What is the value of LinkedIn?

Over in iDevelop, Jon Paris and Susan Gantner ask Are you ‘LinkedIn’? The post touches on LinkedIn’s initial purpose – essentially keeping in touch with colleagues and making new (work) contacts based on who you know. They then go on to question LinkedIn’s role now.

On the one hand it’s increasingly utilized as a marketing tool. Sometimes overtly: “Company XYZ is pleased to announce. …” Very often covertly: “Does anyone know of a good tool that can. …” Threads of this latter type often eventually reveal that the original poster was either an employee of a company offering tooling in this arena or is a “satisfied customer.” We find these kinds of threads particularly annoying, in part because we feel we’re already subject to enough advertising without having it rammed down our throats everywhere we go. In the long run they may well have a negative effect because they can result in even users avoiding responding to the most genuine of queries.

It also seems to be being increasingly used for the pure “How do I” or the “I’m getting decimal data errors …” type of questions that we feel are much better suited for Internet forums such as midrange.com or IBM’s RPG Cafe. It just seems to us that LinkedIn really wasn’t designed for these types of questions. As result, the same question is often asked in multiple groups.

This does ring very true for me. There are innumerable professional groups on LinkedIn and they are increasingly cluttered with either job adverts, recruitment requests or (often very basic) technical problems that would be better handled elsewhere.

The redundancy of the groups is also a problem. I see the same posts and same conversations cropping up over and over again. This is annoying because, even if I was interested in a question the first time around, seeing it cropping up repeatedly does become increasingly spammy.

The thing that keeps LinkedIn afloat is its focus on being a network for business users but the site really does need to keep the clutter to a minimum if this approach is to work.

I still have a LinkedIn account, and will be retaining it for the forseeable future – primarily because there are work related contacts that I want to maintain on there. But I also find myself increasingly considering whether an IBM i circle on Google+ would be a better way of staying in touch with current, former and future colleagues.

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