Three common misconceptions about LinkedIn

The extremely active mylinkedinpowerforum has evolved into an online network platform for LinkedIn users, since LinkedIn deliberately does not provide that functionality. Konstantin Guericke posted on that list “three common misconceptions about LinkedIn”. My notes are below.

1) LinkedIn is primarily for people who like to network online.

We wouldn’t have started to LinkedIn to provide yet another online networking community. There are plenty of Yahoo groups or sites like Ecademy, Ryze and OpenBC that serve the purpose. We purposefully designed LinkedIn to attract an audience far broader: those who have no interest in online networking. We estimate that this group is 20 times larger than the group that likes to network online. We cater to people who believe that relationships matter in business and who feel existing tools are not providing them with sufficient help to effectively manage and leverage their existing network of former co-workers, business partners and clients. More and more people join LinkedIn to be found. The typical LinkedIn user is fairly close to the typical business person. They are quite busy with their work and quite conservative. They may not accept the first invitation they get to LinkedIn. They may not send out any invitations for six months. But if they receive an interesting opportunity, they will respond. We would not have much of a business if our Pro account holders, who pay $200 per month, would only have access to people who like online networking. For example, if they are a recruiter, if the person has the right kind of background, they will contact them-no matter how few connections they have. And our data shows quite clearly that users with one or two connections are quite responsive. And, it makes sense: if you get an good opportunity, you act-especially if it comes to you via an introduction.

Teten: Konstantin is defining online networking as specifically using sites like OpenBC, Ecademy, Ryze, and so on. We think of online networks much more broadly. 84 percent of American Internet users have used the Internet to contact or get information from a group–more than have used the Internet to read news, search for health information, or to buy something. Of course, most of them are not heavy users. But virtually every business user of the Internet is using the Internet to increase sales, recruit people, or in other ways leverage whom they know. 10% of all Internet searches are for proper names. Your Internet presence and your online network have a very clear impact on your business success—whether or not you are consciously managing it.

I’d suggest the real distinction Konstantin is making is between people who proactively seek to meet lots of people, and people who do not. Most businesspeople fit in the latter category. I think that LinkedIn is striking a reasonable balance between the conflicting demands of these multiple categories of users.

2) LinkedIn doesn’t like people who like to network online.

Absolutely not. In fact, we have been working on addressing the needs of this segment as we think there is some revenue potential. And in the next three releases, we will be adding lots of features for networkers, job seekers and service providers. Some will only be accessible to Personal Plus account holders, but most will be available to free Personal account holders as well. What we will not tolerate, however, is that a very small group of uses (about 0.01% of our user base) ignores the user agreement they accepted when joining LinkedIn and who are causing existing LinkedIn users to close their accounts, to lose faith in the referral system and to turn non-users off to LinkedIn. So we look very carefully to make sure the incentives are correct, so that we maximize the value of LinkedIn to most LinkedIn users. Since we estimate that about 5% of our users like to network online, at most 1 in 500 people in this group fall into this category of user. 499 out of 500 networkers are behaving very responsibly on LinkedIn, and I applaud them for not trying to cheat their way to get an unfair share of attention, but who focus on doing the right thing, so that their actions make them stand out.

3) Inviting someone to connect is the proper way to strike up a conversation with someone you’d like to meet

Teten: I really hate when people do this.

We provide four different contact mechanisms to get in touch with someone in your network who you don’t know. They are in order of use: introductions, InMail, OpenLink messages and group introductions. Except for InMail, they are all free to the sender, and InMail is never required to reach someone within your network. It is against the user agreement to invite people who don’t know you. We made this a rule since we learned from the failures of other communities, where easy contact drove out precisely the people most everyone wanted to reach and where un-brokered contact turned off the broad set of business users from ever joining.

Teten: I’d add to this list that many online communities also suffer from inappropriate content, for lack of moderation, and that can destroy their value. E.g, flame wars.

This is why include “report user to LinkedIn for possible violation of the user agreement’ as one of the four options to responding to an invitation. Once a pattern of complaints emerges, we follow up with the users. One thing we have learned is that people who invited more than 3,000 people (especially those inviting existing members of LinkedIn) are more often than not generate a significant level of complaints, so it made sense to limit invitations to that number. This is a limit that 99.99% of LinkedIn users are unlikely to ever to reach, but we hope that knowing such a limit exist will make people be more selective in who they invite. However, not everyone who has sent 3,000 invitations draws significant complaints, so that’s why it’s a flexible limit and users hitting the limit can request a review to get their limit increased.

– Konstantin Guericke
– VP Marketing and Co-Founder, LinkedIn
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