LinkedIn Reduces in Size

A lot is made of the phenomenal growth of LinkedIn, the last published figures were 175 million members (well past 180 by now) and growing at a rate of over two a second! Yet you may be surprised to know that, as of this weekend, the number of LinkedIn users that you can see has dropped considerably. Almost overnight you have become invisible to millions of users who may be potential customers, employers or employees!

As you may know, the headline figures that LinkedIn quote have always been rather irrelevant because the only number that really counted was the number of users that you can see and can in turn, see you. This has traditionally been the combined number of 1st, 2nd & 3rd tier connections plus those who you shared a group with and whilst we havent been able to see the surname 3rd tier and group members, it didn't really matter that much because we could read their full profile......until now that is!

3rd Tier Are Now Invisible

This weekend LinkedIn have quietly removed the visibility of the profiles of all your 3rd tier and shared group users. Nothing has been mentioned officially (always a sign that they know this will be a very unpopular move). The reality of this change is that LinkedIn has immediately become a less productive place to be.

Lets examine these changes in more detail

There are two ways to find 3rd tier connections on LinkedIn, by performing a keyword search or by searching for them by name. If you now perform a keyword search, those users who are 3rd tier or share a group with you will now look like this;

The visibility of someone you search for by name however is not affected.

Note in the first example we can no longer see their summary or contact information, the same applies to people outside of our network. We also do not have the option to invite them to connect (this bit isn’t new)

In order to see a full profile of 3rd tier or group members we now have to upgrade our account, the cheapest upgrade that allows this visibility is the 'Business' account under 'Other premium accounts' and this is going to set you back at least £155 a year or £16.95 if you pay monthly.

Why is this important?

This really depends on why you are using LinkedIn, for many users it won’t seem to make any difference but what happens if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to get a new job? I have been working with some jobseekers recently and advising them on how to make their profile optimised and visible to as many people as possible. LinkedIn is used extensively by recruiters, the majority of which are free users. Jobseekers will now find that despite writing a great profile that is highly optimised for keyword searches, they will now get less interest from recruiters because all that information they have carefully constructed is now invisible to their 3rd tier and fellow group members. LinkedIn make the majority of their revenue from selling recruitment/searching products, I can only assume that this move is designed to increase that revenue. The problem is that every time they make LinkedIn more expensive for recruiters to use, its jobseekers that suffer and in these difficult economic times that seems somewhat harsh and insensitive to me. I don’t have a problem with LinkedIn making money, the are after all a publicly quoted company with shareholders to satisfy but I do wonder if they have thought through the full consequences of these changes.

What can we do about it?

Not much unfortunately! Your headline is still visible to everyone so I would suggest you now include the following information in your headline;

  • Full Name
  • Email address
  • Concise summary of what you have to offer

...and you have 120 characters (inc spaces) in which to do this! (see example right)

You can also change your connection strategy and connect with a greater number of users thus increasing the amount of 2nd tier to replace some of the 3rd tier you have lost (this flies in the face of LinkedIn's advice on who you connect with but changes like this will encourage more connections)

Jobseekers do have the option of upgrading their account and selecting a feature called 'Openlink' which is not a default setting but can be selected at any level of upgrade including the cheapest upgrade called the 'Jobseeker basic' at  £12.95 per month

The Openlink feature states that recruiters (anyone in fact) can message you for free which is great as it means you don't have to put your email address in your profile but more importantly it makes you visible to everyone on LinkedIn - no restrictions at all! Unfortunately the people who are least likely to be able to spend money upgrading their account are those that are out of work!

For recruiters this is obviously an annoying setback but the good news is that X-ray searching of public profiles still works provided that you are not logged into LinkedIn in the browser in which the X-ray the search is done. Below is an example of what a Google or Bing search reveals when you use the command site:linkedin.com followed by a unique phrase from the headline (assuming there is one);

As you can see the public profile still shows the full name and profile so not all is lost, the challenge comes when a headline merely states something like 'Account Manager' because you now can't check the rest of the profile to find a more unique phrase.

Summary

I am usually pretty positive about most aspects of LinkedIn but on this matter I am disappointed. The turning point for LinkedIn might have been in May 2011 when the business was floated on the New York Stock Exchange, from that point onwards they become a business that has to return greater and greater revenue & profits to its shareholders and that inevitably means that their original mission statement "Connect The Worlds Professionals To Make Them More productive & Successful" could become compromised, I hope not but........

As of today I suspect that many LinkedIn users will find it harder to be more productive & successful

and that is a great shame.

What do you think? Can you see any positives for users? I would love to hear your views.