really done anything in the way of making all users aware of these resources.

    So the resources are all there if someone looks, wjust not being pushed into the attention of the 10 million LinkedIn members.

  3. Lucas McDonnell Says:

    Thanks for your comments, Jason and Scott.

    Jason — I think your experience on LinkedIn is how most people start out — with no connections and some confusion as to what they should do.

    Scott — you make some great points. I think you’re exactly right about the resources being there, and that the average user just simply won’t take the time to look for them.

    LinkedIn has done well with their interface design and general usability, but a little more push is needed to get users to do something with their contacts. Most of the tips in the interface are geared at creating an ever-larger network. I believe that if LinkedIn is going to take their service to the next level, there needs to be more direct pointers to authorized partners and resources, as you said.

  4. Jason Alba Says:

    No problem Lucas – great thread, and Scott adds a lot to it (as usual). Its hard with technology, you want to stay ahead with cool stuff, you get behind with current server capacity (!), your customers need more handholding (but you think its all intuitive :) :)). I’ve been there. One really interesting thing is that LinkedIn is in such a public eye, and people like you have a great platform to offer suggestions, which makes them more transparent than they might want.

    Having said that, its like a huge, diverse focus group!

    I’d love your two cents on JibberJobber (which is not social networking, and not competing in this space, rather, its complementary).

    – jason

  5. Lucas McDonnell Says:

    I agree — LinkedIn’s transparency is definitely both a pro and a con for the company. They certainly have the potential to test against a huge focus group, but I think at the same time they are going to have to develop the service-oriented part of their business. As Scott’s comment states, there is certainly no lack of ideas on how they can do this.

    From the posts I’ve read on JibberJobber, it seems like a really cool site (I love sites that deconstruct things and present them from a personal perspective — especially when it’s an applied information-sharing and relationship-building process like job seeking).

    And JibberJobber just got added to my blog links. 😉