Is LinkedIn losing its focus?

Last week, LinkedIn announced it would lower its age limit to 14 for U.S. members and to 13 in some foreign countries. As I stated in this post, I think it’s a step in the wrong direction. LinkedIn has always been uniquely designed as a portal for working adults, and mixing in a younger audience may significantly dilute its purpose.

That’s not the only evidence pointing to LinkedIn going a little bit off the rails, however. Take this, from today’s post on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog:

Gone are the days when LinkedIn was viewed as a marketing platform strictly for B2B companies. With a growing network of over 238 million professionals on LinkedIn today, we have helped B2C brands build relationships with some of the most affluent, educated, socially influential consumers worldwide.

I think the intended response to this was supposed to be, “Great job, LinkedIn! Now my B2C company can reach customers on your site!” My response, though, was more along these lines: “Bullshit. LinkedIn’s primary benefit has always been its focus on the B2B space.”

I don’t see this as anything but a marketing ploy designed to get B2C companies thinking about putting more effort–and, more importantly, advertising dollars–toward LinkedIn. However, it may be exactly the wrong type of message to send to the B2B companies who find value in LinkedIn, somewhat at the expense of other networks. As always, the more you try to be all things to all people, you start to become nothing to anyone. If LinkedIn continues to attempt to get more people in the tepee, it may crowd out those who helped put up the tent poles up in the first place.

Quick Tip Tuesday: How to get less email from LinkedIn (and stop those pesky Endorsements notifications)

A friend stopped by my office the other day and asked if there was anything he could do to stop getting emails from LinkedIn every time he receives an endorsement. The answer is yes, and it applies to other notifications as well. Here’s how to take control:

Developing Your LinkedIn Strategy: a FREE resource

strat formThere’s a lot of information out there that can help you make better use of LinkedIn. For many users, however, there’s one important missing piece: they don’t have an overarching strategy that can guide them in deciding who they should be connecting with and how they should spend their time. That’s why I’ve created a free resource called “Developing Your LinkedIn Strategy.” It’s a concise, easy to use form that helps you answer some of the important questions you should consider if you want get more out of your investment in your time on LinkedIn. Download it here–and drop a note in the comments if you have any questions.

The key to standing out on today’s LinkedIn

LinkedIn has introduced a ton of changes in the past year. There are more ways than ever to tell your story as a professional–and, as a result, a better chance than ever that your story will get lost in all the clutter.

It’s interesting, then, that the one thing most likely to help you stand out on LinkedIn is something that’s been around for years: the ability to request recommendations. A brief, written recommendation from a connection has always been incredibly powerful, but today it’s even more so. Why? Given the introduction of endorsements, recommendations seem to be getting somewhat marginalized as users either shy away from asking for them (thinking those who have given endorsements have already been kind enough) or don’t take the time to give them (because giving an endorsement is so much quicker and easier).

That’s a shame, because endorsements are far weaker than recommendations. (Need evidence? The comments to this post give a glimpse into how little value recruiters, just as one example, give to endorsements.) The fact of the matter is, a recommendation will always serve you well because it is:

  • Credible. Want people to think you’re great? If you say it yourself, they may not believe you. When someone else with no self-interest does, however, it’s much more likely to seem accurate.
  • Descriptive. Listing a skill doesn’t say much about your abilities, especially when compared to a brief narrative that shows why you’re great.
  • Digestible. Most LinkedIn recommendations are only a few sentences long. Enough to say something substantive for sure, but not too long to be consumed in a matter of seconds.

There’s a challenge that comes with recommendations, however: it’s likely you’ll have to request one to get it. That not hard from a mechanical standpoint (see this post for a walk-through), but many of us do have an aversion to asking others for their help. Don’t fall into that trap, though. There are likely many people out there who would be willing to say a few good words about you if only they were asked. And you can guarantee that, as you hesitate to ask out of fear of being too forward or too presumptuous or too needy, your competitors are swallowing their pride and sending out their connection requests–perhaps even to some of the same people you should be asking.

If you want to tell your story as a professional on LinkedIn, then, take the opportunity to have your connections tell it for you by asking for recommendations when they are warranted. Doing so has never been more rare–and therefore more effective–in helping you stand out from the crowd.

The one serious flaw in the launch of LinkedIn University Pages

Baby Boy Typing

There’s certainly a lot to like about LinkedIn University pages, the new feature especially for higher education institutions and students announced on Monday. There’s also one considerable flaw, however, that was somewhat buried in the announcement. If you look closely, you’ll read this:

[B]eginning on September 12, we will be making LinkedIn available to high school students who can use LinkedIn to explore schools worldwide, greatly expand their understanding of the careers available, and get a head start on building a network of family and friends to help guide them at every milestone.

That’s right: LinkedIn will now be open to users under the age of 18–as young as 14 in the U.S., in fact, and 13 in some countries. I believe this is a step in the wrong direction for a number of reasons. Here’s why:

  • One of the best things about LinkedIn is that it has always been a niche network. In other words, it is it has not attempted to be all things to all people. Instead, LinkedIn has focused on being a place where working professionals can network relative to their careers. I have nothing against younger people wanting to connect on social networks, but adding them into the mix on LinkedIn dilutes the audience.
  • This reinforces the sense that LinkedIn is only about job search instead of being a place where those who are already employed can tell their stories. As such, the network as a whole will have a little less value for those who simply want to connect the dots in their network relative to their current job.

This may become a moot point, though, because it remains to be seen whether teenagers will care about LinkedIn at all. There will be exceptions, of course, but my strong sense is that LinkedIn is a late-college to post-college phenomenon, with most young people’s social networking reserved, up to that point, for the truly “social.” Some, including TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, have argued that LinkedIn may actually be doing a disservice to teens, since–in his words–it “could may pressure them into making decisions based on what others want, rather than what excites them.”

What’s your take on all this? Is it good that LinkedIn is opening its doors a little wider, or does it concern you as a LinkedIn user? Share your thoughts in the comments.