I just don’t get LinkedIn, do you?

I’ve tried. I’ve tried several times. And every time I try looking at LinkedIn I always end up staring at it and thinking, “What is the point?”

OK, I do get part of it, that it’s sharing your network of contacts so that everyone can benefit. But to me it seems like a lot of overhead for an as-yet-undefined benefit. It’s Yet Another Database To Maintain.

That, and I get frustrated because there doesn’t seem to be a neat way of saying that I’m a freelancer, working for myself and not a company, and that I want to connect to people in that capacity. See what I mean?

So are you using LinkedIn? How do you get value from it? What am I missing?

[Update 30 March 2011: I’ve closed comments on this post, and on the follow-up post, So LinkedIn is a giant Rolodex, eh? You can continue the conversation at my most recent post, Getting to grips with LinkedIn.]

58 Replies to “I just don’t get LinkedIn, do you?”

  1. I pretty much agree with you. From what I can see, it’s largely used by people who want to be head-hunted out of their current position.

    That’s without mentioning that the general design of the site is pretty awful and unintuitive (or is that just me?).

    I too have a profile, but mostly it’s just another outlet to cross-post what I’m doing on my own blog and Twitter account.

  2. @Matthew Hatton: Someone just made much the same point about headhunters on Twitter.

    I had thought it might be useful for keeping track of journalistic contacts — you know, being able to recall who I’d interviewed and so on, and find spokespeople. But then LinkedIn wants to charge money for sending an email. I can just search for people on the open web and contact them that way. Just adding notes to people’s entries in my Apple Address Book, which are searchable, would probably do the trick.

    If I maintained that properly.

    And the general site design doesn’t make sense to me either.

  3. I think it is a useful site for those wary and/or unskilled as yet in social media/new networking opportunities. It’s staid (clunky?) blue/white persona seems ‘hype-less’ & I think has a market that would be a bit lost in some other forums. It also attracts lots of new grads (often asking questions that they should have bought a book about), and recruiters of course, who can browse it easily like a resume. It does little except underpin who you are and open a few new channels for communication but has a place IMO. It gives some more info if you are meeting someone in other forums to expand your awareness of how they see themselves.

  4. LinkedIn could have become much more than plain emails or intros to the people you want to network with. To tackle this I recently launched LetsLunch.com. It’s like LinkedIn but with lunch.

    Where we introduce you to people you should know over lunch and use algorithms to match you. We also use feedback from your peers plus social media profiles to build your true reputation.

  5. @Karen Dempster: Thanks for that comment. Perhaps you’re right, it really is a network-to-find-work kind of place. That’s not something I’ve been especially interested in pursuing. Maybe that’s a mistake on my part.

    @Syed Shuttari: Would you have happened to find this post through a search so you could advertise your site? Perhaps you didn’t notice that I’m in Sydney and I’m not really in a position to have lunch with “the Movers & Shakers of Silicon Valley”.

  6. LinkedIn is where I ‘friend’ all those people I once worked with whom I didn’t have enough of a relationship with to add to Facebook, or catch up in the pub with occasionally.

    It’s useful when you’re changing jobs, or even just going for your next contract because you can find contact details for that manager you had 7 years ago who you want a referral from.

    What use is a referral from someone you have not worked with for 7 years? None if the world was sensible, but it’s not a sensible world. HR functionaries seem to delight in asking you to get back in touch with some line manager you worked for three jobs ago that you’d be quite happy to never think of again. Never mind that no one ever asks someone to do a referral unless it’s likely to be positive.

    Of course, once you end up with all those contacts it’s a really bad idea to start posting your daily status to it, or linking it to twitter or Facebook, or having a moan about how you can’t get a job or hate your current boss.

    So — just view it as a push-address-book, where the people in your address book update their own details, and that in itself is good enough for me to keep my LinkedIn account. I’ve found it especially useful for those former colleagues who are want to change their surnames every decade or so, you know… women who get married or divorced. They’re pretty had to find on Google.

    Oh, and putting complete and honest employment info into your profile is just an invitation for headhunter types to pester you, there’s no crime in being a bit vague with your current employment details.

  7. As a freelancer and consultant, I find it really useful for keeping track of folks I worked with a few years ago who I might eventually want to hire or collaborate with. More of a rolodex than a social network, but useful for what it is. Doesn’t seem to offer anything over Facebook, but it’s nice to have one network for friends and another for colleagues.

  8. I think of LinkedIn as a site for people who aren’t doing well enough in their careers. So if you have a LinkedIn profile, by definition, you are not worth hiring.

    I used LinkedIn once, in the early days, to sign on anonymously, and see all of my competitors’ contacts. It was a very helpful site for stealing business.

    But not all people would agree with me.

  9. Wow this has triggered a lot more interest than I thought it would!

    @Peter Viertel: Some good points there, especially on the theme of having separate social networks for different purposes — although for me the “keep the badmouthing off Facebook” doesn’t apply ‘cos that opinionated crankiness is part of my “product”, so to speak. Either that or I’m unemployable anyway.

    I have my entire work history on my LinkedIn profile and haven’t received a single message from a headhunter. Unemployable it is.

    @Mike Sententia: Ditto on the separate social networks.

    @Bob: Gosh that’s a bit harsh, eh?

  10. Same here, LinkedIn doesn’t do me any good either. In fact, most of my colleagues hardly ever update their profile after the 1st time round. There is just something missing, and it just doesn’t work.

  11. Yes I do.

    And it’s the #2 social network on the web.

    Much more popular and useful than these links in your sidebar: Digg (Kevin Rose doesn’t use it) and Delicious (Yahoo killed it) and RSS (Robots Steal Stuff).

  12. I also am frustrated with LinkedIn. I just feel like it isn’t really trying so far.

    For the last few months I’ve been working with two friends to create a more Portfolio-style site focussing on showcasing the things you have done instead of just listing them in a resume.

    Try creating an account and posting some of your projects, startups, or jobs:

    If there are any features you would need to use it, please let me know.

  13. I though so too until I met my boyfriend. He and his buddies uses it a lot. I think it depends on what industry you work in.

    They work in the 3D animation industry and they use it quite a bit to network with people in their industry, find jobs and get job enquiries (headhunters).

    He and his friend got a job offer at LucasFilms through LinkedIn. His buddy got the job. I also have a friend who uses it a lot and he works in web and game design.

    I work in the fitness industry and most fitness people barely know how to use social media and the internet properly so LinkedIn is no good for me unfortunately. 😛

  14. @Ferodynamics: Well, just because something is the second most-popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for me. How does LinkedIn work for you? Looking for clients? Or…?

    I must admit I had to look up who Kevin Rose was. Those link-to-me buttons were added ages back and I must admit they’re just hanging around ‘cos I’m slack about site maintenance. I’ve always doubted whether anyone gets any real value from them. I only chose that plug-in ‘cos it put the buttons way out in the margin where they didn’t look as ugly.

    I don’t have the negative associations to RSS that you do. I’ve found it useful for getting my material indexed in news aggregators. YMMV, of course.

    @Ozzie Gooen: Another found-through-search and plug-my-startup comment?

    @Naomi: Interesting. I wonder if LinkedIn has particularly strong followings in certain industries.

  15. Don’t overthink it. It’s a Rolodex… that updates itself! I am living in the future!

  16. I gave LinkedIn a second chance after a friend said they found it really useful to keep track when their colleagues/former colleagues moved to new companies — then they had a way to find out if those new companies were hiring. This made sense to me.

    Also — I used LinkedIn as the central part of my job hunt last year. it was a great place for me to collect recommendations from people I’d worked with. And it was especially good for being able to showcase volunteer work I’d done, which often more traditional resumés don’t do so well.


  17. I got headhunted via LinkedIn back in 2006 (basically moving from one dysfunctional multinational to another, for a 40% raise) — so it already has a significant RoI for me. Yes, it is basically a massive Rolodex but that’s fine for my needs. I also have a blog or two, Twitter, and I occasionally dabble in Facebook. I prefer LinkedIn to Facebook because the former allows me more control over how I present myself. And I have no desire to play Farmville or read anyone’s Significant Stories. Each to their own.

  18. Before I go into a meeting with people I don’t know, I will look them up in LinkedIn. It will tell me where they studied, what they studied, how long they’ve been with the current company, and where they worked before.

    I agree with another comment here that they lost their way, and want to be a Facebook alternative. I also hate it when I know there’s more information but I’ll have to pay for it.

    I also know that recruiting companies use it as one of their primary sources for selecting people (I know, it’s sad).

  19. @Big: Ah yes, that’ll pull in the international developer traffic. Thanks for the pimpage.

    As a complete aside, I’m starting to loathe nested comments, but changing them now would mean a real headfuck going back to fix the old ones so the narrative made sense.

  20. @Chad said in one line everything I tried to say in 40. This is why I don’t write for a living.

  21. No problem.

    I was also tempted to add an amused comment about you claiming not to be able to “do lunch” in The Bay Area, while your Dopplr widget is announcing you’ll be there (again) in May. (by my count that’s three trips in a year, right?)

    You should get Syed to buy you lunch…


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