LinkedIn made a good business decision so stop whining about it
The amount of people attacking LinkedIn lately being greedy or up in arms about taking away free feature etc is beyond my comprehension. LinkedIn is not a charity for the people by the people, it’s a publicly listed company that is here to make money. Anybody that knows a basic business model would see that the revenue income of LinkedIn showed a massive gap in the market.
In all four quarters of LinkedIn’s 2015 annual reports showed that their Marketing products division was only bringing in around 1.8% of the company’s entire revenue. That includes premium subscriptions and Sales Navigator. If you analysed your business and noticed 98.2% of your members were using your products for free wouldn’t you want to piece of the action and to monitise it?
Right, so enter the buy out company of Microsoft, a small business focused company rather than a recruitment based company as is LinkedIn (who gains 64% of its revenue from their recruitment arm). Their influence and identification of this gap in potential revenue is pretty obvious and funnily enough the first thing they tackled if indeed it was them!
Monetising something that was once for free is a very common business model, but people are carrying on like it’s never happened before. Let me take something very close to home for my first example. Carsales.com.au and its sister site Bikesales.com.au. This business model was started and backed by a bigger parent company so they could afford this strategy and stay in business past the first 3 years. They went onto the market in 2003 actively canvased car yards and motorcycles shops to list their stock to the general public, virtually wiping out The Trading Post. Then once the stock was moving and the car/bike yard were reliant on the service they started billing which was around 3 years later. My own husband experienced this and their retail shop decided to get all up in arms about it and discontinue. Six months later they realised how much stock wasn’t moving now, capitulated and went back to BikeSales. The next 3 years was a flat per annum fee of several thousand dollars and a decade later they pay per month per store in the several thousand a month sometimes in five figures per month. Not per annum, per month! Imagine if LinkedIn billed with that kind of price hike over the same period of time!
Here’s a bigger example. Google. Back in the day when Google themselves didn’t even know how to monetize their business the entire search engine was for free. Clever SEO techniques (and early on BlackHat techniques), were the only way of getting to page 1 of the search results, but there was also a lot less competition. Now days in order to get results on Google you have to pay for a Google Adwords campaign or pay for a SEO company to get your ranked. Just part of doing business but I don’t see any hate mail going viral about Google saying how unfair this is.
LinkedIn has been around since 2002. The fact that we had it so good for so long is a miracle. It’s hardly a "bait and switch" which is the common phrase right now, when it took them 14 years to switch! This is simply a gap in the market and if members want to use a commercially viable company and have access to a 400+ million person database then we have to pay for it. Just another cost of doing business and makes perfect business sense to me. If you put yourself in the shoes of the owner or senior management team wouldn’t you identify gaps in the market and fill them?
Now having said all that, another good business practice is to deliver a great product and give people value for money. Going from free to premium at $60 per month and now getting people to go from free to Sales Nav at $90 per month is a big jump, but not impossible if the product was excellent. For a product that is $90 per month people want value for money, especially when many of the features that were for free are now only available on a paid version, I get it.
So here’s where I do think LinkedIn have left a gap in the market.
1) Launching before they were ready. As a business owner, imagine launching your own website before you had a chance to test it. I was once at a speaking event and I was having my latest version of my website being built. We decided to go live the day before and it was only that I knew someone in the audience that said to me that my ‘contact us’ actually goes to firstname.lastname@example.org. Needless to say we put it back on hold until we had tested EVERYTHING. LinkedIn have failed abysmally to do this.
2) Changes are too great. Unlike me who has to learn LinkedIn inside and out in order to be in business, the majority of people use it as a tool to get business or look for work. The learning curve from what it was to what it is now is just too big. The videos that LinkedIn have put out to teach people on how to use it are pretty useless also and mostly about searching for a new job, which is not what every single person does with the platform. In 9 years I’ve only been to the jobs section a couple of times just to check it out and I’m on LinkedIn all day every day.
3) Sales Navigator is not intuitive. Making the switch as LinkedIn wants us to do and go to Sales Nav is like starting from scratch again. Yes it brings over your connections but then what? Even I had to go through about 3 days of training to find out how to use this platform properly and get the most out of it. I consider myself pretty savvy with LinkedIn, but Sales Nav was like starting from scratch all over again and relearning another system. (once I did though OMG what a powerful tool it is).
To conclude, the sheer volume of hate tweets, posts, status updates or whatever is overwhelming towards LinkedIn, but I think it’s amusing that I receive private messages saying “the new LinkedIn sucks and you should be ashamed”. Last time I checked, I don’t own a billion company called LinkedIn and my 3 staff and I have very little influence over the future direction of LinkedIn otherwise I would have had an opinion of my own if I was asked.
My goal is to simply make Lemonade and share the recipes as I locate it. I have posted many times on LinkedIn links to staff posts asking for feedback, help centre staff posting that they have heard the complaints and they are either fixing something or LinkedIn are bringing something back, then the very next comment is ‘I hate the new interface, it’s horrible’. Can’t you read people, oh sorry you just want to whine and not actually get a solution. It’s like a tolling booth on election day, you sign off your name to say you’ve done it but then go into the booth and don’t fill out anything and vote with a blank form. Your vote is therefore invalid and 'informal', but you’ll spend that evening whining about this politian or that politian but you didn’t make your vote count. (voting in Australia is compulsory). Worse still are Americans who actually have the option to vote and half the country isn't registered to do so. They all have an opinion though.
Lastly, 99% of the blame is going to Microsoft for all these issues, but when they bought LinkedIn back in June 2016, they are under contract to not make any major changes for the first two years. This interface change started to roll out in September last year. Hasn’t anyone stopped to think that it’s unlikely that LinkedIn would only need 3 months to make this big a change and that perhaps they have been working on this for some considerable time!
C’mon people use your brains, if you don’t like LinkedIn’s new interface, message Senior staff or the CEO Jeff Weiner himself. Turn to LinkedIn trainers like myself and ask for direction in having your voice heard don't attack me as if it's my fault. And when I say voice can we be a little mature about it and perhaps offer suggestions rather than whine like 3 year olds saying they don’t like it? LinkedIn have capitulated in the past to things being removed and brought them back. If you truly want features to return then take my direction and post your suggestions in a mature fashion where it counts to whom it counts and stop whining in your own LinkedIn feed that goes to only 100 of your own connections, it's a waste of time.