Last weekend, I read an interesting article by Jennifer Van Grove, columnist for the San Diego Union (her original article was picked up by the Star Tribune).
In particular, this quote struck a chord with me:
“Facebook has a friends and family problem, meaning the tight-knit social fabric that drew us in — important or heart-warming posts from our moms, dads, sisters, brothers and besties — has all but unraveled. Instead, in our News Feed, we’re left with partially satisfying updates from loose connections, the day’s news and the ensuing rants, and videos we never asked to see.”
We all know this has happened over on Facebook. We’ve been experiencing it for the last couple years.
But, I’m concerned the same thing is happening over on LinkedIn.
And, if LinkedIn isn’t careful, they’re bound to suffer the same fate Facebook may soon see.
Surely, if you’re a LinkedIn power user, you know what I’m talking about. Even if you just check in on LinkedIn semi-regularly, you’ve probably noticed your feed typically includes many posts from people you don’t follow.
Let’s look at the first few posts in my feed for a minute, as an anecdotal example:
Typical example. Yes, I know Brittany Gradient and it appears she liked this post. And, the post itself is somewhat relevant to my work, I guess. But, I don’t follow Streamworks.
The inevitable ad! And, interestingly enough, this has nothing to do with my professional life. Great targeting!
Again, yes, I know Nicole Klang and she appears to have liked this post by DSC. But again, it has nothing to do with my work as a communicator/marketer.
Scrolling down further in my feed, only 4 of the first 10 posts in my feed were made by people I’m actually connected to. Scroll down even further and that ratio gets even worse: Only 7 of the first 20 posts in my feed were made by people I actually follow. Roughly 33 percent!
Now, there’s a strong case to be made for an algorithm that works this way. It’s all about content discovery. And, what’s one of the best ways for people to discover new content? By showing them items their friends and colleagues are interacting with. I get that. But, how’s that working out for Facebook right now?
More importantly, how is that working out for LinkedIn users right now? I would argue many people visit LinkedIn to connect with people they actually know–not to see content from loose connections like those above.
I also understand that LinkedIn is trying to become (and, really, already has) a content-first platform. They’ve done a nice job in this respect. But, LinkedIn would be wise to re-consider the real reasons people want to visit LinkedIn in the first place: Jobs. That’s always going to be the primary notion LinkedIn is tied to–it’s the place I go to find a job and network so I can find a new job.
And, if you think about it through that lens, the feed’s not really helping.
I see very little promos for new jobs in my feed (unless they’re made by colleagues and friends).
I see very few promoted jobs in the feed.
And, I rarely seen work anniversaries or “I just started a new job” posting in my feed either (I now have to visit a separate section to find those).
Instead, if you look at your LinkedIn home page, what do you see?
- Hash tags in the upper left hand corner–again, to encourage content discovery
- Trending topics in the upper right hand corner–ditto
- People/accounts we recommend following right below the Trending Topics
All three are focused on one thing only: Content discovery, and to get you to spend more time on LinkedIn.
Look, I love LinkedIn. It’s the platform I spend the most time on these days. And I’ve cheered many of the changes LinkedIn has made over the years.
But, right now, with the current climate and what’s going on in our world, I would caution LinkedIn to think about how and WHY people are visiting their platform. I know content is a big part of it now, but connecting with colleagues and finding jobs will always be at the heart of why people use LinkedIn. And, to do that, people want to connect with and hear from people they know, have worked with and want to work with.
And that begins and ends with a better news feed.