It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of LinkedIn. And recently, I’ve been thinking about why that is the case.
When LinkedIn started out, it was really not much more than a glorified online resumé. Facebook and Twitter and blogs were much more alive, and I pretty much wrote it off (specially when French speakers were discovering it and pronouncing it leenk-euh-deen).
Since then, LinkedIn has evolved tremendously. I’ve spent some time on it recently, and I have to say the user experience has improved tremendously, the news feed is alive, and I really like the new “skill endorsements” (as opposed to “recommendations”, which usually serve to show how good you are at getting others to write nice things about you, rather than properly reflect your professional value).
LinkedIn actually managed to make these skill endorsements fun and pretty addictive. Go to a connection’s profile (here’s mine ;-)) and endorse any skill. You’ll find yourself with a box such as the ones below at the top of the page when you scroll back up.
I think this works because:
- You are asked a very simple question: “Does Kevin know about blogging?” — yeah of course he does. Endorse.
- Don’t know? Just hit the little cross and the problematic case (!) is replaced with a new one which you may be able to answer more easily. You don’t get stuck.
- There is an element of “intermittent rewards” here: clicking “endorse” is satisfying, and you never know if the next question you’re going to be asked will be easy to deal with or not.
- The skills and people you are asked to endorse are “random”, so there is little pressure to endorse all the skills of a connection, or any skill — the system gives you plausible deniability (your contact or that specific skill you didn’t endorse can simply not have showed up)
- You are asked to endorse only a small aspect of a person’s skillset, participating in some kind of crowdsourced recommendation. It’s much less “costly” socially than a proper recommendation (not to mention cognitively lighter by a few factors of ten).
Back to why I’ve shown little interest in LinkedIn so far: I think a lot of it has to do with my status as a freelancer who
- works a bit on the fringe of big business
- has a very strong online presence (blog, Twitter, and Facebook, mainly)
- has very intertwined personal and professional lives.
One of the characteristics of LinkedIn is that it is “100% professional” (quotes because, as I responded to a student yesterday, I don’t believe we are ever 100% professional; we are whole human beings who behave differently in different settings, but it’s only a matter of time until a cat photo finds its way into LinkedIn).
The “professional network” brand is reassuring for those who like to keep business and personal separate, but for those like me who don’t, it’s kind of boring. Facebook is way more fun. People are on Facebook anyway to share their cat photos, and in between a status update and a funny video, there are plenty of opportunities to bring up business. It’s part of our lives, after all.
However, this means that there is a pretty different population on LinkedIn than on Facebook. Who is your audience? Who are the people you are trying to connect to or be noticed by? Go where they are.
And even for me, I have to say it’s nice to have a chance to discover more about the professional lives of those I hang out with on Facebook. But that brings us back to the online resumé, which in itself is a pretty important thing: it means that in the age of LinkedIn, we can all be on the job market without being in job hunting mode. Before, we would polish up our CV when we felt the wind turn. Now, our LinkedIn profile is part of our online identity.
If you want to share what usefulness LinkedIn has had (or has!) for you personally, I’m interested in hearing about it — specially (but not only) if you’re a freelancer.