LinkedIn has a lot going for it. It won the gold medal in 2011’s IPOs and now boasts more than 175 million users. It’s branched out to more than 200 countries and avoided the awkward missteps that have bedeviled its social rival, Facebook. It reported record earnings for last quarter, and its stock price is near its peak. Anecdotally, a few of my department heads use it successfully to place job ads.
My golf buddy, a senior developer at a Fortune 500 company, commented that a year or two back people kept on asking him if he was on LinkedIn. He’d answer by saying, “No, if I were linked in to anything else I wouldn’t get anything done. Now if there’s a LinkedOut product somewhere, I’d like to know about it.”
Amen I say. Myself, I was lucky enough to change my email address on LinkedIn about a year ago to an account that I never check and have since forgotten. Those extra 10 minutes of reduced spam each day give me more time to work, work out, and be with the family.
However, I wish I had been as careful for my employees as I was with myself. The fact is however that I made a major goof at my company a while back regarding LinkedIn. I let the idea get floated that LinkedIn could improve the perception of our company to the outside when the actually it has cost us dearly in employee productivity.
The mistake I made was to let some of the LinkedIn fans in the company encourage the employee base to join. Our logic was that by broadening the public exposure of our staff we would connect better with our prospects and job candidates and give off an aura of stability. After all, in business and in the software business in particular, perception plays an outsized role in the prospect’s decision making process in comparison to product quality or customer service. Yeah it’s a shame but it’s true.
And because LinkedIn has become the de facto standard for connecting professionally, it’s a natural place to create perception. Not only that, LinkedIn has done an outstanding job of formatting personal profiles in an attractive way. Company ones too. Kudos to them on design.
But here’s the fatal flaw in our logic. By getting those employees to sign up on LinkedIn, we’ve exposed them to a constant stream from spammers. Recruiters, viagra salesmen, email list vendors. You name it.
Before you take offense to me including recruiters in that list, let me say I’m not talking about well thought out approaches from real recruiters. I’m talking about email bombing from job shops from Skookumchuck to Visakhapatman.
So I’m paying the price for our posturing. Fortunately for me, most of my employee base, independent minded devs that they are, ignored our request to join LinkedIn.
I’m curious to see how this plays out over the next year. Will LinkedIn, now a public company that needs to demonstrate hockey stick growth, get even less selective on who it sells its email list and contact information to?