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The Trouble with LinkedIn: Grey Goo

by
Krista Bradford
Dec 7, 2011, 5:40 am ET

As much as we in recruiting enjoy the many benefits of LinkedIn, there is trouble in paradise. I’ve been a member of LinkedIn since the early days, to which my user ID (59572) will attest. Because LinkedIn numbers its members sequentially, if you do the math, you’ll find me counted among the first .06 percent of LinkedIn users. However, lately, I’ve noticed that what began as a business networking site is starting to feel more like a marketing and recruiting site dressed up as a social network.

Others suggest it more resembles the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, a digital beast that devours our contacts and serves them up to large corporate clients willing to pay for what was once our data.

One cannot really blame LinkedIn for monetizing its business model. It does need to generate revenues to keep the lights on. But as it pursues recruiting revenues, as it encourages business professionals to use LinkedIn more as a marketing platform for “brand you,” as it prods users to pay for the privilege of networking and recruiting on LinkedIn, it is fair to wonder what value we get in return for that investment. While LinkedIn may remain a shiny object to which many recruiters feel inextricably drawn, we are in serious need of a reality check.

Earlier this year, LinkedIn reached two impressive milestones. It went public and it surpassed 100 million registered users. However, before LinkedIn went public, the social network filed a document with the SEC reporting a significant risk factor to LNKD investors: just how unreliable that 100 million figure is.

The number of our registered members is higher than the number of actual members, and a substantial majority of our page views are generated by a minority of our members. The number of registered members in our network is higher than the number of actual members because some members have multiple registrations, other members have died or become incapacitated, and others may have registered under fictitious names.

In other words, LinkedIn’s 100 million number is wildly inaccurate. However, attempting to pin down a more meaningful number is like nailing Jell-O to the the wall. That is why, dag-nab-it, LinkedIn is sticking with the 100 million member figure. Flawed though it may be, it contends it’s the only number it’s got.

Given the challenges inherent in identifying these accounts, we do not have a reliable system to accurately identify the number of actual members, and thus we rely on the number of registered members as our measure of the size of our network. Further, a substantial majority of our members do not visit our website on a monthly basis, and a substantial majority of our page views are generated by a minority of our members.

Recruiters: are you paying attention? A substantial majority of LinkedIn members rarely visit LinkedIn. That’s according to LinkedIn itself. Seriously, if that’s the case, one has to wonder how viable LinkedIn is as a social network. LinkedIn wonders as well:

If the number of our actual members does not meet our expectations or we are unable to increase the breadth and frequency of our visiting members, then our business may not grow as fast as we expect, which will harm our operating and financial results and may cause our stock price to decline.

The investor website Seeking Alpha has expressed concern about LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions business — an advertising business unit that provides about a third of LinkedIn revenues — because “a website’s value to advertisers is directly proportionate to its number of active users.” Seeking Alpha accuses LinkedIn of being intentionally vague about its active user base and suggests we examine Quantcast reports on audience size instead. Only 1% of LinkedIn users are “addicts” who visit the site 30 or more times a month compared to Facebook’s 76%.

That disconnect may be starting to unsettle investors. The Wall Street Journal has taken note of recent drops in share price as early investors and executives unload shares in the wake of its May IPO. While many stocks weaken once employees are free to sell their shares after a company goes public, this appears to be much worse. In fact, Bloomberg contributing editor and investor Paul Kedrosky recently opined that LinkedIn’s precipitous decline is because LinkedIn has been broken from the beginning.

Kedrosky, who is also the editor of the popular financial blog Infectious Greed, notes that LinkedIn’s institutional investors make up only about 12% of its ownership, about half the percentage of stocks that enjoy strong institutional support.

Kedrosky’s article was called to my attention by Gary Stock, a longtime friend, technologist, and former code-breaking cryptanalyst with the National Security Agency. Stock participates in an invitation-only discussion group called “The TBTF Irregulars.” The group was formed by technology journalist/physicist Keith Dawson and also features the likes of David Weinberger, co-author of the seminal book on social networking The Cluetrain Manifesto and author of Small Pieces, Loosely Joined. It other words, this is a group that takes social networking theory very seriously.

Gary noted there has been growing chatter among The Irregulars about how LinkedIn may be losing its way. They observe that it is behaving more aggressively and hyperactively. Popup wizards online nag us to enhance our profiles, to give up more and more pieces of ourselves. One Irregular noted an email from LinkedIn to confirm a connection suddenly mistook him for a new user, though he’d been a member for years, and attempted to raid his address book to send out new invitations to connect on LinkedIn. When he demurred, his friends still strangely get hit with those email invites. In other words, even though he said “no,” LinkedIn’s technology apparently said “yes.”

Those hiccups may be due, in part, to the problems with iterative development, of rules and algorithms run amok as large platforms scale. However, it may be that LinkedIn is undergoing a personality change.

Stock theorizes that LinkedIn may have an “all-things-to-all-people” problem. He observes that LinkedIn once insisted we limit our networks to those whom we know and with whom we do business.

Gary being Gary, he took building quality connections in the beginning so seriously that when a college student that he knew attempted to connect with him on LinkedIn, he visited that student to explain personally why he could not make the student a connection: they had never worked together and were not even in the same industry. However, soon Gary realized that he did do business with the student. In fact, he had for several years. The student’s family sold produce at the local farmer’s market that Gary frequented. So Stock relaxed his rules, and it appears, LinkedIn has as well.

A network that first insisted that we network only with those we know has morphed into a place to network with those we want to know us.

That transformation has turned the LinkedIn data stream into a torrent of less-meaningful data. Eventually, Stock predicts, LinkedIn may need to divide itself into separate businesses or risk becoming a “melange of gray goo that nobody recognizes anymore.”

For non-nerds, “grey goo” is a phrase first coined by nanotechnologist Eric Drexler in the 1986 book Engines of Creation. Grey goo is the the result of an apocalyptic scenario in which rogue self-replicating robots consume all matter on earth while building more themselves. If it isn’t careful, LinkedIn may find itself turning into a large mass of replicating nanomachines (members) lacking large-scale structure (promiscuous networking). Yes, grey goo.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Robert Bialk

    Interesting and insightful perspective. As long as LinkedIn has the largest pool of talent it will be able to monetize the network. How mired will LinkedIn become with its’ own success…only time will tell.

    If you read any detailed filing for any technology company they all have to state the known risk factors. It is surprising anyone buys any stock after reviewing the inherent risk.

    Krista does this mean you are no longer going to use LinkedIn for your search practice? How much time do you spend in LinkedIn per month?

  2. Krista Bradford

    Robert. I remain a long-time and frequent user of LinkedIn. I am likely counted among LinkedIn Quantcast statistic of the 1% of users who are addicts — visting more than 30 times a month. ( It would be interesting to see what percentage of those addicts are recruiters . . .)

    The primary thing that I advocate for is that we “consider the source” — a lesson I learned from my days as an investigative recruiter. We need to understand the shape, size, and behavior patterns of those that frequent the social networks we cultivate. As we wrangle data and social network relationships, understanding the inherent weaknesses as well as the strengths of those networks drives efficiencies in our recruiting and sourcing work. Even better, discussing those things openly — exploring what does and does not work, observing unintended consequences, and sharing experiences with quirky behaviors in the technology — may very well inform improvements in service offerings. In other words, I’d like to think that’s a good thing for LinkedIn.

  3. Jerry Albright

    Linkedin is a database. Oh – it’s a modern database with all kinds of fun ways to interact – sure. But at it’s core it is a job board/resume database.

    When I look at the newsfeed stream of “content” – it’s the same content as Twitter. Nothing but a nonstop blur of “Know anyone for this job…?” and “Are you a fit for this….?”

    Why pretend it’s more than this? It’s great for what it is.

  4. Robert Bialk

    LinkedIn is really more a “Business Network”; rather than “Social”.

    In my use of LinkedIn I do not notice many duplicates. For the members that have duplicates it is possible to consolidate records.

    To add on to your understanding the size? I find it odd that anyone would want to have an open network. Why be connected when there is no reference point with the individual? Quality of contacts is better than volume?

    On the behavior side it appears many target contacts ignore any type of email.

    I would be interested to get a post from a Head of HR or “C” level (mid-large size company) to understand how many email/phone solicitations they receive on an average day to help us better understand effectiveness and efficiency.

  5. Carol Schultz

    Right on Krista. Like you, I’m an early member (554,834) and used it as an adjunct to my other sourcing techniques when I was still in my search practice. I still find it a useful tool. No, it is not a panacea like many people feel. These guys are laughing all the way to the bank: http://www.businessinsider.com/check-out-how-much-linkedins-insiders-will-make-when-they-cash-out-next-week-2011-11?op=1

  6. Darren Ledger

    Interesting article. Quick question though, how do you find your user ID number please? I have been a user since April 2005 and a paid subscriber since April 2006. I remember when I first got to grips with it and thought I had stumbled upon a really superb tool and actually wanted to keep it a secret. It has only been in the last couple of years owning my own business that I have started promoting, encouraging and training people to use linkedin.

    Would love to know how many users there were when I joined.

  7. Bilal Ojjeh

    I signed up to Linkedin shortly after you did (my #59660) and have been a big fan, especially after meeting the top management in Europe last year and this year.

    However, I am receiving nowadays more and more unsolicited emails / marketing (spam?) through Linkedin than at any previous time before. As a result, people like me will read and respond less to all Linkedin emails / inMails.

    During the first years of Linkedin, it repeatedly chose to forgo revenue streams that would harm the user experience. I regret to feel now that it is sacrificing that very user experience that was a primary reason for its phenomenal success.

    Bilal Ojjeh
    Founder and CEO
    Careernomics-Group.com

  8. Maureen Sharib

    Smart.

  9. Vicki Lauter

    I too am also part of the LinkedIN 1% visiting a lot more than 30x a month! (member #176240) I often wondered why I have people in my network that I CLEARLY did not “accept”

    I originally started using it to reconnect to former colleagues in the consulting world. And yes, I have used it as a database as Jerry puts it. I too think they have lost their way; starting out as a way to connect business associates and now clearly being more of a database of potential professional candidates.

    Thank you for sharing the insights.

  10. Krista Bradford

    Your member number is listed in your profile URL: mine is http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=59572 Also, if you login and click on settings, LinkedIn tells you when you joined (apparently I signed up December 10, 2003!)

    It would be fun to invite comments on ERE member’s LinkedIn ID numbers and signup dates. How low can we go???? To that end:

    Krista Bradford: December 10, 2003, LinkedIn Member ID 59572.

  11. Robert Dromgoole

    Good article, but those risk statements read like the end of days for every publicly traded company in every 10K/10Q. They put every sort of warning in them. Microsoft’s probably reads ‘If our Redmond campus were to get hit by an asteroid, we’d be at risk …..’ The rest of the article I loved. It’ll be interesting to see how they evolve.

  12. Gary Stock

    Coincidence? Four hours after this post appeared, I received a LinkedIn invitation to connect with someone I have never met, and never heard of before, from 1,000 miles away. That happens only about twice each year… hmmm…

    As far as I can tell (and I’m good at this ;-) the person exists nowhere online ~other~ than their LinkedIn profile… and they have only 19 connections.

    I suspect this is a test. LOL

  13. Brian Kevin Johnston

    Member since: March 25, 2004… Great article… Influence and Persuasion is the only skill/platform that matters. We all share the same database, it is called the world wide web. Linkedin is a tool, and tools can be replaced… Best to ALL!

  14. Krista Bradford

    Terrific comments. I posted piece on Linked User ID numbers on the Intellerati Blog at http://www.intellerati.com/blog/ with screen shots on how to find your LinkedIn Member ID number.

    I invite your comments with your LinkedIn User ID numbers to see how low we can go!

  15. Marc Rodriguez

    This article is news !?!? Talk about re-hashing old information as something fresh. It has been reported for some time that the majority of the traffic on their website has been from Recruiters … and why is it a revelation that a company based on membership ( and it’s subsequent valuation as a company ) has a lax policy on verification of their actual membership numbers ?

    For a long time now, Linkedin has been overtaken by members that look at it as a way to connect to people they don’t know … rather than the original intent of linkedin. And I believe a long time ago … linkedin realized that if they were ever going to monetize their business, they would need to QUICKLY embrace that model BUT SLOWLY make changes accordingly.

    Lastly, I’m sure that there are smart people out there as well who are automating the process of creating ‘fake’ profiles on linkedin, automating the process of connecting to real people, all simply to collect potential marketing data (email information, education / work information, etc ) to be used for other means or sold to other organizations. It is happening on Facebook and anytime you have a database of interesting information, people will want to mine that information for marketing or other purposes.

    Just my two cents …

  16. Irina Shamaeva

    Krista,

    Thanks for a very interesting article! The article will be very visible on LinkedIn too, because ERE is one of the official “news” sites for the Staffing and Recruiting Industry.

    Here’s what rings a bell for me.

    I use LinkedIn all the time. Sure, it has reasons to be criticized. Unfortunately, LI still remains without competition for recruiters and hiring managers across industries as the largest gathering of professionals, capable of responding to occasional messages. As a recruiter, I still get 10x better response from messaging and InMails on LinkedIn than from emailing. I do see a gradual decline in response, apparently because LI members are bombarded with irrelevant messages more and more.

    As a piece of software LinkedIn has way too many problems “with iterative development, of rules and algorithms run amok as large platforms scale”. It always had, as far as I can remember. (It doesn’t have to be that way. Quality Assurance and thought-through software design needs to become a priority.) One of the most annoying bugs for a group moderator is that quite often the function of blocking spammers is broken. I have a trace with screen shots of hiccups I encountered in just one day at http://booleanstrings.com/2011/11/14/temporary-errors-on-linkedin/

    Some of us are able to find holes in the software to overcome restrictions for LinkedIn data visibility and for reaching target people quicker than the rules allow. But when I see the “Sit tight” message yet another time, I fear that as a software colossus it may just collapse one day.

    I don’t think LinkedIn ever had a “whole”, consistent message to its users. While it made users like Gary spend much time picking their connections very carefully, it *always* made money because many of its members are not “connected” and therefore have to pay money to interact. LinkedIn made the word “private” mean “invisible to Google but visible to 100MLN members and even more visible to those who pay for top accounts”. These are just a couple of examples of mixed messages.

    It seems that LI is in a survival mode as a public company and has to take actions that promise to make money. Since recruiting brings the most, they are about to add an ATS/CRM system, “free” to the highest-paid accounts.

    It’s quite interesting to watch the site evolve. I’m curious to see predictions as to what will happen to LinkedIn in the next year or two.

    Thanks,
    Irina
    http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=1769200

  17. Andrew Hally

    Weighing in as a marketer, I would add to the statement about value being “directly proportional to the number of users.” Ability to target the right users, and the users’ willingness to engage, are also big drivers of value. We’ve had some good early success using LinkedIn for marketing here at Bullhorn.

  18. Geoff Peterson

    Nice post Krista! My problem with LinkedIn is Twitter. The integration of Twitter into LinkedIn has created a big mess. It shouldn’t be there. It makes it harder to sift through the “real” updates such as so and so just updated his profile and now works for XYZ company. That used to be pretty powerful information to know that someone in your network just accepted a new position. You could then reach out to that person in your network and congratulate them. That could have been a lead for you. Now, it just gets lost in the Twitter feed on LinkedIn.

    As far as LinkedIn being a true social network, not a business network, they need to put in a live chat similar to Facebook, so you can see when your connections are online. That would definitely encourage more users to login more frequently and interact.

  19. LinkedIn History « Nexcerpt

    [...] today at ERE.net, Krista Bradford quoted me regarding LinkedIn’s Grey Goo potential. That raised a question regarding how to find your LinkedIn member number, which Krista [...]

  20. Gary Stock

    For those interested in LinkedIn member number growth — and very intriguing discussion from LinkedIn’s first few days in 2003 — I posted a bit of research:

    http://blog.nexcerpt.com/2011/12/07/linkedin-history/

    Toward the end, you’ll find a scruffy spreadsheet with member numbers/join dates I discovered online.

    Ha! I see ERE.net noticed my inbound WordPress link ;-)

  21. Maureen Sharib

    How many people do you think are dead (or incapacitated) on LinkedIn? This fun question on LinkedIn’s Q&A addressed this back in 2009:
    http://tinyurl.com/br94slc

    Bryan C. Webb’s “Best Answer” pegged it at about 5%. That would mean 6,750,000 (out of 135million) are dead. He also estimated that MAYBE 10-15% are really “active”.

    I hope some of you math geniuses take this challenge up.

    About 150,000 -160,000 people die each day in the world. That racks out to about 55 million to 58 million per year and about 2 ½ million of them are Americans – according to the U.S Census Bureau.

    Give us your formulas for figgerin’.

  22. Krista Bradford

    Fascinating points, Maureen! Any quants out there willing to run the numbers? Also, what does LinkedIn do with the profiles of the deceased? I guess a Hoovers-like “boneyard” would be just too creepy. I know Facebook has heartfelt “in memory of” pages.

    And what do they mean, exactly, by “incapacitated”? ;-).

  23. Kameron Swinton

    How often do you meet someone and not look them up on LinkedIn? How frequent do you run across candidates w/o a profile? Registrations are on the rise and the site continues to grow. As a recruiter I’m not overly concerned about the percentage of those users that are “active”. Whether they’re active or not, if they’ve created a profile I have a means of reaching out to them as well as a little more information about them that I can use(i.e. title, company, location, etc.) However, given LinkedIn’s popularity among recruiters your message will not be without competition as evidenced by declining InMail response rates. You may end up using the info you see on the site to find a candidate’s work email addresss and contacting them that way. It will be up to you as a recruiter or sourcer to craft a compelling message and be persistent.

    One of the amazing things about LinkedIn is that you can take advantage of all this rich profile data w/ a simple free account. The scalable recruiting solutions that push you towards a paid corporate direction they seem to be headed, though, is to offer compelling, account. Recent product innovations such as Talent Pipeline are a big value add and imo may be the first step towards a LinkedIn ATS/CRM. Regardless of whether you want to label them a Professional Network, Social Network, or simply a job board, they’ve realized their true value is in the data and have taken steps to capatalize on it.

    -kameron

  24. Keith Halperin

    My experience with LI since 2004 has been that it becomes increasing difficult to use as a strong recruiting tool: finding and contacting as many of the people I want to reach as directly, easily, and quickly as possible. I understand that was never their intention; I’ve typically used it as an identifier to find people I’d contact directly- for the main reason that InMails (whether free or paid for) are far too slow and inefficient a means of getting responses from potential candidates. I wouldn’t be surprised if fairly soon you can’t have the full profile on anyone except your 1st -level connections without paying for it…

    -kh

  25. Matthew Hunter

    Hey Krista,

    I enjoyed this piece and always enjoy hearing other opinions. That being said I’d like to get your thoughts on something. I keep in touch with colleagues from a few years back. Recently a LinkedIn sale rep visited them and made a compelling case that LinkedIn is the best resource for passive candidates and that LinkedIn can fulfill all of their recruitment needs. When I last spoke to my friend, he said their team was considering using LinkedIn as their only resource for recruitment.

    What are your thoughts of them putting all their eggs in one basket?

  26. Brian Kevin Johnston

    http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=394828 (394,828)

    Krista- You got me beat by 335,256

    Thanks for all the insights… Best, Brian-

  27. Sean Mulhern

    29,784 for me….

  28. Krista Bradford

    Sean. Wow! Your User ID is lowest one yet! High five! What was your start date?!?

  29. Infuze Mobile

    I wanted to bring to your attention a new tool which helps you use LinkedIn effectively.

    To extract full value from LinkedIn you need to know when your connections change their jobs. Know when your connection gets promoted, starts their own company, joins a new company or retires from their job.

    If you are in sales, marketing, recruiting, or a job seeker you need to download JobChangeAlert iPhone app. http://bit.ly/sYlzzN

  30. Ted Moore

    Some of my customers, especially those under 35 or so, are beginning to reverse-engineer submissions as a measure of the value of those who want to be paid 5-figure fees to recruit “hidden talent” or “the kind of people we’d never be able to find or interest on our own”. If a submission’s LinkedIn profile looks like a European CV and the candidate has 50 recommendations and 500 connections, the brand suffers a hit in the minds of those clients.

    We use LinkedIn, and I find it useful in many ways. But a steadily growing percentage of the HR types I work with, and even hiring managers in a few cases, email me something like, “great-looking candidate, and he’s not on LinkedIn. How did you find him?” after a particularly strong submission.

    If you rely heavily on LinkedIn and similar tools to connect with those your clients can easily find and recruit on their own, at least as they perceive it (and what else matters?), I look forward to competing with you.

  31. Maureen Sharib

    I know Ted means what he says!

  32. Krista Bradford

    Ted makes a good point. A lot of us on this thread specialize in finding candidates that are not so obvious — rock stars and luminaries that are “off the grid”. (A personal shout out to phone sourcing goddess Maureen! ) The research nerds among us love the detective work. In fact, we find it strangely riveting. However, where we, at Intellerati, are going with all of this is sourcing calibration. Clients deserve to know who’s good.

  33. Geoff Peterson

    @Ted @Krista I hear similar arguments about LinkedIn frequently, about candidates that are submitted to clients and have a profile on LinkedIn or were found on LinkedIn. “Finding” them on LinkedIn is only half the battle, even less in most cases if you factor in how InMails and Introductions are not very effective (my best research shows 3-5% response rate at best) to actually reach these candidates. So, just because we can find them on LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily mean the value of that candidate should be any less. Most of the time, a good recruiter or sourcer worth his/her weight has to take it several steps further to get an audience with this person and sell them on the job opportunity. LinkedIn is a great research tool and starting point.

  34. Maureen Sharib

    I’m working in Zambia last couple weeks. Strangely riveting is a mild way to put it!

    “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” ~ Dr. Seuss

  35. Jim Sullivan

    LinkedIn is a tool, it will never do your job for you, you still have to “follow the yellow brick road” to get what you need.

    It will never contain ALL the people you would like to connect with. It has “100 million” users – My bet is that 30 to 50% of the informaion is inacurate and the small studies I’ve done for my specialty tell me that 70 to 80% of the people I want to get in touch with don’t even have a profile. But it IS a good place to start – that’s why we are still using it, maybe not daily but close to it – make a list, check it, make the calls!

    happy hunting!

    LI member # 1,669,660

  36. Ken Schmitt

    Krista, great article and wonderful comments. While my ID# is in the low 4m, I am a very active user as well. The risks of LI are no different than any software/cloud or other “quasi-subscription” based business – namely, they are only as good as their volume of “subscribers”. The challenge I see is in finding a true comparison point in the marketplace.

    While Facebook boasts a 76% “addict” rate, the reasons behind this are completely different. Many of my friends – in addition to my 14 year old daughter – jump on FB 10-20x each day but their purpose is purely talking, sharing info & “socializing” for personal reasons.

    When all of us jump on LI, whether it is daily, weekly or monthly, we are there for a completely different reason and the avg user (read: non-recruiter) does not gain additional value by visiting the site multiple times/day.

    Your time on LI is about professional networking and therefore the volume is much less than FB or even Twitter so I think the comparison based purely on “the % of addicts” is only a small part of the picture.

    The only stat that really matters, in my view, is the # of companies who are making successful hires through LI and the number of candidates I am sourcing or being referred to thanks to my LI connections. I am happy to say that both of these stats continue to rise substantially.

    What I would like to see in 2012 is HR departments beginning to separate out LI new-hires from others to determine how they compare in longevity, performance and “fit” to other sources of hire! Now there’s a stat I would love to see:)

    Ken Schmitt
    TurningPoint Executive Search
    http://www.turningpointsearch.net

  37. Keith Halperin

    @ Geoff: Well put. My previous recruiting contract was with a very well-resourced company, and we had LI Recruiter with an unlimited(over 2,500)InMails allotment. My colleagues and i worked very carefully to craft an effective and profession InMail message and based on large numbers we set out, we also probably received 3-5% response rate and that usually weeks later (hence my inefficient and slow comments earlier). Why would I want to spend thousands of dollars on access to a pseudo-resume bank where I don’t have the direct contact information and when I respond internally get a 3-5% overall response rate? I got better and faster results when I looked them up in LI and called them on the phone. If I couldn’t find their contact info in about 10-15 minutes, I’d skip them and go on to the next (hence my “Finding people who don’t want to be found” remark).

    Sheesh….

    Keith

  38. Alan Whitford

    Hi Krista.

    Interesting stream – anytime you can get Jerry Albirght and Irena and Maureen all piling in on the same conversation can’t be bad.

    To me, LinkedIn is what the user needs it to be.

    The largest CV/Resume Database? Great.
    Targeted companies? You bet.
    User with the same wierd and wacky interests as me? Why not?
    Get messages from those you know have your email, but just can’t be bothered to open up Outlook? Happens every day.
    A chance to link up with those ‘lurkers’ who check out your profile? Sounds like a good idea to me.

    The beat goes on….

    Member since: February 17, 2004
    ID 237,738

    By the way, I loved the message the LI sent out to the 1st million group when the registrations hit 100 million. It acknowledged our early particpation and actually told us our ID number.

    Alan Whitford
    http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=237738&trk=tab_pro

  39. Ken Schmitt

    Interesting article and a good look at LinkedIn. It is important that we not hang a halo on any single source. Looking at the drawbacks and flaws within the organization is key to making improvements. However, I feel that the benefits of LI far outweigh the drawbacks. Although LI itself admits that many of its members rarely spend time on the site, it is important that we understand why. As I have learned through my extensive experience with the site as well as being the owner of a boutique recruiting firm, the largest reasons for the inconsistent of use of all LI has to offer are fear and lack of knowledge. Many members have no idea just how many great things are available through LinkedIn. They join because it’s the thing to do professionally, but have no clue how to use it.

    I offer a series of workshops for this exact reason. “Leveraging LinkedIn” (http://www.turningpointsearch.net/services/career-workshops/) is designed to help candidates develop a high impact profile, enhance their LinkedIn and Web presence, utilizing contacts and securing introductions and much much more.

    LinkedIn is not perfect. However it is an important and dynamic tool that gives the job seeking professional a more active role in his/her career.
    Ken C. Schmitt

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  41. Gordon Frutiger

    And the reality that LinkedIn is nothing more than a marketing and recruiting site is shocking because?

    Seriously, their canard has been going on for years. Why is this suddenly a revelation?

  42. ERE.net Article: The Trouble with LinkedIn: Grey Goo | Intellerati

    [...] The Trouble with LinkedIn: Grey Goo by  Krista Bradford   Dec 7, 2011, 5:40 am ET [...]

  43. Ken Peck

    This is the best article I have ever read on why LinkedIn and recruiting are so important to each other. It covers everything, the good the bad and what to expect from using LinkedIn. It explains how LinkedIn is different from social networks like Twitter and FaceBook. To date this article has gathered 42 comments coming from different perspectives as researches, investors, vendors and most of all recruiters. Both Krista and the professionals who commented are to be congratulated on truly providing something of value and insight which stands above the tsunami of gibberish that steals our most precious resource, Time!

  44. Scott Kahle

    I clearly in the 1% of LinkedIn users that are active more then 30 times a month. I’ve found LinkedIn to be a great sourcing tool with an unmatched wealth of information on candidates and companies alike. However, I can also confirm that my response rate from direct InMail messages isn’t what it was in the early days. If I want to connect with someone now I just call directly into the company where they work or track down their email address somewhere else. Sending an InMail request is really a last resort these days.

    Member since Feb 2004
    ID: 221409

  45. Keith Halperin

    @ Scott: Well said.
    Does ANYONE here have lots of quick and positive responses from InMails? If so, please let us know what you do, so we can ALL do it and therefore make sure it doesn’t work any more for you or anybody else…..

    Keith

  46. Irina Shamaeva

    I have excellent response from InMails (and of course it may be because of my candidate pool, who knows).
    Here is what I do:

    1. Very carefully select to whom I send the Inmail. Their background should be an excellent fit for what I am looking for.

    2. Have my own profile filled out. The first thing the recipients do, is they check you out.

    3. Send very short introductory InMails, only to initiate the conversation.

    -Irina

  47. Keith Halperin

    Thank you very much again, Irina.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  48. Krista Bradford

    I use LinkedIn InMails to ping people who are in-between jobs. That’s pretty much the only time I use it. I’d much rather email and call people directly — the shortest distance between points. At least then when you email, you know whether its bounced or been opened (if you track that.) Having LinkedIn as middleman blocks determining if the email is, indeed, reaching its destination. We do have ways of getting people’s home phones when they are between jobs. But it can be labor intensive and sometimes come off as a little stalker-ish when the phone number is unlisted, which is why I use InMail first.

  49. Irina Shamaeva

    Krista,

    Interesting! I am impressed that you get a good response from emails; for me it’s ~10 times worse than from LinkedIn messages. It could be that you have mastered the subjects, the content and know how to avoid landing in junk folders. I’d be interested to hear.

    Here’s a quick note about controlling messages. LinkedIn only sends InMails to working email addresses associated with the profile; so bouncing would be a rare exception. In 7 days, if there is no response to an InMail, it’s marked so, and you get it back into your pool (count) of available InMails. (The person may respond much later, like a “passive” candidate that all of a sudden is starting to look, but this will not count against your InMail count then.)

    If you send emails, you still have some middlemen, for example, filters that forward it to a junk folder, or servers that block you, and there’s no way to track that.

    Calling is great. But you can only call one person at a time. We usually call “top” candidates and start elsewhere with the rest; this includes the cases when we don’t have enough information to qualify the person.

  50. Krista Bradford

    You make good points regarding triaging outreach in calls versus emails and InMails. Food for thought. Also, I agree a lot of rogue filters can get in the way of an email reaching a candidate at well, but it isn’t a third party managing the relationship to keep us slavishly communicating through them. I do believe in direct communication between my firm and candidates. I find it a little creepy whenever confidential communications flow through another corporate entity. I mean, I realize the privacy ship has sailed long ago, but I do tilt in the direction of protecting the privacy of candidates we recruit and to controlling the communications so no other entity stands in the way or is monitoring or otherwise listening in. FWIW, we get a very high response rate to our emails most of the time. We try to craft personal emails or, at a minimum, we personalize template text before it is sent . . .I think that makes all the difference.

  51. Keith Halperin

    @Irina, @ Krista: In this case, I tend toward the Krista faction- I like my communication as direct as it can be. Also, ISTM that a well-researched, focused, carefully-targeted approach toward reaching out to candidates via: either email or inMail works best. That being said, wouldn’t the most direct approach be better, or does a carefully crafted inMail tend to produce better, quicker results than an equally well-crafted email or phone call? Also, since you can’t contact the people directly anyway, wouldn’t the money spent on a highly-upgraded LI Recruiter account be better spent on effective tools/sourcing to search LI externally through other means?

    Thanks,

    Keith

  52. Irina Shamaeva

    Hi @Keith – @Krista’s point, as I understand it, is that she wants to stay away from LI – or any other “3rd party” messaging systems – in order to control communication.

    I would recommend against spending money on LinkedIn Recruiter (unless you have unlimited supply of it) for many reasons.

    Cheers :)

  53. Keith Halperin

    @ Irina; Thanks again.
    Your comments are always thoughtful and valuable.

    @Anyone: who can recommend LI Recruiter or any non-free version of LI?
    1) What do you have?
    2) What do you use it for (recruiting, immediate sourcing, pipeline sourcing, job posting, etc.)?
    2) How do you get it to justify its cost, i.e., make it work well (as we discussed re: InMails)?
    3) What alternatives to it have you considered (tools, other SNAs, etc.)?

    Cheers,

    Keith

  54. Fishing in a Small Pond - ERE.net

    [...] Krista Bradford recently wrote a timely and provocative article here on ERE about LinkedIn. [...]

  55. Stephen Turnock

    Linkedin: indeed the Grey Goo. But so too is life and many other things! It’s really what you want it to be, what effort you put into it first before getting something more rewarding out.. It has proof of concept but the viability is in how users will adapt and work their own concept. LinkedIn is the Least Social but being a Network it is still indeed ‘Social’ as that is what a network essentially is.

    Recruiting is always going to be the fuel for linkedin but LinkedIn will need to find a balance between the conversations happening and the sometimes intrusive interrupts from Recruiters or otherwise. But regarding such interrupts, I think interrupts will become less and less as Recruiters will stop using linkedIn to just find people but instead become masters of engaging with people in advance before the potentials are looking – as all LinkedIn users are potential candidates.

    Of course most LinkedIn users are not looking for a change in job and in normal out of recession conditions, this is maybe 90% of users. Perhaps today it is more like 50% that would actually consider a move? The recession has been a retention policy for many perhaps!.. Over time, as the LinkedIn users ‘concept in usage’ change and evolve, those users most active in conversation and content of value will be most likely to be both listening and open to be found – correctly inbound-marketing and attracting the right jobs, direct employers and engaged Recruiters.

    For some Recruiters (or purveyors of anything), getting max connections is currently an Olympic sport, but in time the value will be in your niche, quality and relevance over quantity! Its great Goo, with a little Quark Strangeness and Charm. #13,266,958

  56. On-Again, Off-Again LinkedIn | Intellerati

    [...] first time we’ve noted LinkedIn toying with its members.  In an ERE.net article in December, The Trouble With LinkedIn: Grey Goo, we detailed our [...]

  57. Recruiters: How Strong is your Facebook to Career Site Connection? - Work4 Labs

    [...] the members of a strictly professional network, 76% of Facebook users visit 30 times or more a month. By posting jobs on Facebook, recruiters can [...]

  58. How to Make LinkedIn Fail

    [...] may be designed as a social network, but ERE notes it gets its money mainly from selling itself as a marketing platform. And yet in this case, it's being used as a social recruiting tool. It does not currently have [...]

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