Simon Palmer’s blog

October 5, 2009

LinkedIn. Sigh.

Filed under: personal — simonpalmer @ 4:32 pm

I’ve had a LinkedIn profile since 5th March, 2005. In that time I have gathered 70 connections and 3 recommendations. I have joined numerous groups and have engaged in dialogue in all of them.

I say dialogue, but the reality is that communication happening in LinkedIn is not a dialogue at all. At best it is a didactic monologue conducted in a forum where everyone is shouting. At worst it is a set of very thinly veiled adverts for people or companies who clearly think they are operating at the bleeding edge of guerilla marketing. And unfortunately the worst is also the most common.

After years of patience with it, repeatedly giving it another chance, and following the updates where my first circle of contacts are connecting with, well, my first circle of contacts (with whom I know they already have alternative connections) I have finally had the veil of web 2.0 drawn back from my eyes and asked myself, objectively, what’s the point?

I’ve done some evaulation of the number of outbound vs. inbound contacts I have had in the last 4 years, and the extent of those which have resulted in a contacts for which I have no other contact than LinkedIn, or would otherwise not have made contact with those people. My measure of its value as a networking tool is the extent to which it has extended my network, rather than just confirmed it in another medium. I have subtracted anyone who I found elsewhere and thereafter connected with on LInkedIn.

It makes dismal reading.

Of my 70 contacts…
21 are friends
26 are ex-colleagues
14 I met elsewhere
8 are current colleagues

and

1 I found on LinkedIn (I have not heard from him since the initial contact in 2007)

I have been a member of 23 groups, all but one of which I have left because they were thinly veiled self-publicisation for the founder and members. I’m about to leave the remaining one for the same reason, just as soon as I stop ranting.

Maybe my version of networking is out of touch with what everyone else calls networking. Maybe I’m just using it as a version of Facebook without the silly games and photos. But as far as I can tell, so is everyone else. If I look at the second circle beyond mine, which is indeed a large number of people (9,500) they have a similar profile of connections to my connections, namely friends and colleagues.

The groups seem to be populated by people who believe that if they word their advertisement as a question the rest of us will be completely fooled by it and will follow the link to their web site. How stupid do you think we are, and how far from networking can you get? For an answer please go to my web site http://www.WhatSortOfMoronsAskQuestionsLikeThatAndThinkItIsClever.com

The questions section is no better. The questions are asked by people who clearly think they have the answer already and conveniently provide you with a link to their web site to supply it. They are then answered by other people who think they too have the perfect solution which, surprise surprise, you can find by clicking on the link to their web site.

In what possible way can this be construed as networking? It’s not even advertising or marketing or PR. It’s just aimless posting. If you want to do that why not have a blog?

Lastly to the jobs. I have optimistically bought the notion that people who advertise open positions on LinkedIn are genuinely interested in people responding who have the right skills and experience. It may be true, but I am yet to see evidence to support the assertion.

I wanted to test out the efficacy of LinkedIn as a tool to help in a job search. I am genuinely in a position where I would benefit from having a network of people look at my CV and I am in the job seeking market. I brushed up my CV, updated my profile, cleaned up my blog and links and then set about applying for positions for which I thought I would be a suitable candidate, and for which I am eminently qualified.

So far I have I applied for 46 positions. I have done research into each company and written a cover letter with each application, and have a named individual to whom I am writing. I’m an experienced guy who knows how to write and knows a bit about business, especially the business I have been in for the last 20-something years.

I have had ZERO responses. Not even a single courtesy note saying “no thank you”. The closest I got was an out of office.

Maybe I’ve got an unappealing profile and I am applying for things that are inappropriate given my background. Maybe my cover letters are not good enough and my CV doesn’t make me stand out. Maybe the prevailing economic conditions mean that the job market is bad. Maybe.

But maybe, just maybe, LinkedIn doesn’t work. Maybe people use it as either a last resort or as a way of pretending they are doing something when they are not, or as a lazy way of avoiding making a real network. Maybe there are some mavens for whom their 1,435 direct contacts are the source of valuable business, but maybe peoples’ contacts are little more than their personal phone book or contact list tapped into a web site. Maybe, like mine and pretty much everyone else I know and am connected to, they are little more than a online map charting our recent business past.

For me the promise has definitely not delivered. I have had absolutely no return for the investment of time and effort I have made in attempting to conjure a network on LinkedIn. I think I have used it in a fairly typical way and at a fairly typical level of activity. I think my job search was probably characteristic of what someone might do if they were serious about using it as a tool for job hunting. If it can’t deliver benefit in that domain then what exactly is the point?

In spite of this I will keep my profile. The somewhat un-dis-provable argument of it not doing any harm will mean that I may as well. I want it to work, I really do, however it doesn’t, and I doubt I am alone in being disenchanted with the reality.

LinkedIn. Sigh.

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