Networking – An Unhappy Tale

Posted on February 4, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

I recently told this little story at a speaking gig and it seemed to go down well so I converted it into a little video.
Its NOT a story about LinkedIn……. 😉 !

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Offline / Online Networking Workflow

Posted on January 30, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

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Over the last few years LinkedIn have acquired companies such as Connected and CardMunch as well as developing functionality on their platform to assist in bringing offline networking and online networking closer together.

I have always felt that the two should really compliment each other but its only recently that I have figured out how this can actually work in practice. By using a mobile app and a LinkedIn feature I have devised the following workflow which is really starting to pay dividends for me;

Step 1

Once you have met someone make sure you swap business cards (nothing revolutionary in that I know….stay with me here!)

Step 2

Take a snapshot of the business card using the CardMunch app on your iPhone and upload it, you could even give the business card back at this point!

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Step 3

CardMunch will do its magic and match the email address to a LinkedIn profile and send you back a digital record usually within 48 hours. From this record you can connect on LinkedIn but (as with all mobile apps) you can’t personalise the message so I wouldn’t recommend that. You can save the contact to your phone and send an email (see below) although you may wish to delete the horrible 90’s phrase ‘touch base’ in favour of something less cheesy!

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Step 4

Now this is where it gets clever! Once the digital record has been received from CardMunch the new contacts profile (who at this point is probably not a connection) is automatically saved to LinkedIn Contacts on the desktop version of LinkedIn. Go to your LinkedIn account and click Network > Contacts and then change the ‘sort by’ field to ‘new’

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Note the Cardmunch symbol on the right of the contact entry.

Alternatively you can find the new contact by filtering by ‘source’ and ‘CardMunch’ as below.

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Step 5

Now hover over the person you added and you will see the option to connect (see 1st pic in step 4), click on this and you are able to send the invitation to connect without the need for email addresses or a silly ‘reason’ as with normal invites. In addition you can personalise the message.

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Step 6

Now ‘tag’ the contact to categorise them in a way that makes sense to you (you can create up to 200 of your own tags). I use tags such as ‘associate’, ‘prospect’, ‘customer’ etc. This can also be done in the ‘relationship’ tab in their profile but the easiest way is from this page in Contacts.

Step 7 

Now you can go to the profile and in the relationship tab type notes in the ‘How you met’ section. The ‘who introduced you’ field is where you can (in theory) type the name of the connection who introduced you, creating a link to their profile – unfortunately this feature rarely works in my experience (I reported this fault about 6 months ago and nothing has improved!).

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As you can see you can also make other notes, set reminders and further tag in this section.

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EXPOSED! LinkedIn Spammers using fake profiles.

Posted on December 9, 2013. Filed under: linkedin advice, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

3564334635_108d9e7a05_bWe all get spam, I guess it’s just one of those things we have to put up with as we get more active and become more visible on the Internet, LinkedIn is not immune to spammers and I often receive direct messages from people offering me various products and services. Irritating though it is I tend to view these messages as mildly irritating distractions from the ill-informed. What really annoys me is when I receive Spam from people who have not even got the guts to reveal who they really are!

A Tale of Two F’s and a Bunny!

This particular example happened in October when I received the message below;

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this is a message sent directly to me from someone whom I share a group with and not a connection. What got me immediately suspicious was that the individual had spelt her name in a rather unusual way, I figured it was possible to spell Jennifer with two f’s, if somewhat unusual but you will note (below) that the message is signed from ‘Jennifer’ spelt correctly!

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If you had an unusual spelling of a name, surely the last thing you are going to do is make an error and spell it the normal way in a message!

This seemed very suspicious to me so I got interested and investigated further. The message from Jennifer included a link promoting a webinar, that link was as follows;

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At this point it is worth mentioning that Andy Whitehead may have simply outsourced the promotion of his webinar and may not be aware of the unethical methodology employed by his service provider.

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I have investigated ‘Jenniffer’ in some detail and can find no trace of anyone of this name on the internet. I have performed an image search and her profile picture appears to be unique as well (the quality of the photo is not great so I am betting that it is a tight crop of a group picture)

She was (her profile has strangely disappeared recently) a second tier connection via two people so I contacted both of them and asked if they knew her…..neither did!

Jenniffer’s Profile

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10 Mistakes that drive other LinkedIn Users mad!

Posted on July 15, 2013. Filed under: linkedin advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Frustrated1. Inviting a complete stranger to connect.

Whilst I’m not a fan of LinkedIn’s mantra “only connect with people you know well” it is even worse to invite people with whom you have had no contact. This is the equivalent of going to a networking event and walking around the room shoving your business cards into people’s hands without even saying hello or introducing who you are! The key to successfully growing a network is to always engage in some manner before connecting.

2. Failing to personalise an invitation to connect.

There is nothing worse than receiving an invitation to connect (even from someone you know) that reads “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”. Everyone knows that this is the default message and therefore the person sending it has not bothered to give it any thought or consideration. A personalised message takes literally seconds to write and to not do so is just plain lazy!

3. Profile picture.

It is shocking to see how many people use inappropriate photographs for what is a professional networking site. Your picture is effectively your personal brand logo and is a critical part of your LinkedIn profile, It is almost certainly the first thing people notice and therefore creates that all-important first impression. Your photo should be an up-to-date close-up headshot, period. We do not need to see your partner, kids, pets or a slice of the face of the person next to you who you have attempted to crop out! Do not wear a hat or sunglasses and make sure the quality is clear. Avoid using ridiculous avatars or cartoons, they lack credibility and LinkedIn may suspend your account as this breaches the user agreement . The worst mistake of all however is to not have a profile picture at all, this will result in less profile views and more importantly it significantly damages your authenticity.

4. Anonymous visibility.

This is one privacy setting that everyone should change from the default. You can either be fully visible, largely anonymous (the default setting) or completely anonymous. The default setting makes no sense because you either want people to see that you have viewed their profile or you don’t, tempting their curiosity with a loose description such as “someone in the X function of the Y industry” is pointless! Deciding to be completely anonymous is also a strange decision, this is a networking environment so choosing this setting is effectively the same as going to an off-line event wearing a hoodie and mask! I can accept that there may be a rare occasion where it is clearly commercially unwise to reveal that you have viewed someone’s profile, in which case you can change your settings prior to viewing the profile and then change them back to fully visible again afterwards.

5. Direct selling.

Whilst it could be said that everyone is selling something on LinkedIn (even if it’s just themselves for that next career move), that doesn’t mean that this is a place to directly sell. There is nothing worse than accepting an invitation from somebody only to find that this is swiftly followed by numerous direct messages selling you the latest thing! This may be irritating for the recipient but it is far worse for the sender who is damaging their personal reputation as well as the company they work for and their chances of succeeding to sell anything this way are remote at best.

6. Inappropriate contact having not read somebody’s profile.

This is similar to the above but may not involve selling as such, receiving a direct message informing me about something that is not relevant to what I do or where I am based merely proves that the sender is blindly sending this message to many people without having read their profiles. I often hear from users who are tired of constant approaches by recruiters so they amend their headline to state that they are not interested in job opportunities…..and it doesn’t make the slightest difference, they still get as many approaches!

7. Lack of background information in profile.

We live in an information rich world and we expect to find it easy to gather information about people, places, products etc. When somebody views your profile they are doing so because they want to see more information about you (including your back story). So why would you deny them that opportunity by revealing little about yourself? LinkedIn is not a one way street, if you view somebody’s profile they are likely to view yours and this presents a great opportunity for you to be open and authentic and show them that you are the kind of person that they would wish to do business with. The more you reveal about your background the more likely it is that they will see you have something in common and this can only work in your favour.

8. Inactivity.

This is one of the most common mistakes I come across. Many users sign up, create a basic profile and maybe join a group or two and then…… nothing! This is the equivalent to going to a networking event and sitting in the corner with a cup of tea and not speaking to anyone! LinkedIn is a live and active community of business professionals throughout the world and this presents you with such an exciting opportunity to widen your network, engage with more people and ultimately achieve greater success.

9. Posting links without comment (especially in groups)

This is usually an innocent mistake made by people with the best intentions. They read an article online and decide to share this with their connections and/or fellow group members, the problem is that an article without a comment just becomes noise in a stream that people tend to ignore and the more this happens the more people become disengaged. This can also be as a result of one of the worst things you can do with social media…….. automation! Social media is supposed to be social (strangely enough!) and it is only effective when people talk to each other, not when automated processes fire countless streams of information/articles at people. The solution is very simple, read the article and take a view then post the article with a comment expressing your view and asking for feedback. This works, automation doesn’t.

10. Dodgy Recommendations.

Many online businesses have learnt that customer reviews are an incredibly powerful marketing tool (Amazon, Tripadvisor etc) and LinkedIn provides you with a similar opportunity via recommendations. The problem is that people obtain recommendations from the wrong people. A recommendation will only influence the reader if it is written by somebody that they consider to be credible and credibility comes from you knowing the person well and by them being in a position of authority i.e. a satisfied customer, and ex-boss etc. Too many recommendations on LinkedIn are from colleagues, family members or worst of all, complete strangers! One dodgy recommendation can ruin a profile, so be careful to only seek testimonials from the right people.

What other LinkedIn behaviours drive you mad?  please feel free to comment below.

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Keeping In Touch With your LinkedIn Contacts

Posted on November 27, 2012. Filed under: linkedin advice, News | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Today I received a message from a LinkedIn connection of mine. He is a really good bloke who has referred several clients to me in the past. This is the kind of LinkedIn connection I know I should keep in touch with more regularly and this message today has made me feel guilty for not being in touch more often! The problem is that I don’t really have a system for keeping in touch.

Can you relate to this?

LinkedIn is a great tool to find out about someone before meeting them and (once connected) a great way to keep up to date with what they are up to (via updates) but it’s not a great tool to help us remember to keep in touch with someone. Some well-known CRM products integrate with LinkedIn but for many of us a sophisticated (and expensive) CRM tool is overkill – enter FIVEHUNDREDPLUS! (500+)



Last week a contact of mine introduced me to a new, basic but very useful CRM tool for LinkedIn called Five Hundred Plus. After just 30 minutes of playing around on the site I was so excited I decided to contact the developers to understand more about the product, its history and where it was going.
500+ works in a very simple and effective way. Initially you sign in with your LinkedIn account, this way it can look at your network on LinkedIn. Once logged in you just search for a connection (see below) and ‘drag and drop’ them into the relevant column for the frequency of contact.


This however doesn’t have to just be for a connection, you can schedule contact reminders for other LinkedIn users outside of your network. You can even add more contacts who are not even on LinkedIn from the ‘new contact’ button.


Once this is done you will receive an email reminder every Monday morning with details of who you need to schedule contact with that week. If that contact is by email you can even bcc your 500+ account (see below) so that it automatically logs that the email has been sent – genius!

Here is a copy of my first email from 500+;


OK I’m not wild about the use of that awful ‘touch base’ phrase but its a pretty handy feature to have this weekly reminder!

You can also manually log an interaction and 500+ will then reschedule your next reminder;

Once a note has been added the due date will automatically change to the next scheduled contact (depending on which column it was entered into, see below) and as you can see you can make notes about the interaction as well as making notes about the contact.

This product is still in its alpha stage of development so there are a few little glitches (nothing major) and some functionality that could be added – for instance the site does not give you a link direct back to a contacts LinkedIn profile and it doesn’t pull across information from the profile (such as contact information, background etc). I also think a tagging feature would also be useful (especially as it looks like this feature may be under threat with the new LinkedIn profiles). These are all areas for development and I know that Geir Freyson the developer is currently working on some of these improvements.

*UPDATE 28th November – Geir has now updated the site so that contact details now link directly back to the profile and location information is included.

In my experience some of the best app ideas come from developers who themselves find an ‘itch’ and decide to develop a product to ‘scratch’ it – this is a classic example of this as Geir told me that this was developed purely as a way to help them to keep in contact with their connections, they found it worked so well for them that they realised they had a product worth developing for a wider audience.

Overall I think this is a fantastic application and the best news….it is completely free! I can imagine an enterprise, team based paid version being a good way to monetize this in the future although I expect this single user basic edition to remain completely free.

Thanks to Geir for taking the time to talk to me about the product and also a quick mention to Mike Watson for introducing it to me in the first place….well spotted Mike!

I strongly suggest you give Five Hundred Plus a go, it could be the missing link in making LinkedIn a more powerful business development, recruiting & networking tool.

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LinkedInterview #8

Posted on November 8, 2012. Filed under: Interviews, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Introduction

My name is Carl Whalley and I run a business called Otamate which offers mobile phone software and services, focussed mainly on Android

When was your LinkedIn date of birth?

November 2007, I can remember exactly where I was at the time I was invited to join. A colleague who sat across the desk from me told me about LinkedIn and invited me to join, there were a few business networks around at the time and LinkedIn didn’t seem particularly special but I thought I would give it a go. It did start to gain traction around that time and I started to find more and more people who I knew (mostly from the tech community). November 07 was also a significant month for me in that Google Android launched that month. I knew Android was going to be a big deal and I wanted to be ahead of the curve and become known as a Google Android expert – when I looked at other peoples profiles on LinkedIn they appeared to have badges on them – in the tech community it was badges like Microsoft or Apple etc I soon realised these were LinkedIn Group logo’s so I looked for a Google Android group (merely so that I could have the green robot ‘badge’ on my profile!). I couldn’t find one so I decided to create my own! I downloaded the logo (Google have an ‘open source’ attitude to most things so there were no trademark issues to consider) and started inviting people to join – by this time I had figured out that there were more benefits to running a group than just having the ‘badge’ on my profile! This was the first and only Google Android group on LinkedIn for 11 days when another group was created by someone in the US.

Finish this sentence “to me LinkedIn is……….”

In my business it is simply the ONLY way that I can achieve what I do. LinkedIn is THE key tool to keep in touch with such a wide range of people that I deal with, I actually tell people that the only way to keep in contact with me is via LinkedIn. I don’t use Facebook or any other social network and I even discourage email now because I can only manage my workload in one place and for me that place in LinkedIn. People often assume that LinkedIn is all about getting a new job but for me its about winning business, I get 100% of my projects through LinkedIn and I have never been busier!

When do you login to LinkedIn and how often?

First thing every morning every day and I am on it all the time! Both online and on mobile (Android of course!) Managing a group of this size is a full time job, I will literally be on my phone and managing the group whilst waiting to pick my daughter up from school.

How many connections do you have?

1144 at the moment, I get plenty of invites every day but I accept very few.

What features of LinkedIn do you use most?

My focus is mostly on my group (see left), it has grown to over 70,000 members now. I currently get about 1 member request a minute! It grew steadily to start with and I had to work very hard to get new members but once I started to get some momentum, it really took off. Things were different then as there were few very large groups, these days there are over a million groups on LinkedIn and many ‘super groups’ with over 50,000 members. It is much harder to attract members these days as people tend to gravitate to where other people are and there are plenty of big groups to pick from. I recently read an article that said that all of the big groups on LinkedIn were started before 2009 and that any groups since have struggled to build extensive membership. Every month I send out a newsletter to all members of the group. This is not a piece of marketing but a useful newsletter that is designed to provide interesting and helpful information to the members. I decided early on that if this was seen as spam then I would not be given a second chance so I have always ensured that the content is relevant. As a result I see real spikes in group activity when I send out the newsletter. The timing of when this email is sent is also very important. I very rarely use any other features although on a few occasions I have sent Inmails to people which have worked quite well.

What success (if any) have you had from using LinkedIn?

All of the business I get is through LinkedIn, 100% so the benefit to me is enormous! This is partly because of the nature of Android and the fact that it is constantly changing, people who join my group are keen to keep up with developments and so they really take notice of my monthly newsletter. Just being the owner of a group is not the key point, its what you do and how often you communicate relevant and interesting content to your members – that is what builds your reputation as an expert and that is what allows me to win lots of business. I have now got involved in developing the Android Academy which provides a qualification for Android developers and this was following an approach via LinkedIn . The qualification allows employers to judge a potential employees level of competence and for individuals to better market themselves. Just recently we have started running this in China which is likely to be massive for us and LinkedIn will continue to be my main tool for marketing the Android Academy throughout the world. Click here for more information on the Academy.

What new features would you like to see?

I would like to see more downloadable content possible for groups. This may only be relevant to my group or similar ones but I would like to see a separate area in groups where downloadable content can be sold – like an app store within a group. The problem with Google’s app store is that it is simply too big and developers really find it hard to get their apps noticed. This would give developers a smaller community to promote their app (or product) to. Something similar is already being done on Facebook so it is very achievable.

Will LinkedIn still be important in business in 2020?

I can’t see anyone else challenging LinkedIn in the future, they are so far ahead of any other business networks their positions seems unassailable. Maybe they could be taken over by a massive company who cock things up but I think its unlikely.

I really enjoyed interviewing Carl who talks with great passion about LinkedIn and the success he has enjoyed with his group. To be honest the above information is only about half the content we covered during our chat but I had to cut it down considerably to make sure it was a readable size. 

This gave me an idea – perhaps I could arrange a live webinar where you can hear me talk live to Carl about his experiences in growing this amazing Android community. I could make it a LinkedIn group management training session, live over the web. What do you think? 

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New LinkedIn Profiles – Under the Bonnet (Hood)

Posted on October 23, 2012. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Last week LinkedIn revealed that profiles will be changing again, this time they describe it as the most significant change to profiles in their history so I thought I would take a closer look to see what we can expect.

These profile changes will gradually spread throughout the network over the next 6 months or so. As you would expect LinkedIn staff are the first to get the new design so I have used their profiles to investigate further.

My overall impression is very positive, it seems the aim here has been to simplify the user interface and make it easier to engage with other users. This is largely an encouraging move from LinkedIn although some aspects of this strategy have reduced and possibly even removed some previously useful features. The danger with simplification is that you can end up ‘dumbing down’ the tool and in some respects LinkedIn have been guilty of that on this occasion.

1st Tier

Here (right) is an example of a 1st tier connections profile. The first thing you notice is the picture which is much bigger (over 50%), as yet we do not know whether this will alter the size/pixel requirements for a picture but it is fair to assume that low resolution shots are going to look much worse in the new profile.

Otherwise the layout has not changed significantly from the previous change earlier this summer. The layout is cleaner and somewhat simplified but this means that we no longer see how many recommendations someone has and we have to click on the ‘contact info’ box to see their website links, Twitter link and email address. In addition we now have to hover over the triangle next to ‘Send Message’ to see the other things we can do with this profile (See below)

The other significant change is that the activity section which was previously in the right hand column has now moved into the prime position right at the top of the profile, this is much better and should encourage more engagement.

The circular graphic on the right is a visual representation of your connections network. The default is set for which companies they are connected to and this can be changed to school, location or industry. This looks pretty but I’m not sure it will be of any great use to us!

As you scroll down the profile you come to the employment section (I assume that the order of the sections will still be something you can adjust) as seen here on the left. This section looks a lot better with the company logos (taken from the company page) showing and forming a link to the company page. In addition they have massively improved the look of recommendations (despite rumours that ‘Skills” were taking over from recommendations) which I am really pleased about. The profile photo of the person that wrote the testimonial shows together with the first few lines of the recommendation.

There is another pretty graphic in the right column which shows what you have in common with that person i.e. location, interests, skills and groups. This is much more useful and potentially highlights things that you may wish to discuss with them – again making engagement easier.

Both this and the network info graphic are not just visible for 1st tier connections but can also be seen for 2nd tier connections which makes them even more useful.

Every profile (person) link that you see in a profile now opens a new summary box when you hover over the name so very easily you can see more information about the person who wrote a recommendation or someone from the ‘People also viewed” section (see below)

As we scroll down further we see a much cleaner layout again for the Skills, Education and Honors / Awards sections, note how the further education establishment title is a link to the Alumni section of LinkedIn. By clicking here I can see a list of users who went to this university/college and where they live, what they do and where they work. This isn’t a new feature but worth highlighting because it can be very interesting. In some respects these types of links have become less obvious, in the old design we became used to knowing that anything in blue was a link. With the new design these links are black until you hover over them.

As mentioned earlier, the recommendations section has been improved, both under the employment section and here under the specific section for recommendations. I have recently changed the way I show recommendations in my profile, because the link (showing the number) at the top of the profile has been removed. I now advise people to show up to 5 recommendations (get as many as you can still but only show the best or most recent ones) and move them towards the top of your profile.

As you can see here on the right of this section you can toggle between a view showing received and given recommendations and there is a link to recommend the individual yourself – this however is not quite what it seems in that it is merely a link to the sent recommendations section (usually found under Contacts>Recommendations). There is no link to directly recommend someone or ask for a recommendation here so that looks like an area for improvement.

The best bit!

The most significant change to functionality and potentially the most useful feature is the ability to search someones connections. We have always been able to click on the number of connections to reveal a list of their 1st tier connections (provided their settings were at the default level – visible) but this has traditionally been of little use when someone had many hundreds or thousands of connections. The list was in alphabetical order and could take hours to go through when looking for someone.

Now we can search by keywords and filter the results in an advanced search – fantastic! By clicking on the connection number at the top of the profile (see highlighted in the first picture above) you are taken to this section further down the profile (see below)

The red arrow points towards the link to search this list by keywords, you can also she how many shared connections you have with each of these individuals and the ‘NEXT’ link in the bottom right corner still allows you to go through the full list if you wish. Interestingly the list is no longer in alphabetical order and as far as I can tell, seems to be fairly random.

When you click on the magnifying glass a search box opens where you can type any words or phrases you are looking for. In this case I have typed ‘Sales Director’ (the gap meaning it will need to find both words in the profile although it does appear to automatically prioritize the full phrase by listing those first).

The search reveals that 207 of their connections meet the search criteria and next to this is the link to move the result into an advanced search listing (see arrow). When I click-through to the advanced search I actually only see our shared connections (i.e. first tier only) which must be a glitch. This is easily remedied by selecting 2nd tier from the filters in the left hand side panel to reveal the 193 that are of most interest to me (see below)

This really is a very useful feature. Being able to precisely search through a connections list of connections is, in my opinion, invaluable and will be very helpful in many aspects of using LinkedIn.

2nd Tier

The differences are minimal with a 2nd tier connection, the info graphics are also showing at this level which provides us with more information then we are used to seeing, the ‘how we are connected’ section (see left) is now shown in a neat looking graphic – again this is mainly cosmetic but definitely an improvement’ and there is now a link to ask for an introduction.

3rd Tier

As I have detailed previously 3rd tier have annoyingly been removed from visibility (from a keyword search result) and these changes are the same in the new design (below)

We do also see the ‘How You’re connected’ graphic and also the info graphic on the 3rd tiers network but not the one that shows the things you have in common.

Outside Network

No changes here at all really, apart from those already covered. The name is not visible or the work experience & education summary although we do see a picture for outside network results now, which was a change made in the last re-design.

The bad news!

I’m gutted to announce that one of my favourite features, Tagging of 1st tier connections, looks like it may have been ‘canned’ – Tagging is a really useful feature, especially as you grow your network. I have spent much time and effort tagging my contacts and I always hoped that it would be a feature that could be used in many other aspects of LinkedIn (ie targeted status updates) but the powers that be may have decided that tagging is no longer a useful feature. From the profiles I have viewed it is not possible to tag a connection from within the profile, I’m hoping that you may still be able to tag from within the connection page but I do fear the worst.

RIP tagging, it was good while it lasted.

It would also appear that 3rd party applications have disappeared from these new profiles. I checked the profiles of many Slideshare staff who (as they are part of the LinkedIn group) all have the new design and none of them were showing the Slideshare app on their profile. This concerned me so I contacted many of the companies who currently have LinkedIn apps. Some didn’t reply while others seemed unaware of any change however WordPress replied saying “We understand that LinkedIn is planning to discontinue its InApp platform with the introduction of the new profiles” LinkedIn themselves stated; “We’re working on new ways to integrate 3rd party content on the new profile & we’ll have more info to share in the coming weeks”  Which isn’t saying a lot and doesn’t really provide much comfort.

My guess is that Slideshare will return (otherwise why acquire them?!) but other apps will disappear – especially those that encourage the reader to move away from LinkedIn (i.e. WordPress, Blog Link, Box).

I am struggling to see how these negative changes can be sold to us as ‘enhancing the user experience’, it’s also annoying the way they love to tell us about new things but say nothing about features they have removed, it just makes it seem like you are being conned somehow.

So there we go, I have played with these profiles a fair bit and hope I haven’t missed anything important, please let me (and other readers) know if I have.

I think LinkedIn is actually starting to look pretty funky and modern now which has to be a good thing and if these changes mean that users do start to become more engaged then we will all benefit.

What do you think?

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LinkedIn Skill Endorsements – My Take

Posted on October 8, 2012. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , |

ImageI Have always been a big supporter of recommendations on LinkedIn, I know some people abuse the feature by collecting insincere testimonials from anyone and everyone but on the whole they are a pretty good indication of the qualities that someone possesses. The reality is that someone is only likely to take the time to write a recommendation if they genuinely know enough about you and feel the world should know how good you are. This is why I thought it was a backward step when LinkedIn removed the number of recommendations from the top section of a profile in the recent re-design. The number is not the most important thing but it did at least bring the reader’s attention to the fact that you had recommendations on your profile.

In contrast I see the new skills endorsements feature as severely lacking any credibility!

Its seems as though our home pages have been filled with notifications of people racing to endorse each other, some may be very genuine but as it requires merely a click of a button, its impossible to tell so the logical conclusion is that it means very little.

My experience was that I logged on to find that a friend of mine had endorsed me for the skill ‘LinkedIn’ I clicked on this link and was presented with 4 other connections and an invitation to endorse a skill for each of them See below (this feature has since disappeared for me)

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I can click on each person and endorse them for that specific skill or I can just click on ‘Endorse all 4’ and because it is easy to just click all 4 I think most people will do that, without even looking at what the skills are!

I found myself looking at certain connections (not the above ones) and thinking ‘Can I really say they know about that?’ For instance a specialist financial recruiter who has ‘statutory accounting’ as a skill….would I employ them to do my accounts?!

The problem is that most people won’t even give it a thought and that makes this feature a complete waste of the digital space it occupies!

You can even add more skills to a connections profile is you wish, the below box appears at the top of a connections profile.

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Again the temptation here is to just click the yellow ‘Endorse’ box thereby endorsing all skills listed, without giving it any real consideration.

I have to say that I really don’t get it but for the purpose of balance, here is a quote from a fan of endorsements written in a recent group discussion I was involved with;

“Endorsements are ‘public’ approvals for certain skill sets, the credence comes from multiple people giving a thumbs-up. Of course they are open to abuse (just like Recommendations) but you will get a more granular evaluation of an individual’s capabilities and over time, the accuracy of these public likes ought to improve over time”.

I can see where LinkedIn are coming from with this and the above comment (not from LinkedIn) is a credible argument but it all feels very ‘Facebook’ to me. I never take the blind bit of notice if a friend ‘likes’ a brand/company/service on Facebook. Do you?

So where are LinkedIn going with this? First they introduce skills at the same time as removing the ‘specialties’ section without any explanation and then endorsements…what next?

I have no inside knowledge on this, just a gut feeling that this is all part of a bigger plan. They initially built a list of skills (originally you could just add anything yourself), then they made skills a requirement of having a 100% profile (a clear sign they had bigger plans for skills) and now endorsements. I suspect that we will see skills become a searchable feature (not currently the case) where result rankings are determined by the number of endorsements. This may well be a premium feature, only available to high level upgrades or corporate recruiter licences – I suspect that this level of attention by LinkedIn suggests some commercial intention.

Only time will tell, maybe I will have to eat my words in 6 months time.

What do you think? All views are very welcome.

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LinkedInterview #7

Posted on October 4, 2012. Filed under: Interviews, linkedin advice, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Introduction 

My name is Steven Jones and I currently work for Ballard Dale Syree Watson which is a firm of independent Chartered Accountants, we are based out of Droitwich in Worcestershire with 5 partners and about 50 professional staff. My role is Business Development Director with responsibility for new client engagement, marketing and also the recruitment of our staff. We are a general practice who also have a specialist focus on the Healthcare and agribusiness sectors and are known for having particular expertise in the area of tax. Our clients range from micro businesses to £100 million turnover organisations.

When was your LinkedIn date of birth? 

17th January 2009

Finish this sentence “to me LinkedIn is……….” 

A really good way to keep abreast of what is happening in business both locally and nationally and an effective way of making new contacts whilst sat at your desk.

When do you login to LinkedIn and how often? 

I typically login at my desk about a half hour before I start work to have a read through the news and updates on my home page. I keep LinkedIn open all day but I will typically go back to it for another look at updates/news etc at lunchtime and again when I get home in the evening. I also run a group on LinkedIn for local businesses so I check this for new discussions and members before 8.30am every day.

How many connections do you have and why do you connect with someone? 

c2000 I have quite a wide network, partly due to the nature of our business and partly because I think it is rude to not accept an invitation. The way I see it is if you were at an offline networking meeting and someone came up to you and offered you their business card. Would you ignore them and walk away? LinkedIn is no different in my opinion. That said my home feed is a valuable real estate and if a connection was clogging it up with irrelevant posts, I would have no hesitation in hiding their updates.

The type of people I will target to connect with would be specialist Recruiters because they have large and relevant networks and I also target Accountants working elsewhere so that I can keep in touch and track their career progression

What features of LinkedIn do you use most? 

I consider myself to be a fairly basic user so most of my attention is focussed on reading updates and news on my home page. I also use groups a lot to network with local businesses and keep abreast of relevant topics for some our specialist areas (agriculture, healthcare etc). I also run my own group called the Worcestershire Business Community group, I started it about 6 months ago and currently it has about 180 members. I find this is a great way to communicate and engage with the local business community. I write a blog for my company (with help from colleagues) and feed this into the group, as well as posting relevant pieces into other groups where appropriate. I keep the group very open and like to encourage participation, I don’t moderate the content prior to posting because I think it can be very frustrating for someone to have to wait to see their post when they have taken the time to contribute. Obviously I would remove anything inappropriate but this hasn’t been much of an issue so far.  I accept everyone who asks to join, no competitors have as yet but to be fair I can’t see any harm in letting them in, it’s a community and they are valuable members of that community so they may have something useful to contribute. It was quite challenging to get things going at first but I get a real kick these from seeing the members interacting with each other and gaining real benefit from the group.

I tend not to publicise the blog through status updates because I am concerned that I might be clogging up my connections home page feed with repeated posts in different areas of LinkedIn.

I occasionally perform an advanced search to find specific people who might be relevant to a certain article of piece of information that I may want to share with them.

What is your favourite feature?

I think I would say my home page really, its proved to be a valuable source of relevant information.

What success (if any) have you had from using LinkedIn? 

Plenty. I can think of several clients who I originally came across on LinkedIn, some via my group or other groups, some who I have found via a search and others that I have come across in the ‘people you may know’ section and begun to engage with and over time have started to do business with them. I would never approach a potential client and directly sell to them, for me its all about a basic introduction and an invitation to connect and this gets me on their radar. We have also recruited several key staff via LinkedIn either by a direct approach or via cascading information through groups. I also received a job offer before joining here via LinkedIn.

What new features would you like to see? 

It would be cool if LinkedIn had a video chat/conferencing facility, something like Skype integrated into LinkedIn or maybe even a Skype plugin. There would need to be some good privacy controls to avoid being hassled by people but this is easily controlled on Skype so shouldn’t be a barrier. As well as individual conversations you could also set up something within a group where a time was organised for a live presentation or discussion. For example this interview could have been conducted live and others would be able to dial in and listen – all via LinkedIn

Will LinkedIn still be important in business in 2020? 

I’m really not sure, technology is a ‘fickle mistress’! Just ask MySpace or Nokia. It’s hard to know what is around the corner in social media, never mind in 8 years time! 8 years ago we didn’t have Twitter and LinkedIn was hardly known.

My concern is that LinkedIn becomes saturated by recruiters and too dominated by people who use it purely to get a job or fill a job. I think it’s a great recruitment tool but it is far more than that and I think it is important to ensure that people are still able to use it as a networking tool.

It strikes me that the key to Steve’s success with LinkedIn has been the lack of ‘selling’ he does on the site, despite being a Business Development Director!

Steve has spent time and effort to build relationships, share news, run a group community etc etc. This is typical of the actions of a good ‘Social salesperson’.

A big thanks to Steve for taking the time to answer these questions. If you feel you have an interesting LinkedIn story to tell please get in touch at mrlinkedin.uk@gmail.com

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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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