Zen Garden


Let me start by saying that I want to like LinkedIn. I use it frequently and find it useful in a linear, 1.0 kinda way. LinkedIn accomplishes its basic mission of connecting professionals without the noise and distractions found on other social sites. But the brand is so vanilla, so unbelievably bland and soulless that I find it hard to integrate it into my natural day-to-day digital activities. The operative word here is ‘natural’. I frequently visit the site, keep my bio up-to-date, and connect with like-minded professionals on LinkedIn but it’s a chore. Unfortunately, I even find the new beta applications limiting and disappointing.

These days, I find myself networking on Facebook and Twitter — less so on LinkedIn. I spawn these two sites as soon as I turn on my computer. Both Facebook and Twitter occupy real estate on my desktop everyday. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is not part of my desktop tapestry which can include as many as 10 open windows at a time. Why? Because the brand lacks a soul. It’s an empty vessel. It’s like a dull party after work — a perfunctory chore I need to perform.

LinkedIn is that guy who wears dockers and a plain white button-down shirt. He lives in Connecticut (sorry gang, I live it New Jersey so have at it) and parts his hair to the side with Mad Men perfection. He’s got a wife and two kids, a respectable job, a nice house — not too big but not small either, a perfectly manicured lawn and of course, a white picket fence. He’s not offensive, just boring.

Conversely, Facebook and Twitter are the guys we love to hang out with. They’re fun, charismatic, personal and professional. They know people in entertainment, music, advertising, design and fashion and they’re happy to introduce you to them. They’re far from perfect and they know it. That’s what makes them so human, so likable. Their appearance is bit disheveled, but totally cool — shirt worn out more than in, bedhead made to look stylish with gel, and suits only with Vans. Their enthusiasm is palpable and people are naturally drawn to them.

I’m not sure why I’m so upset about this issue. Perhaps it’s because I feel LinkedIn has potential but continues to squander it away. Maybe I want a better networking app. Whatever the case, here’s a couple of tips for the management at LinkedIn to consider:

  1. Open up the applications center to developers and stop scrubbing the list;
  2. Incorporate semantic features into the site (e.g., think Pandora’s recommendation engine) and demonstrate that you know who your users are and how to help them;
  3. Make the brand stand for something beyond networking and professionalism. Assume it’s a networking after hours party. What would the tenor of that party be?; 
  4. Create new tools for users to customize and share (e.g., LinkedIn’s version of a business card or resume) to lubricate the networking skids; and
  5. Leverage user data to add more value and robust experiences.