Have you ever heard that saying regarding the internet
“If you don’t know what the product is… then it is probably you”?
This simply means that if you are using a productive and useful Internet site or app for free then you are probably paying for this with your information and data.
This is clearly true for Google and Facebook but is it true for LinkedIn?
This is a question that has been bugging me for a while. LinkedIn are a highly profitable organisation who make the vast majority of their revenue from corporate recruiting products (see here). So I have always assumed that their monetization strategy was somewhat different from Google & Facebook.
Maybe it was but now they are publicly quoted on the NYSE and have a responsibility to continually grow their profits, so perhaps the game has changed!
Being a big fan of LinkedIn I have probably been fairly slow on the uptake on this but just recently the penny dropped for me. Earlier this year something happened to LinkedIn that I could not explain. I have never really used the news feed function of LinkedIn called LinkedIn Today.
I think it’s a great feature but I already have established ways of reading news and information so to me LinkedIn Today was unwanted ‘noise’ on my homepage. Previously there was an option that allowed you to switch the news feed off but this has now been withdrawn (much to my frustration!) and I couldn’t understand why.
Surely having an advanced feature to optionally switch the news feed off made sense? Most people wouldn’t use it either because they are not aware of its existence or because they want to see LinkedIn Today. So why would they remove it? The only reason that I could come up with is that LinkedIn have decided that it is important to know what we are reading. Why would they wish to know that? Perhaps this is the same thing as Google being interested in what we search for.... perhaps LinkedIn have a monetization strategy built around data collection. I then started to think of other features that we use that also give LinkedIn interesting data about us.
- Following Thought Leaders. What does it say about us if we follow Richard Branson or Deepak Chopra?
- Groups. By joining a group about leadership for example you are giving LinkedIn useful data.
- Status Updates. Why did you ‘like’ an update and what does that say about you?
- Background. Where you work, have previously worked and where you went to college and what you studied.
- Who You Know. Perhaps this is why LinkedIn are so insistent that we only connect with people we know well?
....and the list goes on and on!
The fact is that pretty much everything you do on LinkedIn is potentially of interest to marketeers, maybe not in isolation but when you add them all together they become very interesting and most important to LinkedIn, worth paying good money for!
So should we be worried?
Well that is a personal question that only you can answer.
For me the answer is no, I think it's a pretty good trade-off to be honest. We get to use an amazing resource like LinkedIn for free, which when used correctly can help you grow your business and all you have to pay in return is your data....that sounds like a good deal to me.
Or am I being naive?
What do you think?