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05 2010

Are The Good Old Days At LinkedIn Over?

Posted in LinkedIN | 22 comments

Is it just my imagination or has the tone and manner of LinkedIn changed in recent months ? 

LinkedIn has always been my favorite social networking site.  Despite its size (60 million and counting), it has always felt like a  place where business issues could be discussed freely, where people create solid business networks, build their reputations  and eventually hook up for business ventures and possible  job opportunities.

Lately, all of this has eroded.  I am getting dozens of promotions from LinkedIn connections on a daily basis. People are hawking their products and services.  It is starting to feel less like a  business community and more like a business marketplace.  Maybe its just my imagination but it is beginning to feel like the good old days of pure business social networking are fading away at Linkedin.

Let’s be honest about social media.  We are all struggling with the sweet spot between how to socialize and share generously with our communities and how to sell.  At the end of the day, we do want to sell—our ideas, our products, our services, our consulting. 

But, in my mind, there is a correct-albeit slower- way to do this.  You meet people on a social networking site like LinkedIn.  You talk to them, get to know them and even trust them.  If you want to carry that relationship further, the best way to do that is to direct them to your blog and/or website.  Once there, they can join your opt-in box and you can continue the conversation through a weekly ezine or the odd email.  It seems to be the appropriate place to begin introducing your products and services.  Because when someone opts in, they are saying  they are willing to hear what you say and open to your sales pitches.  And if they don’t like what they hear, they always have the option to opt-out.  Permission marketing, pure and simple.

  1. Kushal Shah says:

    Hi Susan,

    I completely agree and share your feelings about the recent experience with LinkedIn. I have received more than 100 emails for products/services on offer and am not sure if there is any way to filter this. Apart from this, some of the groups that I am part of for long time have also seen a complete change in the quality of discussions. Earlier, the groups were recognized places for sharing industry knowledge, best practices and pain points for the industries – now they are more of marketing engines for some companies and every second post that I see there is an advertisement or sales message.

    I hope somebody at LinkedIn is reading all this and takes some corrective actions…

    Regards,

    Kushal

  2. Susan,
    You raise an excellent point and observation. As much as I would also prefer LinkedIn to remain a homogenous professionally focused networking resource, my experience with technology and related products/services tells me that your concerns are valid as well as inevitable. I’ve seen it occur with nearly every other service in this arena; Facebook, Blogs, Google, even YouTube. They are all, at their core, communication machines and even though their original intent was for ‘pure’ interaction, once they become common knowledge and people begin to realize how they can leverage the services for personal or business gain, poof, they become a commercial marketplace…

    The very same attributes that launched them to popularity and fame (open standards, minimal rules, no exclusion, free subscriptions), ultimately open the door to their increased usage, breadth of functionality and dilution. Just like the old saying “Give a boy a hammer and everything he encounters will miraculously need hammering”, people will use the tools they have (and know) to accomplish tasks, including morphing or perhaps utilizing them in different ways, other than they had originally been intended or promoted by their creators.

    So it is with LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, just to name a few. Look especially at Google. They began as a pure search engine. Based on presence and effectiveness, however, success and growth came rapidly. Leveraging their presence and ‘brand’ equity, they quickly realized that they could generate revenue (a lot of it), by selling space on their pages for advertising. And then came gmail, mapping, news, docs and YouTube. At the beginning, you never would have guessed this would have occurred. Hindsight, however, will be forever 20/20 and now, looking back, it is a very logical sequence of events. Google recognized and then capitalized on its products and presence… and the rest is history.

    For more information: please read my article: http://www.examiner.com/x-33911-Green-Bay-Technology-Examiner~y2010m2d9-Google-Getting-Socail-Expected-to-make-BIG-announcement-later-today

    Others thoughts?

    Mike Cerkas
    mcerkas@gmail.com

  3. There seems to be a sense of nostalgia and disappointment in your post. Yet as a social media professional, surely you see the value in the Linkedin platform, as you have posted, and used it to drive traffic to this very blog post. (very nicely I might add!)

    Although Linkedin does seem to be evolving, I have found it to become only more valuable to me as more people join.

    Linkedin has become a tremendous resource, not just on its own, but in conjunction with Twitter (especially) and Facebook. I personally have received invitations, engagement requests and have requested recommendations for special talents or resources via Linkedin with success.

    I believe if you are willing to put in to it as much as you expect to get out of it, the platform can be as powerful as you want, or need it to be, to validate time invested.

    I believe this very discussion illustrates that people do still wish to exchange thoughts, opinion, tips and extend introductions.

    As for the correct, albeit slow method of getting someone to your website, opting in, sending them your email, etc. This will of course happen with those who wish to learn, observe or monitor your activity. The social platforms offer a more intimate method of opting in. Relationships are revealed that make people feel more closely connected…and, in my mind easier to engage in discussion in real-time, more efficiently than an email opt-in.

    Perhaps it comes down to building ones network to include the very people who will have interest and knowledge to interact meaningfully. I like to call those people “spheres of influence” and it sure works for me!

  4. Patricia says:

    Susan, Susan, Susan -

    You are preaching to the choir. I continuously preach this in my own LinkedIn group and across the board; you are echoing my words completely. It’s refreshing to read something like this in which it’s evident you get it.

    Here’s my favorite point to make. Many join groups and then get spammy. Every other day a new redundant post in discussions which weren’t aimed at discussion at all. All discussions in my group are aimed at dialogue and it’s actively managed, so if it isn’t it gets removed immediately. In any case, I began taking an informal poll of those who work this way and asked if it gained them more traffic or more participation in their workshops and seminars. A resounding NO from all, men and women all with different backgrounds, products and services. It just doesn’t work. In addition to that, instead of demonstrating expertise, they are now being associated with spammers and that’s not an image you want to be associated with. These are adults but they just don’t get it. Why keep doing what clearly does not work?

    What I do and have seen work immensely is I just communicate with people. I don’t care what their profession, what state or country they are in, if the topic appeals, I jump in and get to talking. From that all kinds of opportunities have arisen for me. A discussion I wrote in a group was picked up to be excerpted by Forbes; I’ve been invited to and hosted radio shows now; just last weekend I had lunch with a member of my group as she was traveling through my state on her way to do missionary work and we were just dying to meet face to face. We sat and talked for hours like we’d known each other a lifetime. I’m also working on several small projects behind the scenes with others I’ve met through LinkedIn. Now those same people are willing to listen as I ask for advice, information, ideas. They forward tips on jobs that I would not have known about and get an extra in because I’m familiar with someone the interviewer knows and so much more.

    I couldn’t have known ahead of time how these relationships would go. I wasn’t seeking a radio interview, I wasn’t pitching an article, I wasn’t in need of a lunch date. But when we develop relationships first, the relationships themselves can bring about opportunities we couldn’t have dreamed of ourselves and that’s real networking and relationship building. What I do know is that if I’d hit them over the head constantly about what I need and what I want I wouldn’t have been considered someone they want to know.

    Quite awhile ago I read that we are more likely to buy something we do NOT need from someone we like than we are to buy something we DO need from someone we don’t. That’s valuable to embrace. If I like you and what you stand for, I am more likely to promote your work, your service and YOU to others. But if you hit me like a used car salesman every time I hear from you and the only time you communicate with me is to sell or promote, I’m not going to forward you to someone else who may become just as annoyed. I don’t want them to associate that annoyance with ME. That’s smart business sense and we’ve got to get with it!

    We’ve communicated via LinkedIn before, Susan, and a friend and member of my LinkedIn group emailed me this article because she knew how strongly I feel about this topic and that I’d have something to add. Great article! Hope all is well with you. You’ve got a new follower! I’ll tweet ya!

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/pnixon
    http://twitter.com/PatriciaNixon

  5. I also started to feel fishy about who searched me and browsed my profile. They like me to feel that there are people who do that everyday to lure me into subscribing for money to see the rest of the people (beyond 5 names). What I started to see is that they recycle such names over sometimes.

  6. JH says:

    But, in my mind, there is a correct-albeit slower- way to do this. You meet people on a social networking site like LinkedIn. You talk to them, get to know them and even trust them. If you want to carry that relationship further, the best way to do that is to direct them to your blog and/or website. Once there, they can join your opt-in box and you can continue the conversation through a weekly ezine or the odd email. It seems to be the appropriate place to begin introducing your products and services. Because when someone opts in, they are saying they are willing to hear what you say and open to your sales pitches. And if they don’t like what they hear, they always have the option to opt-out. Permission marketing, pure and simple.

    What a magnificent insight !

  7. Bill Cabiro says:

    Susan: You are absolutely right. The tone has certailnly changed to a harder promotional push. Inviting to the blog to opt in is the right approach.

    Thanks, Bill

  8. Alexander Kidonakis says:

    No the Good Days are not over.
    Simply there are out there far too many people seeking to sell to us through clutter and forced unhuman Marketing practices flooding our in-boxes everyday. Its up to us to keep the door shut while at the same time keep it wide open to the few we can hope to co-create a common future.
    In time bright Minds find each other and co-create the future of our Dreams.
    Our new era is solidly based on the belief that NONE of us can not be smarter than ALL of US. And social networks not only make that possible but accelerate the procedure to incredible speeds.

    (Please check 2 messages I have sent you over through the LinkedIN messaging system.)

  9. I think this change may be partly because of the number of people who are using Twitter to hawk their products and services rather than to interact with others, and then have their Twitter feeding into LinkedIn, but I have also noticed a lot of people using the groups for self-promotion rather than discussion. It makes it very hard for those of us who really do want to network!

    People need to approach online networking the same way they would face-to-face networking. They wouldn’t run up to someone at a Chamber event, throw a flyer in their face, and move on to the next person without even stopping to say hello – or would they? Sadly, there are people who do that too…

  10. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ywd: Do you feel that #LinkedIn is becoming a promotion plataform?: Are The Good Old Days At LinkedIn Over? http://ow.ly/1uVKr...

  11. Ahmed says:

    Something not convincing probably due non apprehension i am saying this

  12. Dan Collins says:

    Good post Susan.

    It certainly seems to have hit a nerve on linked in. Your summary on how to engage, build a communication stream first, then refer interested parties to a blog or site and, maybe after that, pitch is the part that many seem to miss. Perhaps it’s the got to do it all now mentality that still seems to see every venue as a one call one close opportunity. Social media, in my view, is simply another yellow page ad where people see individuals and businesses and either take the initiative to connect further or not. Yes it does ‘profile and target’ a little better but posters that try to do it all in one shot are perhaps getting a little ahead of themselves – imho.

    Dan Collins
    Chief Operating Officer
    AddVenture

  13. Anne says:

    I am in agreement with you. I see more self promotion than discussions. Another think I am beginning to notice is that a lot of people want to connect with you, not because they really know you or will ever know you but just because they want to add connections. I wonder if they would really refer you to a potential employer if asked.

  14. harnhua says:

    Thank you for your insightful post.
    As a small business owner, I’m struggling with how to market/sell my products without coming across as too aggressive or ‘fake’. I think you’ve summarized the process nicely.
    Now I just to figure out how to get to know people sincerely without thinking about sales, sales and more sales. I’m realizing that it’s really not about selling; it’s about understanding what the other person does and trying to help them from their standpoint.
    Establishing first contact and getting that first reply, though, doesn’t seem that straightforward.
    Great article.

  15. Doug says:

    Susan,

    Thanks for writing this. I agree.

    I knew that something was bothering me about my LinkedIn experience. But in the flurry of rapid e-mailing reading and deletion, I hadn’t yet put my finger on the issue. I think that people are tweeting too much of what they are selling versus the discussions on issues, questions, thoughts, … I like your clear process of permission marketing and would like to see a return to your suggested mode of operation.

    Doug

  16. Hi Susan,

    Great post. Any help you can offer us about finding the sweet spot will make life online better for us all. I know I struggle with this, and I’m sure others do too, as part of their online learning curve.

    Kind Regards, Peter.

  17. Eric Kotonya says:

    Sadly, you are right – Linkedin is turning into a retail outlet and products launchpad.
    I guess this was bound to happen as the network grew beyond a certain “community size” – the value graph of any community rises with membership, then peaks and starts to decline;

    Smaller communities seem to be self regulated and focused, with each member keeping an eye on every other member… but as the numbers grow – as it Linkedin, it becomes impossible to micro-tag each individual member, and “common-interests” community self-regulation crumbles.

  18. Mervyn Greene says:

    Susan:

    I agree. But I think it was inevitable. I think the problem started with the erosion of the line between social relationships and business relationships. There were certain agreed upon rules as to when one discussed social matters and when one discussed business matters.

    As that disappeared (especially in the U.S.) it became a free-for-all. This was an easy transition in a society where social standing is frequently measured by one’s wealth.

  19. Ozzie Saunds says:

    Hi Susan, Great article. I think your right. Unfortunately as more people use Linkedin I believe it will lose its value too. It started off being this large network of business professionals, who just wanted to network but now is growing into an advertising marketplace. For now at least I still find it to be the best online professional social networking site.

    Ozzie Saunds
    ResumeWritingEdge.com

  20. Paul de Pender says:

    Dear Susan,

    The development you are discussing did not escape my attention. Linked-in is still my preferred social network, but it is important to put a hold to this development. Personally I judge between interesting offers and SPAM. I don’t mind anyone sending me invitations for events where Networking can be continued, paid or unpaid, but I do mind when people send their marketing just like that. At the moment is doesn’t happen to me, but maybe we need to help those overly zealous marketeers by warning them they are violating unwritten rules or boundaries. I believe this will help Linked-in remain the quality network it is at the moment.

    Kind regards,

    Paul

  21. Alan Hill says:

    Hi Susan

    I agree that the tone of LinkedIn has changed. I agree with your approach to permisssion marketing. Here in Australia (Melbourne), the approach to sales and marketing is generally less, well, direct than in the US – perhaps more along the lines of the English. My view is that we adapt as the medium shifts. As long as LinkedIn (and other similar sites) provide reasonable guards, then we can avoid the pushers. One way of cleaning out is to leave a network group, and then rejoin it. Another is to direct established contacts to one’s own site. A third, is to advise LinkeIn of e-harassment. I received a resume writing invite from India a while ago. I ignored it. I then started to receive regular, similar invites. I advised LinkedIn and about two weeks later, they stopped.

    As long as the benefits from the site outweigh the disadvantages, I stay connected.

    PS. I don’t know about the female David Ogilvy bit. The straight Susan Rice seems to be OK.

    Regards

    Alan

  22. Dave Sharpe says:

    Finally a blog worthy of reading and I couldn’t agree more. I Linkedin about 1 year ago thinking that even in my retirement, this system of networking could provide, maybe some opportunities down the road. However health issues, since opting-in have slowed my enthusiasm to the degree that I’ve not followed this media. Over that last few months however the amount of email from Linkedin has definitely grown and I’ve noted the blogs subject matter has turned to what I consider garbage. Actually to the point where I almost immediately delete the incoming without browsing it… stopping just short of adding this website to my spam list and opting-out. You won’t find me on Face Book, Twitter or any other social networking site, I have no time for that, I’m interest in business issues and those ideas that spawn from it. This I thought was where we could pitch our ideas and get some response.

    Maybe there is still hope.