LinkedIn benefits 2017: Meh, not so much

LinkedIn benefits

Are there LinkedIn benefits? Sure. Do people make connections on there, convert them, close deals? Of course. This is the much-balleyhooed “social selling.” Does this happen as much as thought leaders want us to believe it happens? No. There are some people and companies who “get” all this stuff, of course. But by and large, a lot of companies are using 1991 funnel models, metric evaluations, and sales processes. Change is hard for people at the individual level. A company is often 1,000+ individuals. Try changing at that level. It terrifies most of us. We often bury our heads in the sand and ignore what’s happening, or listen to some consultant advice. You could probably gag a farm of horses with people claiming to be LinkedIn experts or extol all the LinkedIn benefits for you. Half those people probably lead their slide decks with “Have a professional-looking profile picture.” That passes as advice, somehow? People didn’t know that? OK, then!

As some of you may know or have seen, LinkedIn just got a redesign. There’s already a bunch of breathless thought leadership on it, about how to “maximize your profile” for “revenue growth and leads.” A lot of it is hogwash. I personally think the redesign kind of sucks, and a lot of the features a regular user would want/need are harder to find — but I guess in the grand scheme of Jeff Weiner’s race to three commas in his net worth, I don’t mean very much. It also seems to load slower. (Again, though, I ain’t listed as no “influencer” on there.)

Rather, I wanted to run through — quickly — a couple of problems with LinkedIn and the supposed LinkedIn benefits. Maybe we can make this better?

LinkedIn Benefits Issue No. 1: Active users

This is the dirty little secret of LinkedIn. It has a huge user base, but only about 1 in 5 of those users check it monthly. Now, 1 in 5 of a huge number is still a huge number — I’ll give you that. But: here’s a situation I just had. About 8-10 months ago, I was messaging one person a day on LinkedIn, just as a networking play. This week — essentially a year later — I heard from two of those people. “Hey, what’s up?” It’s like, “Uh, I messaged you 10 months ago. Now you get back to me?” If that happened on email, people would literally light their entire body on fire and run through the cubicle rows screaming bloody murder.

This is all logical, of course. You would regularly go on LinkedIn if you were a recruiter, a “thought leader,” or looking for a job. If you don’t fit those three categories, you almost never would need to log in.

LinkedIn Benefits Issue No. 2: It’s not really that professional

Facebook is boring as hell now (Trump this, Trump that, maybe a baby picture here or there), and it’s a major driver of depression. So eventually, you figure it’ll get beaten by Snap or something we haven’t seen yet. (User base is huge, yes. It will take time.)

LinkedIn has no clear competitor, plus Microsoft owns it now. Glassdoor, Indeed, and similar sites that have the “scale” to be LinkedIn don’t have all the supposed LinkedIn benefits. But here’s the problem: LinkedIn is honestly not that professional. Because of social media automation suites, a lot of people share the same stuff to Facebook (personal) as LinkedIn (professional), so all the time I get updates about kid’s soccer tournaments. Then there are number puzzles, bikini shots, spammers, and people who use self-publishing to talk about an award they just won. (That’s not what self-publishing was invented for.)


It’s hard to be construed as “the professional network” when all this kind of stuff is flying around all day long.

LinkedIn Benefits Issue No. 3: Recruiters seem confused by it

Written about this before. This is just a sample based on my experiences and those of my friends/family. But if I’ve interacted with 150 recruiters on LinkedIn (I probably have), maybe 3-4 of them “get it.” Most send canned messages, or know nothing about you even though tons of stuff is on your profile. (I have an “All-Star profile,” if you care.) If this site is ultimately a tool for recruiters, and recruiters are using it in a canned, impersonal way, well, I fail to see the LinkedIn benefits therein.

I don’t actually think LinkedIn has made recruiting that much better, because while entire conversations on a topic can take place in Messenger or Twitter DM, you basically have to leave LinkedIn to develop that relationship. It has to move to email or phone, and oftentimes that’s a long, sloppy process because of that “I don’t check it so much” issue above. In the case of recruiters, the issue is “I’m so busy” because they’re probably juggling 94 canned interactions at a given time.

LinkedIn Benefits Issue No. 4: Lots of noise

LinkedIn would be an awesome site if it was a place you could log on and find good job advice, jobs catered for you, etc. But because LinkedIn had to make money and prove growth to investors, it could never be that. Consider how many things are posted to LinkedIn each second. It’s massive. I’m sure Microsoft looked at that and said “BA-ZINGA!” But an average person trying to navigate their career in uncertain times? It’s just a miserable cacophony of noise and people up-selling you.

LinkedIn Benefits Issue No. 5: Their sales side

Small sample size for me, but every time I’ve interacted with LinkedIn sales teams, they are total KPI-chasers who just want to get the sale. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that. A few months ago, when they rolled out ProFinder, I wanted to be featured on it. I got a few messages from some guy at LinkedIn asking me to search for other people. When I replied and asked how I could be searched, I got crickets in return. It’s always amazing to me how these companies claim to be “customer-first” and “service-driven” and clearly just view most people they interact with as wallets with fingers. A true shame.

Final thought: I know a bunch of people. I have something like 2,200 Facebook friends. (Admittedly that means nothing.) Of those 2,200 people, I bet I see about 50-75 active on LinkedIn. I really feel as if most people, in the regular slog of day-to-day work/etc., just don’t see any value to it unless they’re in an active job search.

What say you on LinkedIn benefits, real and imagined?

Ted Bauer


  1. The network on LinkedIn has value. I pay for Jobseeker even though often I’m not looking so that I can see who viewed my profile. I only pay attention when I’m job hunting or hiring. I’ve had many interviews from leads on LinkedIn. My last job was found through a LinkedIn connection and so was my current job. I have connections reach out to me often to ask about candidates or when they are looking and need help. It’s for business only for me.

  2. I think you are right on. “You would regularly go on LinkedIn if you were a recruiter, a “thought leader,” or looking for a job. If you don’t fit those three categories, you almost never would need to log in.” I used to get caught up in forums etc and participate but given my work load and the incremental value it may have given, it is not worth it.

  3. Ted this is good stuff. I agree that it is mostly best used for finding candidates or looking for a job. I have heard from HR folks that they hate it because they get a bazillion resumes and have no good way to sort them. And that the majority of candidates they get are not qualified and didn’t bother to look at the job requirements before sending.

    I too am in ProFinder. While I have benefited from numerous projects, I agree with you that LinkedIn got all excited about it and now seems to have forgotten about it. I think ProFinder is useful and could be even better but since its launch there has been little in the way of making it better.

  4. Active job search? LinkedIn has yet to prove its worth to me. In 2011/12 during a 15 month job search I can honestly say that I got 1 interview thanks to LinkedIn. Paying for the extras had no measurable success that I could see. I also notice that some of the ‘thought leaders’ were young people with no real experience spewing advice that most middle-aged people would immediately see as BS. Last year, during another period of 9 months of unemployment, LinkedIn seemed even more useless than it was back in 2012. It certainly seemed shallow in substance when I tried to shoe-horn my way into a job somewhere via LinkedIn contacts … fluff … truly close to useless.

  5. I used to enjoy LinkedIn as a way to keep up with what my connections were doing professionally. Now they’ve eliminated the “Sort Chronologically” option and instead shove at me what some algorithm thinks I want to see, much of which I’ve already seen days or weeks ago. If they don’t soon restore the “Sort Chronologically” option to their newsfeed, I’ll become a rare visitor other than to answer messages.

    • Yes, among other things they removed. Also, their analytics to show you articles seems to focus on what is liked the most (attractive woman posting about her new job) and not what is relevant to you.

  6. LinkedIn used to have some value in getting your brand out there (you could write and share articles, comment and network professionally about industry topics as well as connect with recruiters). But it has become the lazy sales persons tactic. Yes, in theory it has good data but it is nothing more than spam email. Social Selling can work on a networking type of level. It cant work to replace the marketing and sales funnel. It is a myth. The problem is that LinkedIn has redone their website now and REMOVED a ton of features that paying customers received – yes, even if you paid for a year in advance. Their search has become embarrassing in itself as it reverted to a 1998 type of system in lieu of an advance search, they removed over half of the search filters, the ones remaining are not a dropdown but a list you need to type out to get any results, you can not tag or organize your connections, and in fact lost all of your notes and tags if you had them you have to pay to search your own connections, you get zero article analytics, you can not sort your feed in chronological order, you cant see who shared your article, the site is terribly slow, it is filled with bugs, the messaging system is one of the worst created, you lost all of your history with a specific contacts, you can not post your article to groups – my lord I could go on and on and on. We paid in advance for a year for all of this features and if you want them back you have to pay more. There is zero value in being a premium member now – you have to pay for Sales Navigator (which is a joke of paying to spam people). I would imagine there is going to be a class action lawsuit at some point as a sort of bait and switch. The user activity has slowed with the new design. It is going away at some point unless they make drastic changes.

  7. I say, if LinkedIn has been useful for you and you’ve benefited from it professionally, more power to you. I personally haven’t found it terribly useful in my job searches and probably have had more success using it as a tool to re-connect with old friends in between stints on Facebook.

    The real issue I have with LinkedIn are the people I’ve met or encountered over the years who ABSOLUTELY INSIST it’s NECESSARY to have a profile on there if you’re looking for a job. No, it isn’t. Not every hiring manager utilizes LinkedIn, finds it valuable as an assessment tool, or is even aware of what it is and how it can be used. It is simply a mechanism that facilitates the transfer of data and can be used as one way to find a job or convert a sales lead. I’ve gotten plenty of job offers/gigs that LinkedIn has had nothing to do with. These apostles must either have been getting a cut from LinkedIn or worse yet have uncritically accepted the Gospel of LinkedIn as preached by those who are profiting from its existence.

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