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Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What’s Wrong With LinkedIn, Part 2
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Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What’s Wrong With LinkedIn, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What’s Wrong With LinkedIn, Part 2

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What’s Wrong With LinkedIn, Part 2

Two years ago, we surveyed our social media streams for opinions on LinkedIn, focusing mostly on people’s complaints about the online professional network. The most interesting vote-getters were:

  • LinkedIn feels like digital bragging
  • Endorsements are inaccurate and insincere
  • It spreads like a virus
  • People use it more like a social network than a professional network
  • It seems unwelcoming to blue-collar workers

We figured it was time to revisit the question, and we received a different set of answers, some which were mentioned two years ago but were further down the list. As we all consider the way the enormous, billion-dollar website fits into our professional needs and goals, it’s worth examining what our mutual concerns are.

Nobody really knows what LinkedIn is for.
We use it because we feel we have to keep up, because that’s what others in our field are doing. This was our number one response this year. Repeatedly, respondents said they keep profiles current because they feel it’s expected, but not because they ever really used LinkedIn for anything except getting some background info on new coworkers or new bosses. A few respondents suggested that when Microsoft acquired it last year, it was a sign that what we think LinkedIn is for may not be what it’s actually about.

You can’t snoop anonymously.
The one thing almost everyone says is most useful about LinkedIn is the ability to look at someone’s background, but premium members know who’s checked out their profiles. We’re using “snoop” in its most harmless way, of course, as when someone new comes aboard and you want to see where he went to graduate school, or figure out why he looks so familiar. Since there’s no way to tell if the person you want to snoop on is a premium member, many people just don’t click the profile, which doesn’t do any good for LinkedIn, for the snooper, or for the snooped. One respondent suggested a “sub-premium” paid plan that would allow anonymous snooping, a privilege that premium members would also enjoy. It’s the one thing everyone with a LinkedIn profile wants to do, and it’s the one thing LinkedIn won’t guarantee.

Good content is more easily found elsewhere.
Some respondents shared that they tried their best with LinkedIn, following groups of particular interest to them, but most of the content is insipid, irrelevant, shameless self-promotion, or just not very good. Facebook and Twitter have been better curators of good, interesting content. If you know a few good HR people and follow them on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll get plenty of good content from their shares, often more than you can reasonably consume. Since our FB and Twitter friends are like us in ways other than professionally, we get (and share) a range of good content, non-specific to the interests of a named group. There may be the occasional interesting article on LinkedIn, but wallowing through the noise for that sporadic signal isn’t worth the time, especially when we can count on our other social media streams eventually to find the good stuff, including the good stuff that’s originally shared on LinkedIn.

It feels like we’re all trapped.
This is really a subheading under the first complaint on this list, but it got mentioned enough that we figured it was worth its own quick shout-out. Most of us use LinkedIn in good faith. We want to believe that it can be useful to us and to our connections, but whether that’s true or not isn’t relevant to our feeling that we have to participate anyway, even if it’s just to keep up appearances. Like the necktie that feels some mornings like a noose, LinkedIn feels like an anchor, pulling us down unless we keep swimming to keep ourselves afloat. Many of us don’t enjoy it. Many of us don’t see the point. But all of us keep accounts at least semi-current, and why? Nobody seems to have the answer.

As we did two years ago, we should remind readers that we still actually like LinkedIn, and we believe there’s something huge and unforeseen in its value. For every complaint about a bad contact, many of us have a nice story about reacquainting ourselves with long-lost associates. Many of us will admit to a tiny bit of joy when someone who really knows us professionally hits that endorsement button for some skill we thought wasn’t noticed by others. There’s good stuff in the monster that LinkedIn can feel like, but since we’re all participating anyway, perhaps it’s also worth pointing out some of the ways it frustrates and baffles us.


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Professional Networking: LinkedOut: What’s Wrong With LinkedIn, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

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