Wednesday, December 06, 2006
OK, since we're discussing LinkedIn, let's take a more constructive approach.
What would you do if you were at the helm of the company?
I will post some thoughts in a day or two, but this might be an interesting discussion to have.
Just posted about it:
What do I know though? I only have 10 connections.
OK, so I'll bite just for fun...
LinkedIn is about professionals seeking to find (from their site):
* career opportunities
* consulting offers
* new ventures
* job inquiries
* expertise requests
* business deals
* reference requests
* getting back in touch
I'll take this list as the base reason people signed up (this is an existing brand now), I'd say that a professional edge to relaying the following could be very interesting:
1. Showing your career more visually and tangibly by including blogs/ projects/ products/ start ups (not links, but actual content) a person has worked on which could then be commented on by others. The ability to link back to images on the Wayback Machine may be useful.
2. Use LinkedIn as a way to forge credibility on the web. Use some way to sign in as a meta-blog registration that links back to you, your comments, your blog entries and then shows them on your page. Also, a way for people to verify you when considering you professionally (instead of looking you up on MySpace).
3. Provide value-add connection services by: allowing for a professional home page to be more than a static set of background options and graphics (obvious, but it COULD be a much more interesting resume online); integrating schools & alumni associations into the equation (b-schools do little to professionally get linked up early, often); allowing companies to create a presence that is conversational and topical v. dry and one-way; and give people the ability to express interest in advertising themselves or their businesses across the network much like Google ads would be seen, on a CPM or CPC basis, so that you could choose to be seen by a media corp exec as they surf the site (if you were a consultant that wanted that kind of work :P ).
OK too much, maybe not interesting, but that's off the top of my head as a breather. Back to it.
There was a workshop at the Said Biz School in Oxford a few weeks ago where Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn asked the students what the future direction of LinkedIn should be. It would be interesting if anybody knew about the ideas produced in that session.
I think you are spot on with your analysis about messy and how LinkedIn loses out because it doesn't support rich interaction. You can link to somebody you already know while you fight the promiscuous types who have made it their life's purpose to have as many contacts as possible. Once you have linked to most of the people you know and checked out their contacts: Job done. Unless you are a recruiter or a salesperson and you can pay to spam people. From then on it is useful when one of your contacts move jobs and they change their email contact (and they haven't yet worked out that it makes sense to have a private email address).
So where can LinkedIn go from here? Messy?
Part of networking is introducing people to each other when you think both will benefit from the connection. But that functionality is not available.
LinkedIn recently allowed for the inclusion of links to blogs and other websites, but not the obvious step of pulling, say, titles from articles in a feed.
Or make it a platform for publishing for people who are not comfortable setting up their own blog but see a value in sharing their thoughts next to their profile information.
Apart from the first suggestion, I think most of the stuff you can *do* on a website that has your profile as the central piece of content is already being done by facebook, xing, myspace, asw. LinkedIn's next step needs to take something that business people do all the time in real life and offer an elegant way of doing it online, except it hasn't been done online before. The challenge is great if they want it to be a tool that has equal appeal amongst big corporation employees, entrepreneurs, CxOs (and recruiters).
Whatever it is it will probably be messy.
One aspect that I would find very usefull would be "virtual" networks. That is the ability to add links to a network of people you are interested in keeping tabs on (perhaps they are in the same field or industry) but are not ready to connect to.
I have this in an ad hoc fashion with del.icio.us but having it in LinkedIn would be a powerfull feature.
Another nice feature would be to visualize your networks, dropping in potential contacts to see where they fit and more importantly where you have "holes" in your network that you would actively like to pursue and fill with new contacts.
Easy: drop fees, increase features. Increase membership and usage - actively look for ways to be more useful to the network and allow for innovation by the members.
Buy ReputationDefender or equivalent and tie it in as part of the service. The next generation of execs are going to be just as concerned about getting rid of adverse publicity as generating positive - LinkedIn/RD is the perfect tie-up for both services.
LinkedIn can't get as messy as MySpace - Ilana Fox commented
on one of my LinkedIn posts that "the main reason why Linkedin will never be a MySpace (is) it's restrictive in what it can be, and what it can allow it's users to be. People will never interact properly on it because who wants their business emails (as opposed to 'I fancy you/want to go to this gig/I look so fat today' MySpace style mails) in the public domain?"
So it needs to let users link out to other aspects of their persistent digital identity, but highly selectively. They might be willing to have the "mess" come from a link to their professional blog but not from a link to their old MySpace/Facebook/etc account (which LinkedIn/RD will be busy helping them cover up). LinkedIn could become the central plank of that identity, so long as it let people customise the elements they wanted to drag in from elsewhere (the usual widgetisation argument, in fact).
But mainly it needs to develop the idea of a CV-matching service beyond the currently fairly primitive state of the art: see e.g. Forrester's Charlene Li proposing
(18 months ago!) a better model for matching candidates to jobs. What LinkedIn is doing - letting recruiters spam its lists - is the most primitive possible approach to this market. What it can do instead is leverage the richness of the data it holds about its users, treat that data as persistent (passive) CVs, and use it to redefine the way people offer and find jobs.
I find linkedin a very good way to collect recommendations.
I’m a senior IT project manager working on contract for large Australian companies. I find that recommendations are an excellent way to stand out from other candidates and to sell my services.
So far I have 71 connections on linkedin and 12 recommendations.
Interestingly most of the recruiting managers I see don’t use linkedin. But they are impressed by the recommendations from linkedin in my print cv.
If interviewers are on linkedin they can go and look at the profiles of the people who have given me recommendations, which increases the credibility of the recommendations further.
I also give other people I know recommendations. In effect there is a trading of recommendations going on. Although I am always honest about what I say as I know it could come back to me.
In the last two years I have had about 8 calls from recruitment agencies who have found me on linkedin. None of these calls has led to any opportunities that I was interested in pursuing because they were all looking for permanent staff. I get nearly all of my contracts from applying to contract roles on job boards.
I have tried looking for contracts on linkedin but there does not seem to be any Australian jobs there.
The best way that linkedin could improve it’s service would be to suggest Australian jobs that are a good match for what I am looking for. Job matching seems weak at the moment.
they should staff a customer service phone number and develop SLAs for emails.
Build a referral recruiting service that uses the LinkedIn community to recommend high-quality candidates for jobs. The service finds perfect candidates who who may or may not be looking for work. If you're in this network, you agree to receive jobs -- you either apply or pass on the postings that come your way. The incentive to pass on the posting to a better qualified candidate is that it yields a bigger piece of the referral bonus pie. The revenue model is for LinkedIn to take a percentage of the referral bonuses that are split amongst the referees who were involved in the chain that referred a successful candidate.