Have I stopped hating LinkedIn? Maybe…

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As I was doing my daily login to the world’s largest professional network this morning, I realised something quite shocking; I’m pretty sure I don’t hate LinkedIn any more – at least, I don’t hate it as much as I used to.

Anyone who has heard me speak about social media will probably realise this is a pretty big shift in attitude for me (to be honest, I only created a profile when I applied for my current job, as I thought that anyone going for a social media role who wasn’t on what was at that time the third largest social network in the world wouldn’t get a look in), so it really got me thinking as to what might have caused that change. At the same time, I also started to notice just how people have been saying that LinkedIn is growing in importance – for example, the brilliant Dan Slee even going as far as predicting LinkedIn to be the social network for comms people in2016.

So, was it time to let my hatred for LinkedIn wane and instead channel that energy into figuring out how the hell I’m supposed to do anything useful in Peach? The best way, I reckoned, was to list some pros and cons, which is exactly what I’ve done.

Pro: The University Page

Despite LinkedIn’s University Pages being the gift no-one asked for, I’ve really grown to like Warwick’s page. The page came with a ready-made list of followers who, with almost all of them being our graduates, had an emotional connection to our institution. Within a few posts, it was clear this audience was interested in what we had to say and willing to engage with it – the challenge was simply to find out what content made them tick. I’ve found that one update per day during the week, posted in the morning, with a rough ratio of one ‘fluffier’ piece for every three of four posts with a ‘professional’ or careers-related angle works really rather well. We’ve adopted that strategy for a while now and our impressions and engagements are pretty good – certainly higher than the Warwick Alumni Facebook page.

Con: Usability, or lack of

Unless I’m missing something obvious, it is a real faff to switch to posting on LinkedIn as the University. Whereas on Facebook you can switch with a couple of clicks from a rather obvious drop-down menu, on LinkedIn I have to search for the page, scroll through the results and click through to our landing page, or find a recent post from the page and work my way back to the profile. When you’re already using a platform begrudgingly, all that extra typing and clicking is not helpful. Actually, when you’re using any platform, extra typing and clicking is not cool – a ‘switch to using LinkedIn as [company name here]’ button would be so awesome.

Pro: alumni search and targeting tools

Genuine massive mega praise here…the alumni search tool on LinkedIn’s University Pages is absolutely ace. It’s great for letting our followers explore our alumni and potentially find some really useful contacts, but it’s also a fantastic tool for the alumni tool too. That time last year when the Vice-Chancellor’s office wanted help tracking down Warwick grads now working in the tobacco industry to invite to a careers event? A few clicks on LinekdIn and it was done, no massive database query or download needed.

Related to this little beauty is the targeting options for the University pages – if we want, we can target our content by city, country, profession, seniority and more. This is just fantastic, as it means that we can target our post about an upcoming event for alumni in Bangladesh, for example, to those alumni following our page who are actually in Bangladesh (assuming their profile is up to date of course). You can also save your target groups for future reference. At Warwick we’re nowhere near exploiting this tool to its full potential, but definitely plan to.

Con: where are the analytics?

This is still, and has always been, my biggest bugbear with the University Pages. When, oh when, will we have access to proper analytics and insights? If you can provide them for company pages, why not University pages? Yes, I get an email once a week telling me about impressions and comments, but there’s no way to dig deeper. Also, it means I’m tied to those emails for getting LinkedIn stats – these emails are sent on a Monday night, whereas I do my reporting on a Friday morning. More than anything on LinkedIn, I want to be able to access proper analytics for the University of Warwick’s page and I want to be able to do this whenever I need them.

Pro and con: the suite of apps

I can’t decide what to make of the suite of LinkedIn apps that are on offer. The Pulse and jobs apps are great for exploring these areas of LinkedIn on the move, but multiple apps takes up more space on my phone’s memory (which I need for saving photos and videos of my guinea pigs being hilarious). I can’t help but feel that it would be better all-round if the LinkedIn app was made better (which wouldn’t be difficult, would it??) and have the jobs, pulse and other bits in one space.

Con: formatting

Why is such a pain to format updates on LinkedIn? Seriously, why does LinkedIn hate line breaks so much? All I want is my updates to look nice and not be one big paragraph.

Pro: it’s a great-looking CV/resumé – online and offline

There’s no getting away from it, as an online CV/resumé, your LinkedIn profile page is a winning option (assuming, of course, you keep it up to date and use a sensible photo). But did you know you can now convert your profile to an actual hard copy CV? Very impressive, LinkedIn, very impressive.

Con: needy notifications

Is it just me, or are the notifications on LinkedIn really needy? For instance, say someone sends me a private message…it isn’t enough for me to click the notification, the only way for it to go away is to actually open up the message. As someone who doesn’t like having red notifications loitering, this bothers me greatly. Also, LinkedIn wanting me to search for more connections is NOT the same as having a new connection request…unless you’re the LinkedIn notifications tab it seems.

Pro: endorsements

I’ve often accused LinkedIn of being a somewhat anti-social network, but having the ability to endorse the skills of your connections and write testimonials for them does offset that somewhat. It implies that there are real humans out there on LinkedIn and they’re not all about ‘me, me, me!’

Con: dead groups

I’ve been told on plenty of occasions that where LinkedIn comes into its own is in its groups, which have always been pitched as some sort of havens of rich discussion and promising networking. My reaction to this based on the groups I’ve been part of on LinkedIn? Well, it begins with ‘b’ and ends with ‘ollocks’. I’ve never known anywhere as dead as most groups I’ve seen on LinkedIn (and I’m on Ello). That, or they’re so dominated by shouty, self-promoting middle class, middle aged white men that there is no value in being part of them. I appreciate this could be me making bad choices, but I’m in similar groups on Facebook and it’s not an issue. I just don’t think LinkedIn is being taken seriously as a place for conversation and sharing yet…but sincerely hope that changes.

Pro: they listen

One thing I can’t fault LinkedIn on is their social listening power. I’ve tweeted a few times at my frustration of not having access to proper analytics for the University page and they’ve always come back to me very quickly, promising that it is on their to-do list. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up reading this post. They certainly know how to listen and aren’t afraid to engage.

Con: does their listening change anything?

That being said about how good they are listening, has it changed anything? I still don’t have proper analytics and the longer I have to wait for them, the harder it is for me to believe that they’re actually coming.

Pro: LinkedIn as a blogging platform

I want to finish with this – I absolutely love using LinkedIn as a blogging platform, both as a writer and a reader. Over the past few months I’ve enjoyed plenty of excellent pieces on LinkedIn’s Pulse section, and am particularly keen to see how their Campus Editors project goes. As a writer, while I still post my blog content on my WordPress site, I now also post the same content to LinkedIn too and I get far more views on the latter – in fact, I’d wager that most of you will read this post on LinkedIn rather than WordPress. I really like how simple it is to upload a new post and, even more, I love how you can only add three tags to your post – rather than spraying and praying, you really have to think about the key points of your post and who would be most interested to read them. Also, weirdly based on what I’ve written above, the comments section on Pulse is great. You can properly reply to people and keep conversations separate.  And, just to rub it in when comparing to the University pages, the analytics for your published posts are brilliant. I’ll definitely continue using Pulse to host my blog posts and who knows, I might even consider turning off the WordPress site.

The only negative thing I have noticed recently with the publishing side of things is that a few people seem to think this is a good place to post their company’s latest press release. NO! NO! STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW! I’m pretty sure I don’t care about your press release – turn it into an insightful blog post that will either give me learning or get me thinking.

To sum up

As you can see, LinkedIn still has some way to go before I would consider calling it a platform that I liked using, but I’ve surprised myself at how many pros I’ve been able to find. Also, the power of LinkedIn as a blogging platform is something I find incredibly interesting, and I’m fascinated to see where it goes next.

What about you? What’s your opinion on LinkedIn? Love it or hate it, let me know!

Image: @frank_chimero on Twitter 

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