As a direct result of being involved in organising a NY-Based TEDx event focused on Disruption and reading the positive reviews of brand new startup Workfeeds – hailed by Techcrunch as “LinkedIn if it launched now” – I’ve been giving a lot of thought to industries, categories, spaces that are ripe for change. Clearly Education, Healthcare and Cable TV are some of them. Given the current economic conditions and sustained unemployment, professional online networks is another. Why?
What do people do when they don’t have job security? They connect with as many relevant people in their vertical as possible, monitor industry developments and look up new job openings. For better or for worse, LinkedIn has successfully become the world’s largest professional network with 100 million unique users so it’s only natural that startups will be nipping at their heels. And yet despite having been in business since May 2003, company sources have admitted that LinkedIn is unable to accurately track how many of their users are active. There are two reasons why I don’t believe this:
- Returning Visitors is a critical metric that just about every digital company tracks. Not tracking it is blasphemous and worse, suicidal.
- It is unthinkable for a company that uses member data as the backbone of ad-serving and recruiter-focused solutions not to track retention information.
Which leads me to the only logical conclusion – and independent straw polls have confirmed this – LinkedIn’s metrics on active users and retention are less than stellar. Here’s why:
Services recruiters rather than users: LinkedIn has become the Monster.com of this generation in more ways than one; just as Monster.com was the reason that HR managers no longer respond to online job seekers, LinkedIn is the reason we are becoming conditioned to ignoring messages from recruiters. Resumes are front and centre rather than networking, resulting in a steady stream of poorly targeted unsolicited job offers. Granted, catching a recruiter’s eye can’t really be bad – unless you’re a digital strategist who keeps getting LinkedIn messages for software programming roles.
Passive network: As a result of resumes being front and centre, the network doesn’t elicit action unless you’re a recruiter or active job hunter. While it’s a great online rolodex of contacts, once a member has connected with a new “connection” there is little incentive to go back to the network till the next time. How many times have you heard back from someone with “I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your message sooner. I just don’t come to LinkedIn very often.”? While this isn’t good for members, it’s also not great for the network’s bottom-line as it limits advertising opportunities to two scenarios – recruiters and job seekers. This probably explains why ad revenue is only 32% of LinkedIn’s entire business, the bulk being subscriptions and recruiter-facing solutions.
Flawed functionality and execution: LinkedIn is arguably the benchmark for digitizing work history and compiling a digital rolodex. However, other feature sets leave much to be desired. Company profiles are uninspiring to would-be followers, site search is often ineffective, the Q&A feature has been eclipsed by Q&A sites like Quora and most damning of all, LinkedIn’s customer service is actively responsible for many members abandoning the network altogether.
Of course, LinkedIn is only too aware of these shortcomings and their vulnerability to disruptive new networks as evidenced by their decision to shut-down API access to developers (like Monster.com) so as to limit members’ ability to import data into other environments. But this may only serve to delay an inevitable disruption of LinkedIn. Game on!
This post was originally published on Seedwalker.