Why Linkedin Sucks

This is from Stone Street Advisors

I'm probably one of Linkedin's ideal users/customers: I'm a white collar professional looking to expand my professional network, get a (better) job, and promote a growing website/business.  Yet I utterly and passionately despite Linkedin.  It clogs my inbox with reminders that someone with whom I already know and communicate wants to "connect" on the network.  I don't need to connect with my real/former/quasi-friends on Linkedin, that's what Facebook is for.  I've never had any semblance of success "networking" my way to a job or even interview using Linkedin, although I suppose that's because I'm neither 1. in/looking for a sales job and 2. not a shameless "connection" whore; I understand the unspoken social contract that there's a difference between reaching out and hustling for an interview, and annoying those very same people who have the position/influence to get me one.

I could keep going like this forever, but to make it a little more organized, let's just run through a few of them, in no particular order.  If you can think of any that I missed, please post in the comments!

  • The only reason to visit the website once you've created your profile is to go through the weeks/months of connections/invites you've been spammed with over that time.  Linkedin is like a necessary evil, not something we do because we enjoy it or because it makes our lives better/easier/more interesting.  No one thinks to themselves "I wonder if anyone in my professional network has added anybody to theirs, or if they've updated their work experience?" and then logs in to check with baited breath.  No one "surfs the 'link" like they "surf the 'book" on their lunch break.  No one follows their dream employers' pages like they do their favorite sports teams.  No one lives vicariously through other people's work experience like they do other people's Caribbean vacation pictures.  No one comments on "status updates."  No one "shares" videos/pictures/articles/whatever on Linkedin.
  • For users (those with a profile), all Linkedin does is visualize the contacts that ALREADY EXIST in your email in/outbox.  You can go "MySpace" on your contacts' contacts (i.e. adding people you don't really/barely know as if you did), but that's a really low-value waste of time, and gets old, fast.
  • I do not know anyone, nor have I ever heard of anyone, even in passing, who has gotten a job from Linkedin.  Why is that, you ask?
  • The main reason the vast majority of us are on Linkedin, the main reason we voluntarily post our education/work history for the World (or at least our Networks) to see is because we're holding out hope that perhaps, maybe, just maybe, someone above us on the career ladder will happen upon our profile and think "Wow, this person looks great, let me hire him/her with a nice fat salary!"  I've conducted an exhaustive scientific study, and can verify that (absent sales gigs) this has never happened.
  • The reason this has never happened is because professional networks  -whether in real life or on a computer screen - are all about "what can you do for ME?"  Hiring managers don't want to be inundated with pokes or 'connects' or whatever pestering digital notifications on the network are called.  They want to - as their profiles say - hear about ways to improve THEIR careers, their standing, not about how you once met someone they worked with in their 2nd job right out of college and now would like to be granted an interview for a job you don't have available.
  • Linkedin has been getting more and more revenue from its "marketing solutions" segment.  As Patty Edwards (CNBC Fast Money) remarked to me yesterday, "I didn't even know Linkedin HAD ads!" and frankly, until I looked JUST NOW, I didn't notice, either!  Even though Linkedin has amazing and accurate data that advertisers LOVE, and even though ad prices are relatively low, what's the point of advertising to your target market if they're not actually SEEING the ads?  While marketing revenue may increase in the near-to-intermediate future, eventually advertisers start paying attention to metrics ("eventually" being the key word).
  • Page 15 of the S-1 registration statement, under Risk Factors: "Our core value of putting our members first may conflict with the short-term interests of our business. " Take a second to think about what Linkedin is saying here: "We put our members (who don't generally pay us) first as a matter of principle, and in so doing, forgo revenue opportunities.  We will continue to do this going forward, even though our shares and thereby our own personal wealth will increasingly be dictated by "the market," which will totally understand us thumbing our noses at those trying to throw money at us..."  Find me a management team at any web company that believes its users will run for the hills for anything less than the most extreme management fuck-up and I'll write you a check for whatever's in my bank account right now.  Eventually, when the momentum starts to slow and they've floated significantly more stock via follow-on offerings, Linkedin management will feel the pressure to maintain revenue growth.  This is not a question of "if," it is a question of "when."  Just pay attention to changes in the Terms of Service and see what information they can/can't monetize and how...

Notice I have not made any reference to Linkedin's financial metrics.  For now, I am talking only about the qualitative.  In a quarter or two I'll get to the financial analysis, but if you're ambitious, watch the accrual accounts on the balance sheet...

Disclosure: No position in or relating to LNKD.

The Analyst

Stone Street Advisors