At the risk of being called stupid, I would go so far as to predict that LinkedIn is just about ready to be swept away like Orkut was. If it’s still at the helm of being the most sought after B2B social media site today, it’s primarily because there still isn’t another alternative out there that has out-thought and out-platformed LinkedIn.
When Orkut first came into being, it became the instant darling of millions of users who used the social networking site to connect with friends and family. Orkut ruled like a lord until users began to discover a much friendlier and warmer platform in Facebook. Users migrated en-mass to Facebook thanks to their better GUI and features leaving Orkut in slow death throes until Google finally pulled the plug. The tipping point of the user move from Orkut to Facebook if one recollects happened extremely fast over a 2 year time frame as Facebook spread virally around the world.
Likewise despite the fact that it’s been over a decade since LinkedIn was first launched in 2003, it continues to grow in both size and user base with no remotely close competitor in sight. With a user base of over 330 Million comprising completely of professionals it is no doubt the heavyweight champion when it comes Business to Business Networking. Its Alexa rank is 13th in the world and it has revenues in excess of $1.2 Billion. Everyone who is working knows LinkedIn and everyone I know uses LinkedIn. And everyone says LinkedIn is the best B2B platform.
Which is why I believe several of those who are reading this article are going to believe that I am talking off my head or am a nut-case or worse still a pure-play attention seeker in predicting that LinkedIn will become history like Orkut.
As I said before, if it hasn’t done so till date, its no thanks to the great work that LinkedIn has done in keeping up with the changing business needs of professionals but largely because it has not had the kind of competitive pressure that an Orkut had with Facebook. All that remains to drive the final nail on LinkedIn’s chest is for another better player to come along.
I am making this statement based on my own experience as an avid LinkedIn user now for several years. Predicting something like the demise of a heavyweight does call for some reasons which is what my detractors would demand. So for all those who believe that I am wrong, here are 6 key reasons that will cause the demise of LinkedIn.
1-Inability to leverage my connections
I have over 1800 professional connections on LinkedIn, people I have done business with, people who are my prospects, my suppliers, my professional networks, my current and past colleagues – well heck almost anyone I have come into professional contact in the past eight odd years.
As a business professional, these 1800 people are people who know me and possibly trust my professional expertise. How does LinkedIn allow me to network within my connections? The answer to that is pretty much a big zero and that’s the first reason for a quick demise. LinkedIn encourages one to build more connections but does pretty much little in helping professionals mine and build their existing connections. If I do a deeper dive into this problem, I figure out the following bottlenecks
I cannot simply search within my connections. I have 1800 connections and there’s no way I could possibly remember every single person’s name or industry. A simple functionality of allowing me to search within my connection could have really helped me reach out to that specific individual for business.
The counter to that of course is that LinkedIn allows one to tag each connections for identification purpose. It’s a great tool to have if that functionality were there when I accept an invite to connect rather than having me go back, search through my connections for all new connections and then do a tagging. Waste of my time. LinkedIn is not an always-on social network like Facebook or Twitter. Professional visit LinkedIn periodically. How often have users actually sat and tagged all their connections? And in any case tagging does not solve the basic need that I have of wanting to search within my 1800 connections to find that elusive individual whose name I have forgotten but who was previously working in another company and who recently sent out a pitch inviting agencies like mine for a business pitch. God!! I wish I could find his name somehow and re-connect with him!
2-News Feed Sucks
Like most other social networks, LinkedIn follows the first in-first out principle of news feed coupled with their own algorithin that determines how important a particular status update from my connection and how it should be displayed on my news feed. Absolutely great logic if my feeds were filled with pictures of my friends and family clubbing or otherwise having a great time, which is the way for example Facebook feeds show up on my news feed.
However for me, LinkedIn is a business tool and strangely not having an algorithin that takes into account my interest areas and populating my news feed with it from my connections is downright puzzling. The world is moving to content curation, except LinkedIn for their users.
What do you do when you want to do business with another business? Nine out of ten times you would typically send them a mail. As a B2B marketer, wouldn’t it have been a real user friendly feature to allow company pages a ‘contact us’ button hyperlinked to a company email id?
But alas, the product gurus of LinkedIn think otherwise. Heck, even Facebook has gone around to give a ‘Contact Us’ button right on their company pages! But not LinkedIn. They would of course prefer you to send a connection request to one of the employees or better still send an In-Mail. Everything around LinkedIn is designed to get you to build a larger connection base or better still force you to spend money on the network to build your B2B connection.
In April 2014, LinkedIn pulled out another rabbit out of their collective hats by dispensing with the Products and Services Tab and instead offering company page admins a facility of putting up a brand new ‘showcase page’.
Like all other things, this too was a very strange move. The earlier products and services tabs allowed millions of firms to showcase their various products and services compositely under one single umbrella company page. This suited both companies big and small. If you were a marketing services agency like myself, you could highlight your various services quite nicely so that visiting folks could know more about a specific service that you were offering. But I guess that would have been not to profitable for LinkedIn.
By removing the Products & Services Tab and allowing page admins to create a separate ‘Showcase Page’ LinkedIn is probably trying to kill two birds with one stone. On one hand, this forces firms to create additional content for the showcase page and secondly provides LinkedIn an additional sales opportunity in terms of ‘Sponsor Updates” for the Showcase Page. And of course, the followers for your main company page are not necessarily automatically following your Showcase page, which would require you to additionally market to gain new followers for your showcase page.
Are you a member in any of the thousands of groups on LinkedIn? If you are, then welcome to professional B2B spamming! All groups suffer from the same problem- tons of spammed content being pushed into discussion boards with very little ‘real discussions’ actually taking place. If you have every put up a content into a group and expected it to create some real professional networking discussions, don’t be disappointed at the lack of response.
LinkedIn is filled with B2B marketers desperate to out-shout, out-publish the next guy with content and all this finds their way into the various groups. The good, the bad & the completely spam filled content find their way into the discussion board.
Thankfully LinkedIn has the option of a weekly digest that allows me to see the spam content level of each of the groups I am in. And of course like everyone else out there, I contribute in no equal measure to the spam filled discussion boards J
6-LinkedIn Answers- Why did they shut it down?
On Jan 1st 2013, there was a terse announcement that LinkedIn Answers was being pulled off the network. For millions of LinkedIn Users like me it was a real blow. LinkedIn Answers was a real benefit for me to network with professionals around the world and seek answers to real business issues that I had.
By pulling the plug on that one, LinkedIn forced me to move to Quora which is a dedicated Q&A site. Of course any question I pose there I do so at the risk of getting answers from all and sundry which was not the case when I used to pose questions in LinkedIn Answers. At LinkedIn, I knew I would get relevant answers and suggestions from peers within my industry or domain. The death of LinkedIn Answers is to my mind the start of the downfall of LinkedIn.
7-Customer Sales Support sucks at LinkedIn
If you are a large advertiser, LinkedIn would probably welcome you with open arms. Not so if you’re a small business owner who wants to leverage LinkedIn immensely large database for marketing and advertising opportunities.