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LinkedIn’s cautious but steady experimentation

When you’re a huge business like LinkedIn, part of an even bigger business – Microsoft, and as much a part of most recruiters’ days as Facebook is for the masses, you really have to work on experimenting. Why? Because every layer of middle management, every eagle-eyed Head of Accounting, every outside stock adviser is pushing you to play it safe. With a revenue of $5.3 billion in FY 2018, you are pushed to grow the revenue but don’t do anything stupid – as in, don’t do anything that will slow revenue growth. Yet in many areas, there’s only so much milk you can coax out of that cow. Sometimes you have to try something new.

Well, in fact, LinkedIn has been doing just that. Nothing startling, mind you – but a series of cautious but steady experiments in modifying services, expanding outreach, and introducing new tools. Of course, sometimes experimentation comes in the form of acquisition (a classic move for established larger and cash-rich brands). To wit:

  • The pop-up pubThe Linked Inn (clever name, eh?) is a pop-up pub where job seekers can take advantage of ‘Daily Live Jobs Specials’ and talk to LinkedIn experts who will provide career advice ‘on tap’ for boosting online profiles and understanding how to make the most of a professional community. I think this is an interesting way to take an online brand ‘off line’ – and of course build brand loyalty.
  • Drawbridge acquisitionIn an effort to improve audience targeting for LinkedIn customers, the company bought Drawbridge last month. Drawbridge uses AI and lots of data to provide sophisticated targeting – at a level that apparently LinkedIn did not feel it had nor could develop. For the many companies that use LinkedIn to market or recruit, this would seem to be a win – assuming that Drawbridge can be migrated effectively into the existing LinkedIn structure.
  • Integrating Jobs, Recruiter, and Pipeline BuilderSeveral existing services were enhanced, merged, and otherwise improved last month. For job seekers, these changes included instant job alerts, a redesign of the Jobs home page, and more salary insights available to all users (including free users), with skills assessments on the way. For recruiters, the company has pulled LinkedIn Jobs, Recruiter, and Pipeline Builder together in order to provide a one-stop shop for managing job ads, sourcing candidates and hiring pipelines, and managing candidate interactions. These changes may be more defensive than offensive – done to prevent client attrition.
  • New reactionsThis falls under LinkedIn’s continuing efforts to be ‘Facebook for professional folks’: in addition to “like,” users can now react in four other ways to posts with icons that indicate “celebrate,” “love,” “insightful” and “curious.” It’s a change that easy to make fun of, but from a standpoint of retaining existing users and attracting new ones, I have to admit it makes sense. I just can’t say I ‘love’ it.
  • Help wanted signsLinkedIn added ability for brick-and-mortar businesses to print out a Help Wanted sign to place in a storefront window or put on a tabletop promotion back in March. And yes, if you see one, you will also see a QR code, which will either help or befuddle job seekers. This move is part of LinkedIn’s continuing effort to win over SMBs – which seem so far to prefer Facebook, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter. I give them props for trying.
  • Real-time videoLinkedIn Live – launched in February – lets individuals and organizations to broadcast real-time video to select groups on an invitation-only basis. It has also selected several third-party developers of live broadcasting streaming services that creators will work with to create and post more polished live video. This is hardly revolutionary – but can you think of any other job board that offers a similar service? I can’t. The potential benefits also cut across LI’s audience of businesses, job seekers, consultants, and associations.

That’s just since the start of 2019, by the way. Some of these got lots of press, others not so much. But as you can see, LinkedIn hasn’t been shy about going big or small in its cautious experiments. Maybe some of these have given you some ideas for your own site?

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This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. […] It’s not all rainbows and ponies for LinkedIn, though. Don’t forget that their attempts to prevent scraping of member information have fallen short thus far, as witnessed in the HiQ ruling last month. Will those assessment badges be considered ‘public data’ as well? Probably. But by the time that’s settled, LinkedIn will be on to its next move. […]

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