LinkedIn Reduces in Size

Posted on September 17, 2012. Filed under: linkedin advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

A lot is made of the phenomenal growth of LinkedIn, the last published figures were 175 million members (well past 180 by now) and growing at a rate of over two a second!
Yet you may be surprised to know that, as of this weekend, the number of LinkedIn users that you can see has dropped considerably. Almost overnight you have become invisible to millions of users who may be potential customers, employers or employees!

As you may know, the headline figures that LinkedIn quote have always been rather irrelevant because the only number that really counted was the number of users that you can see and can in turn, see you. This has traditionally been the combined number of 1st, 2nd & 3rd tier connections plus those who you shared a group with and whilst we havent been able to see the surname 3rd tier and group members, it didn’t really matter that much because we could read their full profile……until now that is!

3rd Tier Are Now Invisible

This weekend LinkedIn have quietly removed the visibility of the profiles of all your 3rd tier and shared group users. Nothing has been mentioned officially (always a sign that they know this will be a very unpopular move). The reality of this change is that LinkedIn has immediately become a less productive place to be.

Lets examine these changes in more detail

There are two ways to find 3rd tier connections on LinkedIn, by performing a keyword search or by searching for them by name.
If you now perform a keyword search, those users who are 3rd tier or share a group with you will now look like this;

The visibility of someone you search for by name however is not affected.

Note in the first example we can no longer see their summary or contact information, the same applies to people outside of our network. We also do not have the option to invite them to connect (this bit isn’t new)

In order to see a full profile of 3rd tier or group members we now have to upgrade our account, the cheapest upgrade that allows this visibility is the ‘Business’ account under ‘Other premium accounts’ and this is going to set you back at least £155 a year or £16.95 if you pay monthly.

Why is this important?

This really depends on why you are using LinkedIn, for many users it won’t seem to make any difference but what happens if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to get a new job?
I have been working with some jobseekers recently and advising them on how to make their profile optimised and visible to as many people as possible. LinkedIn is used extensively by recruiters, the majority of which are free users. Jobseekers will now find that despite writing a great profile that is highly optimised for keyword searches, they will now get less interest from recruiters because all that information they have carefully constructed is now invisible to their 3rd tier and fellow group members.
LinkedIn make the majority of their revenue from selling recruitment/searching products, I can only assume that this move is designed to increase that revenue.
The problem is that every time they make LinkedIn more expensive for recruiters to use, its jobseekers that suffer and in these difficult economic times that seems somewhat harsh and insensitive to me.
I don’t have a problem with LinkedIn making money, the are after all a publicly quoted company with shareholders to satisfy but I do wonder if they have thought through the full consequences of these changes.

What can we do about it?

Not much unfortunately! Your headline is still visible to everyone so I would suggest you now include the following information in your headline;

  • Full Name
  • Email address
  • Concise summary of what you have to offer

…and you have 120 characters (inc spaces) in which to do this! (see example right)

You can also change your connection strategy and connect with a greater number of users thus increasing the amount of 2nd tier to replace some of the 3rd tier you have lost (this flies in the face of LinkedIn’s advice on who you connect with but changes like this will encourage more connections)

Jobseekers do have the option of upgrading their account and selecting a feature called ‘Openlink’ which is not a default setting but can be selected at any level of upgrade including the cheapest upgrade called the ‘Jobseeker basic’ at  £12.95 per month

The Openlink feature states that recruiters (anyone in fact) can message you for free which is great as it means you don’t have to put your email address in your profile but more importantly it makes you visible to everyone on LinkedIn – no restrictions at all! Unfortunately the people who are least likely to be able to spend money upgrading their account are those that are out of work!

For recruiters this is obviously an annoying setback but the good news is that X-ray searching of public profiles still works provided that you are not logged into LinkedIn in the browser in which the X-ray the search is done. Below is an example of what a Google or Bing search reveals when you use the command site:linkedin.com followed by a unique phrase from the headline (assuming there is one);

X-ray search result (public profile)

As you can see the public profile still shows the full name and profile so not all is lost, the challenge comes when a headline merely states something like ‘Account Manager’ because you now can’t check the rest of the profile to find a more unique phrase.

Summary

I am usually pretty positive about most aspects of LinkedIn but on this matter I am disappointed. The turning point for LinkedIn might have been in May 2011 when the business was floated on the New York Stock Exchange, from that point onwards they become a business that has to return greater and greater revenue & profits to its shareholders and that inevitably means that their original mission statement “Connect The Worlds Professionals To Make Them More productive & Successful” could become compromised, I hope not but……..

As of today I suspect that many LinkedIn users will find it harder to be more productive & successful

and that is a great shame.

What do you think? Can you see any positives for users? I would love to hear your views.

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40 Responses to “LinkedIn Reduces in Size”

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Until LinkedIN can prove the accuracy and quality of the growing amount of ‘self-populated’ data it is collecting, unfortunatley, the entire product will begin to lose value as it grows. Data integrity for the LinkedIN platform could be their downfall.

I know what you mean Paul but to most users the headline numbers are just a side show. The reason LinkedIn will continue to be used is because people are gaining benefit from it – this will be affected by these changes but not to the extent that it will lose significant value. Its just a shame that these changes effect those that need LinkedIn the most at the moment – unemployed jobseekers!

Mark, thanks for the article. Some rather valid points and in general I agree with you that this is not a positive development for the users on LinkedIn.

However, I also believe that jobseekers that are willing to invest in their future and their careers will get a dream job faster and easier. Imagine that because you upgrade your account, you land your dream job a month sooner! Was the investment of € 19,95/month worth it in that case or not?

With regards to recruiters not using a paid account is something I find mind-boggling! Here’s the best tool ever invented for recruiters and yet they’re not willing to spend at least € 29,95 a month on it? Most of the recruiters I know that search for executives have the ‘Talent Finder’ account at € 59,95 a month.

But all in all, I must agree with you that I do not understand why 3rd tier connections should be hidden on LinkedIn. It does reduce the effectiveness of your marketing efforts on LinkedIn, potentially forcing users to redirect their attention to start to consider other platforms.

Thanks Perry, some good points made. Perhaps these changes will encourage more recruiters to upgrade but when you have a team of recruiters the cost is much greater and this is at a time when many businesses are finding the market tough. As for the jobseeker, you may be right but there are no guarantees and asking someone who is unsure what income they will obtain over the next 6 months to ‘gamble’ on an upgrade because it might get them their dream job faster is, in my opinion, asking a lot.

“Imagine that because you upgrade your account, you land your dream job a month sooner! ” sorry Perry, maybe on the Moon ? For those who had an account for say more months and still did not land that dream job as you nicely call it, will now the SAME service do better just because they pay for the same lack of results ?!??! Bet you not

From a recruiters point of view this is pretty disastrous. yes, there are still ways around it, but as you say it makes LinkedIn much less productive for sourcing candidates. I doubt that it will have a positive impact on other users either as they will still get contacted by recruiters about job opportunities, but the chances of the contact been irrelevant to their skills / experience will be massively increased as the recruiters will not have much to go on.

As you mention above, it seems like a drive by the shareholders to increase profits, but how long until people turn their back on LinkedIn and migrate to another platform?

Goodness you’re right, my network has dropped by 3 million… rude. The good thing though is that I can downgrade my account as, according to what it now states, I’ll have full visibility of anyone in my network, which was previously only available on Executive and the only reason I upgraded to it. I appreciate I’ll see fewer search results and have fewer InMails but to me, at this time, they’re not worth the extra £50/month… Thanks for bringing this to my attention Mark.

We need to be careful in what we refer to as a ‘network’ on LinkedIn is these days. For some time now LinkedIn have been describing your network as 1st & 2nd tier only (note how a search filter became ‘3rd and everyone else’) which was an early sign that this was going to happen. The truth is that we have always had full visibility of 1st and 2nd tier – that hasn’t changed what has changed is what LinkedIn mean when they state ‘anyone in your network’

So are you saying that “seeing visibility of anyone in your network” will really only mean 1st & 2nd still? (Sorry I’m a bit confused!)

Yes. Unless you have at least a Business account you will only see the full profiles of 1st and 2nd tier connections. 3rd tier and fellow group show a first name, headline and picture only and out of network we only see the headline & picture

Damn will have to keep paying them too much per month LOL. Thanks for your help Mark.

Mark,
Thanks for always being on the ball with this sort of LI news. Whatever their reasons, and it’s probably shareholder value driven as you say, it just makes life that bit harder which in turn will diminish the value of the platform over time.
richard

Thanks for the article which confirms something that we have been discussing in the office for a week or so now. We’ve also been receiving a number of “heavy” sales calls from LinkedIn Professional Coroporate Services which would cost us (as recruiters) about £6,000 per annum. Unjustifiable.

Mark

first of all thanks for flagging and sharing this – which is much more in the spirit of social media than this latest development.

Sadly it looks like greed has seen LI take the same path as Facebook – i.e. something that was loved by users is becoming something that will be tolerated and a commodity.

I too do a lot of work with senior job seekers, and am self employed. For 5 years I have been a huge fan of LI – this is a real setback in its effectiveness for all users.

You are of course correct – this fits very neatly with them seeing themselves increasingly as a business which is focused upon selling searchability. I would say if they had set the bar at £5 a month we may all have to say “fair enough” not a bad investment to connect deep and wide.. but at £13 it is going to drive people away and ultimately be counter-productive.. the biggest challenge I have always identified with LI is giving professionals good enough reason to visit the site regularly as they would their email or FB accounts,.

Thanks again for sharing..

Mike

Great blog. There is certainly a drift on Linkedin towards it becoming more of a commodity based web tool rather than a reciprocal networking site. However, I don’t have a problem with this per se if they can get the balance right.

Linkedin is definitely a money making machine! That said, I think we are a long long way off from the day recruiters say Linkedin is getting too expensive for them. Firstly, most job boards cost £300-400/month; so a basic Linkedin premium account is still considerbaly cheaper. Secondly, I would hazard a guess that Linkedin is now the largest / best source of target candidates for recruiters working in professional sectors. I therefore don’t think we have to worry about Recruiters’ reluctance to fill the Linkedin coffers! What is however more of a concern is that if Linkedin continues to restrict free users’ access / usability of the site, will people just stop using Linkedin altogether (or at least not update their profiles); hence will the value to all Linkedin users (not just recruiters) decrease. Linkedin must tread a fine line between remembering that is a social media tool and the demands of its shareholders.

Well put Paul, I agree with you 100%

“Secondly, I would hazard a guess that Linkedin is now the largest / best source of target candidates for recruiters working in professional sectors.” – in US ONLY !!! Which opens big opportunities for LIn competitors abroad 🙂 But, was not LIn’s purpose to be “the greatest and biggest” all over the world? This move points out towards a 100% failure from that perspective. Maybe they already realized they will NOT become the greatest and biggest all over the place, and as the shareholders want to double their investment every month if possible, they were forced to put pressure on their only real market, the US …

Kunis, I’m not sure I share your negative view on LinkedIn. I know plenty of people who have landed their dream job or biggest customer via LinkedIn. In terms of worldwide coverage the numbers are clear – LinkedIn is by far the biggest professional network in the world with over 60% of users being based outside of the US.

“60% based outside US” … and .. how fragmented is that “outside” if I may ask? US is one country, the rest of 60% should be divided among ~ 200 “others”. LIn is hardly known in Europe outside of the UK – so in Asia. So with 40% of the total market in the US it is more than obvious that US IS their market … LIn’s commercial offer is targeted to the US. The other countries are a “nice to have” but not really relevant for their $ calculation

My website connects Project Managers to Professional Development opportunities. I have chosen to support LinkedIn over Facebook because of Facebook’s privacy values. I have included the public profile LinkedIn address of hundreds of instructors and trainers.

This change makes most of those links worthless to my readers. I was dumbfounded the first time I saw that message “Full profiles for 3rd-degree connections are available only to premium account holders”

I now have to decide whether to include the instructors LinkedIn profile (likely not) or Facebook profile(which I am now considering).

As you said, the Linked community (for the individual) just became a whole lot smaller. And the $1 a day for the Premium account doesn’t provide enough value to me. 😦

Thanks for your comments Martin. Actually I think you should largely be OK. LinkedIn public profiles are still fully visible provided the reader is not logged into LinkedIn at the time. I have checked some of the links on your website and they all showed me the full public profile.
If a user is logged into LinkedIn then they will see very little so you may need to add some additional text next to the link on your website.
Alternatively you could use the plugins provided by LinkedIn at their developer site https://developer.linkedin.com/plugins I have just tested several of these on another website and I am seeing full public profiles without being in their network or having to log out.
Another (not very elegant) solution is how the link is opened. I use Google Chrome as my browser and by right clicking on the link I have an option to ‘open link in incognito window’ this will then open a new window and show the full public profile.

I hope that is of some help.

I am very much enjoying the conversation in the comments to this article.

The plugins you mentioned are interesting but do not eliminate the underlying problem of the hiding of the 3rd degree connections when the user is logged in.

Indeed, it seems ironic to me that I can see more by searching LinkedIn using Google and being NOT logged in than I can when I am logged in.

LinkedIn is effectively saying “Don’t log in unless you are a premium member!” And I can heed that message 🙂

As per the conversation, LinkedIn may view the recruiters as their most important customers but if the masses (free users) become disengaged from LinkedIn the value of the product will deteriorate over time.

It’s disappointing for me because I was an early advocate of LinkedIn and I feel they weighed the impact of this change and I’m just not important to them.

Perhaps LinkedIn didn’t intend to become an active job searching tool for candidates. Definitely passive — meant for professionals to post/share their backgrounds and resumes, and not start chasing down HR execs at different companies. Consider this: most job ads/postings do NOT provide you with the name of an actual HR contact… and most company websites are the same. Far from being social, in fact, most postings state that “only those considered for an interview will be contacted”. Experience suggests that HR professionals themselves would prefer to do the hunting, rather than be hunted. Currently, On LinkedIn, HR VP’s, Directors, Managers and Recruiters are suddenly finding themselves more accessible than before… perhaps an unintended consequence of being part of a social network. That said, I am not really sure that losing 3rd tier access is really that big of a loss… although I am always interested in knowing who else is in the groups I am a part of.

Some interesting points Jeffrey but I am not referring to candidates proactively seeking out opportunities (although that is clearly harder now) I am referring to the issue that the recruiters are now less likely to consider individuals that are outside of their 1st or 2nd tier and this means that those suitable individuals with great profiles at 3rd tier will miss out (through no fault of their own).
This is the most damaging aspect of these changes. Its not just jobseekers that are likely to suffer, the bottom line is that the more visible you are, the more things tend to happen for you on LinkedIn and this is the case for everyone so my guess is that everyone will now find LinkedIn a less productive place to be.

The good news is that you can still see the full profile if you download a person’s LinkedIn PDF.

Well spotted Lois although it seems that you only get the summary section rather than the full profile but its better than nothing!

As this recent Forbes article makes quite clear (“How LinkedIn Has Turned Your Resume into a Money Making Machine” – http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgeanders/2012/06/27/how-linkedin-strategy/), LinkedIn’s business model doesn’t really focus on revenue from individual users. As their premium “Recruiter” service starts at $21,000, creating incentives for individual users to upgrade might be nice, but is not really the point of this move. As you so clearly stated, “”The reality of this change is that LinkedIn has immediately become a less productive place to be.” That is by intentional design, sadly enough.

This move is intended to make wide search harder for the average user (and far more difficult for free users). I’m sure it’s a winning business model for them, but I’ve always considered their approach as one that places the utility of the service for individual users to be a secondary concern. LinkedIn is an important business tool, and will undoubtedly continue to be a moneymaker, but at heart it is little more than a CV database. With the potential benefit of unexpected connections, network learning and viral information flow largely designed out of the system (the notable exception of well-managed groups), these moves are good for the bottom line of LinkedIn, possibly good for job seekers and higher-end recruiters, but overall quite expectedly disappointing for those who recognize the deep potential of social networks.

Thanks for the great piece though, and especially for the important tip about subverting the limitations by including your email in the headline!

Thanks Kimo for an intelligent and perceptive comment.
I believe that for LinkedIn to survive (never mind grow its profits) it must first and foremost provide an excellent and useful experience for its free users. It is only of interest to its customers (Recruiters & advertisers currently) if it retains a high level of active users (unique visitors being the key measurement). If it allows city analysts (who never think long term and rarely have a grasp of basic business principles) to dictate an agenda of greater revenue generation at the expense of its free users – it will inevitably fail.
The key, as has been said previously, is to find the right balance between revenue growth and user satisfaction. At the moment I feel they are right on the edge of that line and further attempts to monetize at the expense of users may topple them over the edge.
Lets hope that Jeff Weiner and Steve Sordello are strong enough to resist the pressure from Analysts (its never the shareholders) and deliver a strategy for long term sustainable growth.

[…] LinkedIn made some changes last week too – your 3rd degree connections are no longer visible to you when you are signed in to LinkedIn on a Basic account. Read the full scoop on Mr LinkedIn’s blog. […]

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[…] may have read about some recent changes that have affected some LinkedIn users here and here with regard to 3rd degree profile […]

I’m in absolute agreement with Roy here; although I’ve used LinkedIn for a whole host of reasons in the past (including recruitment), as a Careers Adviser I mainly use it now with university students and job seeking clients to show them how it can help them to research jobs and industries (e.g. by looking through profiles to map career paths or find relevant groups) and reach out to make new contacts; particularly for arranging information interviews, which can help them research careers AND make valuable industry connections. Networking and creative job hunting methods are still hugely underused by this section of the population, and there are enough barriers without this extra one!

As students and recent graduates are often struggling financially, it’s not realistic to expect them to pay the prices LinkedIn is looking for; so I believe they’ve seriously misjudged their pricing strategy by ignoring the large group of users who might be willing to pay a small amount (as people often do for mobile apps), but are unlikely to perceive enough value in the existing options. And indeed… if these free users drift away or don’t bother joining, where will LinkedIn be in 5 years’ time?? And how much poorer will our networking abilities be for that?!

I think many people overlook other uses of LinkedIn that are not related to job seeking. Many B2B activity can be done more effectively using LinkedIn. I think not showing 3rd degree connections at all, and charging $200+ for the most basic account, will simply hurt the growth of the website. Young people who are now leaving college will not spend the money to create an account and therefore the value of the website in the long term is going to fall significantly.

All very interesting albeit my entry to the discussion is late. As a paying premium account user and a recruiter (@ $24.95 a month) and a member since 2005 I have always had access to 3rd tier users until this week. Now, to access third tier users, the cost has increased without notice to a minimum $99.95 a month for the Executive Premium Account. No longer does the Business or Business Plus Premium Accounts provide access to 3rd tier contacts. So while there are inconvenient ways around it by going through Google, many candidates that otherwise may have been contact during a search will now fall by the wayside. It is a shame that LinkedIn opted to do this without the courtesy of letting its members know about the changes or considering the effects. While the value of LinkedIn for the recruiter may be worth $1200 a year, the lack of respect for the customer is appaling! When contacting Customer Service, they act as if the changes have always been in effect. If the “Voice of the Customer” is the rallying cry of the well run company, then LinkedIn sorely needs to reconsider their dealings with their best customers

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