Status Updates With Images...The proof.

For some time now I have been advocating using images in your LinkedIn status updates. I don't mean the images that are automatically found from any web page you link to but I mean actually attaching a separate image using the paperclip symbol in the top right hand corner of your status update field.

Why?

Watch this video and you will see

Confused.LinkedIn.com!

LinkedIn Invitations to Connect  

Should you still be personalising the message?

I have always been a strong advocate of writing a personal message to anyone you invite to connect on LinkedIn. It just seems like good business practice to show that you are interested enough in your new online contact to take a small amount of time to either;

  • Explain why you wish to connect
  • Remind them of your previous contact/acquaintance
  • Say a friendly hello to someone you already know well.

I know a lot of people who feel the same way and many are unlikely to accept an invitation that isn’t personalised.

LinkedIn however, have never made this easy. The mobile apps don’t even give you the option and the desktop version makes you select from a limited list of ‘how you know them’ options - on most occasions none of the options really fit. 

No wonder people just give up and send the default “I’d like to add to you to my professional network on LinkedIn” or the utterly dreadful “Since you are a person I trust…” message

If all this wasn’t bad enough LinkedIn have now made a small but significant change to notifications that arguably make personalised invitations a waste of time.

In the video below I show how LinkedIn have changed the invitation notifications, removing the personalised  message and not allowing a reply (to enquire who they are) or the option to send a message once the invitation has been accepted.

A personalised message can still be seen but only if you go to your inbox and then click on invitations - thats 2 clicks rather than the previously simple and quick ‘hover’ over the notification.

 

This really does raise the question:

What is the point in personalising a LinkedIn invitation anymore? (tweet this)

The really odd thing is that they have just released a new version of their iOS app that claims you can now personalise invitations (although it doesn’t actually work yet!).

Yet again LinkedIn seem to be demonstrating a very disjointed strategy between their desktop and mobile platforms - I really don’t get it, maybe I’m missing something - perhaps there is some amazing master plan that I just can’t see.

Despite this change, I’m still going to personalise my invitations, it might be true that the majority of recipients won’t see it but it only takes one important connection to be informed that “since they are a person I trust……”

I shudder at the thought!

This is why LinkedIn should never 'retire' a feature

Linkedin Axe Man

This is the now infamous LinkedIn Axeman. He appears in my status updates every time LinkedIn 'retire' a new feature

This is happening quite frequently as LinkedIn 'improves' the user experience. LinkedIn rarely explain why they 'retire' features, other than a standard corporate PR type message that talks about focusing resources into new areas to improve the experience. It is all in our supposed best interests, of course, even if we do not see it!

Most of us do not like change and to be fair, it is often needed.  I have often moaned about change; months later I find that I am quite happy with a shiny new feature!

I do think, however, there is a serious issue that occurs as a consequence of dropping features...

The risk is that members will become reluctant to use features because they are concerned LinkedIn will end support for those same features! (tweet this)

Let me give you two new features that are suffering because of this;

LinkedIn Contacts is a fantastic feature; it is effectively a free social CRM system built into LinkedIn. So, why aren't people using it? Well, what happens if I write notes, add reminders etc, and then find they have all disappeared because LinkedIn changed its mind, and decided that this was not the direction they want to go!

LinkedIn Publisher Platform LinkedIn wants us to abandon blogging on Wordpress, or our website and instead restrict our content to LinkedIn. What happens to our content if they decide that the publishing platform was not such a good idea after all?!

Interestingly, I'm starting to wonder if the publisher platform will mark the end of the status update feature. Updates are primarily links to external posts and LinkedIn want us to stay on their platform so the master plan is to get everyone posting their content on LinkedIn so that 'sharing is all within LinkedIn. I discuss this point in more detail in the latest episode of my podcast LinkedInformed. If you haven't subscribed already then have a listen at http://linkedinformed.com/ or search for LinkedInformed on iTunes or Stitcher.

Someone recently commented that the 'Apply with LinkedIn' button that can be used for job adverts has recently been abandoned as well. Another feature which people could have invested time and money incorporating into their website, only to find it is no longer supported. I wonder if these people will be more cautious to adopt similar features in the future.

I don't enjoy it when LinkedIn remove features but this is not my point, the real issue is that LinkedIn may find that they are 'shooting themselves in the foot' if they persist with this policy and that is significantly more damaging because members may stop using features and eventually the site altogether.

The cycle of introducing new LinkedIn features and then dumping them because no-one uses them is a self-fulfilling prophecy (tweet this) and LinkedIn need to address this sooner rather than later!

What do you think?

Less fighting....more feeding!

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Have you read Gary Vaynerchuck's new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook?

If not, you really must. Gary is, in my humble opinion, the world's best authority on social media.

The basic premise is that you need to provide your audience - customers - followers with useful, interesting and relevant content 75% of the time and that earns you the right to ask for their business or something in return 25% of the time (the right hook).

This is such great advice because in my experience many LinkedIn users either;

1) Spring out of their corner aggressively swinging repetitive right hooks, failing to ever hit the target and eventually pass out due to exhaustion!

Or

2) Keep jabbing endlessly with no cutting edge until they too pass out!

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The only problem with this book for me is the boxing metaphor. Gary is a straight talking New Yorker who has achieved great things from humble beginnings by being a real 'street fighter' in the business world. So it makes perfect sense for him to relate his advice to boxing.

I however see things differently and a better metaphor for me would be based on a saying from old friend of mine;

"feed the pigeons"! 

Meaning that if you feed the pigeons, more and more will come and before long it will be easy to capture plenty of them....a little cruel perhaps but it has always stuck with me as a great metaphor for content marketing and social media.

The concept (via both metaphors) is pretty easy to grasp but harder to implement.

I think I have been guilty of feeding pigeons without taking any in the past and more recently, whilst launching my new 3 Day Start programme, I have probably been catching too many (or swinging too many right hooks) and potentially scaring off the flock that had gathered!

Its a difficult balance to find isn't it?

What do you think?

Have you ever been guilty of swinging your right hook too much (or a brutal pigeon massacre!)?

Do you find yourself surrounded by a happy flock of overweight pigeons whilst feeling hungry yourself?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

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LinkedIn's Disappointing Results for Q4 2013

Image LinkedIn announced their Q4 results last week which showed a 47% increase in revenue from the same period last year. I'm sure most of us would be delighted to deliver such growth (profit is less impressive as you can see in their earnings announcement) but for LinkedIn this represented another drop in sales growth, a trend which was the flavour of 2013 and one they are finding hard to reverse.

I can recall an ex boss of mine once explaining to me that actual figures (of anything) are much less relevant than the direction in which they are going. In business you are either going forwards or backwards and these figures prove that (despite year on year growth) LinkedIn's growth is going backwards.

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A closer look at the figures shows that the guilty party is advertising sales (marketing solutions). Premium upgrades have remained stable and talent solutions (the darling of LinkedIn sales) has increased its percentage of the overall sales volume but advertising has dropped from 27% to 25% of sales from the same period last year.

I must admit that I am surprised by this, I really thought that advertising would begin to increase its share of sales but the opposite is true. Maybe advertising on LinkedIn is just not proving to be a great ROI for marketers. I must admit I haven't met too many that swear by it (if your experience is different please get in touch, I would love to hear from you).

So it seems that LinkedIn's CEO Jeff Weiner has some serious challenges ahead and I am fascinated to see how he reacts to this - Wall Street was clearly not impressed with shares dropping by 10% on the announcement and whilst they rallied towards the end of the week, they still showed a drop of over 6%.

One early indication of their reaction has been the announcement that they will now be rationalizing their products/services, initially by dropping Slidecast and more notably LinkedIn Intro. Intro was a controversial mobile email service that was introduced in October last year and hit immediate issues with concerns over security. I can't say this is a massive surprise, after my initial excitement over the launch I reduced my use of the app and over time found I was very rarely using it. I assume this proved to be the case for many and so LinkedIn have decided that the effort involved in running it is not worth the return. I have to applaud them for this, like a football manager who buys a player who turns out to be a 'dud' it is better to cut your losses quickly rather than waste more time for the sake of pride! It will be interesting to see what happens to Rahul Vohra who was the architect of Intro (and Rapportive) - A bright, innovative and bold tech entrepreneur who is beginning to look a bit like a 'fish out of water' in the increasingly Wall Street driven 'corporate' world of The LinkedIn Corporation.

ImageOne thing seems certain, the LinkedIn Axeman will be working overtime looking at every initiative and product at LinkedIn and asking the difficult questions that are inevitable in a publicly owned company;

  • How does this increase our sales?
  • How quickly will we see a return?
  • How much resources will this require?

One thing I am quite sure about is that the real losers in this are likely to be us - the normal LinkedIn user (or member as LinkedIn like to call us). We have already seen some great features disappear with no explanation (Signal and updates on profiles to name a couple). What is going to be next?

I suspect that the much wielded phrase 'Members first' is going to be harder and harder to justify for LinkedIn as their shareholders demand to have their short-term objectives placed as a higher priority!

Interesting times are ahead.

Offline / Online Networking Workflow

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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.

So there you have it, I have been using this workflow for about 3 months now and I am finding it a much more effective way of organising my new contacts met offline allowing me to be much more efficient in one of the most important aspects of networking - follow up.

None of this will cost you anything, LinkedIn Contacts does not require a premium account and CardMunch is a free app although it appears to only be available on iOS (iPhone).

What do you think? Is this something you could see working for you?

 

 

Showcase Pages - A Practical Use

It was mid November last year when LinkedIn launched their Company Showcase pages (see here) and since then I have been observing how companies have been using them...or not!

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The idea of a showcase page is to allow members to follow the specific brands and products they care most about rather than see updates that relate to the whole company. In a sense it seemed that this new feature was a hybrid between a company page and a products/services page in that it gave us the opportunity to share updates about a specific type of product in certain markets. LinkedIn have certainly used them this way by creating showcase pages for marketing, recruitment and sales products (see right). Each of these have very different markets and contact points.

So how are other companies utilising this feature? I took a look at the 12 company pages heralded as being 'best in class 2012' by LinkedIn and was shocked to find that only one of them (adobe) was using the showcase page feature...just one!!

OK maybe that list is a bit out of date so lets look at the 10 best company pages of 2013....errr just one again and guess who that was? Adobe again (who have over 3000 followers for each showcase page).

Below is the showcase page for their Creative Cloud product.

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So what is going on here?

Why are companies not using this feature?

I think it is because it seems confusing. Why have a showcase page about products when we already have products and why have one when we can target our main company page updates to specific 'audiences'?

Perhaps they have a point but surely the likes of Mashable and Hubspot have enough creativity to think of an effective use of this feature? I use a showcase page for my podcast LinkedInformed (I'm on my 3rd episode by the way and I strongly advise you check it out :-)). Its not a product but it seems that the opportunity to have people 'follow' it and receive updates announcing each new episode is an ideal use of a Showcase page.

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How about this as another idea....Recruitment!

 

This could be an ideal use of a showcase page. People generally follow companies for one of 4 reasons in my opinion;

  1. They are interested in your products/services and relevant information about them.
  2. They are a competitor 'spying' on what you are up to!
  3. They are a potential supplier i.e. they want to sell to you!
  4. They are interested in working for you.

Now if I fell into the first category and I was a potential customer of yours I would get pretty fed up if I kept seeing updates from you promoting vacancies. The problem is that from my profile you would not always be able to differentiate between a number 1 and a number 4 and so I would not be prevented from seeing vacancies by how you define your 'audiences'.

End result - I might take my business elsewhere and follow a competitor instead!

If however you could guide company page followers who want to work for you to a separate showcase page explaining that all vacancies will be promoted via updates from this page, then you have a solution...and a useful purpose for a showcase page!

What do you think? Are you using this feature and if not, why?

 

EXPOSED! LinkedIn Spammers using fake profiles.

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

Voila_Capture1120Looking further at her profile her work experience includes such reputable companies such as Kangick, Asmadick and Nagran!!

Of course none of these companies could be traced.

So I looked up her education section and Brandman University does exist but when I contacted them they were unable to confirm whether Jenniffer or Jennifer had been a student there.

I also replied to the message and asked Jennifffer (oops did I add an extra f there?!) to call me to discuss this in more detail......I sat by my phone patiently waiting but alas, she didn't call!

I can only assume that 'Jenniffer' is a fake.

If I am wrong Jenniffer and you are reading this then please drop me a line and I will be delighted to correct this post, I would hate to accuse someone who is innocent of such deplorable tactics.

I was about to give up on my quest to find Jenniffer (I was starting to dream about her by this time!) when I received another message, this time from Bunny......no this wasn't part of my dream where I suddenly invented fluffy animals sending me messages! This was from another LinkedIn user called Bunny Shady.

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Apparently Ms Shady (the irony was not lost on me!) and I also share a group. This message made it clear that Bunny was not selling me anything but she would appreciate a 'testimonia' from me if I felt the webinar advanced my skills.....thats not typing or spelling skills then Bunny!

This also appears to be from a fake profile and also by coincidence, appears to be promoting the same webinar!

Note the linkedrecruitmentblueprint.com/webinar link which is exactly the same as the one in Jenniffer's email. Maybe they are friends or associates!

Bunny works at a company called Jakatee.....you must know them.......surely....OK maybe not!

Bunny has since disappeared from LinkedIn.

I'm sure many of us have made mistakes  when promoting our products and services online, I have certainly been guilty of things I am not too proud of in the past but I have always made these mistakes operating under my own profile.

LinkedIn is a live and thriving network of (mostly) real people, many offering their products and services - if they act in a poor manner they will be judged accordingly and if they do things well they will equally be judged appropriately.

Making mistakes such as spamming  can be forgiven if the majority of what we do is of a higher quality and we are seen to learn our lessons.

This is why I cannot stand it when people do not have the guts to be authentic and open and operate under their own profile and name.

Creating fake profiles and spamming is the worst kind of behaviour on LinkedIn and this is why I am exposing these people.

LinkedIn will be a better and more productive place for us all if we report these practices, I reported Jenniffer and Bunny to LinkedIn although I think they had already deleted their profiles by then.

What do you think? Am I being too harsh or does this kind of practice annoy you as well?

New LinkedIn Podcast - LinkedInformed

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I was driving my car to a training session, as usual I had my radio on to keep me entertained for the 3 hours I would be in the car. The presenter announced the next song and I thought "Oh no not that awful song again, why do they always play the same rubbish again and again?" so I switched channels...this time the presenter was interviewing an artist who had nothing interesting to say so I switched channels again, this time to a talk station.....they were debating whether we get our bins (garbage) emptied often enough!!

"There must be a better way!" I screamed out loud to myself. "Why am I having to listen to something that someone else chooses for me? My Tony Robbins CD has been played to death and there are only so many CD's I can carry in my car. I needed a better solution - enter the wonderful world of Podcasts!

If you are like me and you already listen to many podcasts then this article is not for you. I would merely encourage you to click here and download my new podcast - LinkedInformed. If you want to avoid iTunes the RSS feed is http://linkedinformed.libsyn.com/rss. 

This show is designed to educate and inspire LinkedIn users through interesting interviews, debate, useful tips, news discussions and questions and answers. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

If podcasting is something new to you then I would like to introduce a fantastic way to entertain, educate and motivate yourself whilst driving, walking the dog, running, cycling or just relaxing at home and all for free!

Podcasts let you decide what you want to listen to and there is a huge choice of free shows you can listen to. I will introduce you to some later.

Firstly let me explain how this all works.

A podcast is a multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc. The most popular way to listen to Podcasts these days is on a smart phone either by downloading the podcast on your computer and synchronizing with your phone or by using a podcasting app.

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Podcasting Apps

If you are an iPhone user I have produced a step by step guide to using the free Podcast app from Apple. Click here to view the guide.

I actually use a different app called Downcast which is not free but has some excellent features.

If you use an Android device, I am unable to produce a step by step guide but would recommend an app called iPP Podcast player. Click here to view. This app will allow you to download podcasts from by far the largest directory iTunes alternatively you can subscribe directly at the following link; http://linkedinformed.libsyn.com/rss

So once you have downloaded the app you can start searching for podcasts of interest. Here are a few of my favourites;

Peter Day's World of Business - BBC

Read to Lead - intentional and consistent reading is key to success in business and in life

Find The Edge - Online Business & Influence Strategies

The Global Networking Show -  Andy Lopata & Dr. Ivan Misner talk networking 

NPR: TED Talks examined in more detail.

The Foundation - Starting From Nothing. Building your business ENTIRELY from scratch.

and of course my very own, brand new podcast LinkedInformed

Episode 1 covers the following;

  • LinkedIn Intro app
  • The new iPad app
  • LinkedIn gets sued!
  • Profile tips
  • Endorsements
  • Upgrade options

You can read more here where you will also find links to all items mentioned in the Podcast.

I really hope you take to podcasting, I am by no means exaggerating when I state that listening to Podcasts has massively enhanced my knowledge and had a very positive effect on my life.

Let me know what you think of LinkedInformed episode 1, I would really value your feedback.

LinkedIn's New iPad App is a Game Changer for All.

Don't be put off reading this if you don't own an iPad - there is some important information here for anyone using LinkedIn to engage with those that might be using this app (and many people are). LinkedIn recently relaunched its iPad app, it's not an update from the previously hopeless version that was unstable and frankly useless. This is a completely new, built from scratch app....and its really excellent!

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In the UK, mobile is now responsible for 44% of visits to LinkedIn and this figure is expected to reach 50% early next year.

That 44% is based on a phone app that is nothing special and a truly terrible iPad app - imagine how much more traffic will come via mobile now that they have a really good iPad app?

This isn't just an interesting stat, it has a fundamental impact on how we should be using LinkedIn. When users access LinkedIn via either mobile apps they are visiting at significantly different times of the day. The graph below shows the amount of visitors at different times of the day (weekdays).

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The blue line represents the traditional desktop users, signing in first thing in the morning and peaking at that point but showing consistent levels of activity throughout the working hours.

The orange line represents visitors using the mobile app on their phone, the activity stays constant throughout the working day but also continues into the evening.

The most interesting line is the purple one which represents users visiting via the iPad app, lower numbers throughout the day but it then peaks late in the evening at which point it beats the other two and records the highest number of visitors at any time of the day. Presumably this happens because people relax on the couch after their evening meal and flip open their iPad!

This is a truly remarkable statistic and in my opinion, a game changer for LinkedIn users!

I have been advising delegates in my workshops for years that the most effective time of day to post a status update is first thing in the morning, this is not only when a high number of people are online but it is also the one time you know they are going to have eyes on their homepage and the stream of updates from their connections.

Now we see a massive shift towards 8-9 pm in the evening as the most active time and most of these visitors are viewing on their iPad which is designed in such a way that the update feed is most prominent (see below)

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As a test I am going to publish and promote this blog at 8-9 pm initially followed by 8-9 am the next day and continue this schedule for the next few weeks to see how it makes a difference to the number of views, likes and comments.

Another important thing for everyone to know about the iPad app is that website and email links in your profile become active.

When you view a profile on the desktop version or the phone app, the links or email addresses that someone has put in their summary or work experience sections only appear as font (ie you have to copy and paste them into a browser or email)

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However on the new iPad app the links now become active.

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Again this changes my advice on the information you put in your profile, previously I was ambivalent about putting links in your summary - now its essential to have links high up in your profile.

The new app is far from perfect, LinkedIn have yet again made the decision to severely restrict its functionality, for instance you can't send Inmails from the app (although you can from the iPhone app) and many other essential features are missing but this is clearly a policy decision rather than a faulty design. Overall I am very impressed, I will soon publish a full and detailed review but for now lets give LinkedIn a big 'thumbs up' for a much improved app.

LinkedIn Respond to Charging Allegation

Following my last post LinkedIn contacted me to clarify their position with regards to the issue of charging job seekers to see the salary of an advertised position. Their statement in response is as follows;

'LinkedIn works hard to connect talent with opportunity, and our mission is to make our members more productive and successful in their careers. All the information provided by a job poster about a role is available to all LinkedIn members, whether they're using the free version of LinkedIn or otherwise. Premium LinkedIn subscribers also have access to information about the likely salary bracket for a particular job.'

So to be clear, there is no salary field in a job posting as such but there is nothing to prevent an advertiser mentioning the salary within the copy of their advert (which I would strongly advise). Where it states 'get salary range for this job' below it should more accurately say something like 'see an average salary range for this job'

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If you view the above ad from any premium account you will see the following;

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So it's not the actual salary but an estimated  figure based on information provided by PayScale and is based on job-specific attributes, including industry, title, location, and other factors.

So to be fair to LinkedIn they are trying to provide the jobseeker with relevant information to help them with their application. This could be a useful guide when a salary is not mentioned and even more useful when a salary is mentioned so that they can benchmark the salary against the PayScale average.

As an example the below screenshot is a live job posting that shows a salary in the copy, the premium account holder can clearly see that they are paying below the average (despite their description of it being 'competitive')

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I'm not too sure what the company who posted this job would make of this but I guess it could work in their favour if they were offering an above average salary.

So there you have it, it's not quite what it initially seemed and I must thank LinkedIn for clarifying the situation.

It is an interesting feature and I would welcome your views, especially from the point of view of the advertiser.

Let me know what you think by posting a comment below.

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