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Oliver Amos 04.04.2015 Social Media

3 ways LinkedIn can remain the world’s #1 recruitment website

LinkedIn is the dominant force in professional online networking, but recent changes threaten to undermine its position and risk alienating users. What can LinkedIn do to remain the world’s #1 recruitment website?

LinkedIn has changed the face of recruitment since its launch in 2003. Without it, and its millions of users, finding (and being found by) new employers would be much, much harder work.

The concept of putting your CV online for all to see is really simple, but it has revolutionised how the recruitment market works. Exciting new start-ups, like 3Search, wouldn’t be able to challenge the old guard without the ability to search and make contact with high quality candidates, whether they’re consciously looking for new opportunities or not.

For a company that is only 12 years old, some of the stats around LinkedIn are quite amazing: it has almost 350 million users, it attracts two new users every second, and on average almost half of its users check into the site at least once a day. Put simply, LinkedIn is the thriving heart of online recruitment. But will it remain that way?

We’ve started to notice some changes to how LinkedIn operates that are starting to affect our view of it. All these changes are part of the dash to monetise the site to provide much quicker return to its investors. If LinkedIn isn’t careful, however, it will alienate its users, reduce their engagement with the site, and undermine its usefulness as a recruitment tool.

The irony that most of you will be reading this via LinkedIn because you’re connected with 3Search hasn’t escaped us. It is still the world’s foremost online professional network, after all. According to BusinessInsider, the rush for profit is paying off: LinkedIn makes $1.30 for every hour a user is online; Facebook makes just 6.2 cents. But worryingly, the ad spend is skyrocketing. LinkedIn increased spending on attracting new users by 13% in 2014. Margins are being squeezed and there will be a temptation to try and get more out of each user in the future.

The squeeze is starting to show through in terms of how LinkedIn is being used. When we talk to regular LinkedIn users they tell us that it is becoming tougher to grow networks, that changes to the InMail feature make it harder for recruiters to get in touch with great candidates, and limitations on the search function hinder new introductions. These issues stem from the rush to monetise the site. But is it the right time to be changing strategy?

The challenge of when to monetise an online operation is summed up brilliantly in an exchange between Mark Zuckerberg and his business partner Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network:

Zuckerberg: ‘You want the party to end at 11pm!’

Saverin: ‘I’m trying to pay for the party’

Zuckerberg: ‘There won’t be a party unless it’s cool’.

So what, in our view, are the three things LinkedIn should do to stay ‘cool’?

1. Stop charging users to access the network LinkedIn is useful because of its large number of active and engaged users. Rather than squeezing existing users for more revenue, LinkedIn should expand by incentivising larger networks. Engaging more users could open new revenue streams and will keep the site useful for recruiters. Why risk alienating existing users for a few million dollars? This is a failure in strategy. Incentivise members instead!

2. Incentivise users to participate and share expertise
One of the main reasons people join LinkedIn is to learn from successful business leaders. Members with exceptional backgrounds should be being incentivised to share their insights. The result would be genuinely engaging content, rather than a site that is full of Monday morning photos urging users to ‘have a great week’.

3. Improve the job search parts of the website – For a company that allegedly spent $400 million on product development last year, the improvement in user experience has been pretty negligible. The job seeking tool and, in particular, the search functions could be vastly improved. The site needs to provide a high quality service to job seekers and recruiters to keep it lively and useful. Focus on these functions!

It would be great if Jeff Wiener, LinkedIn’s CEO, were reading this, though we don’t think our thoughts will be crossing his desk any time soon! For now, we’ll keep using LinkedIn to find great candidates and to network with people looking for new job opportunities. But, in our view, LinkedIn’s current strategy risks alienating users. Let’s see…

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