We wrote up a little blurb (free registration) for today’s Mercury News about the latest moves by LinkedIn, the online networking company that lets users search for jobs or make other inquiries. Beginning today, it will start charging for more of its services.
More interesting than that, though, is something else LinkedIn has up its sleeve: A capitulation to the reality that there are two types of LinkedIn users, and that LinkedIn needs to move quickly to meet their needs before it loses them all. And LinkedIn’s coming moves may be a good start to addressing the “pain in the ass” critique made by Tony Perkins recently (Update: see comments below).
Here’s our interpretation of a recent conversation with LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guericke. These are our words, not his. There are two groups of LinkedIn users: (1) the promiscuous — the folks, like prolific recruiters, who don’t really care about nurturing a close network so much as prowling the entire LinkedIn database for potential recruits, and then making cold calls to those folk. They don’t even bother to make LinkedIn network requests to get to their desired target. They simply see where the target works, pick up the phone, and dial. Meanwhile, they make up 12.5 percent of LinkedIn’s users, but do 80 percent of LinkedIn searches.
And there’s (2) the celibate — the people, ourselves included, who really want to build a great, tight network for deeper needs…(more)
…These people allow only really well-known contacts into their network, so that when they do need to make an important, crucial request to reach someone two degrees away, they can count on a rock-solid introduction from a first-degree person — a confidant to both parties of the potential connection.
Moreover, these celibates often reject the majority of incoming requests from the promiscuous — call them quasi-spammers — seeking to be a direct connection in their network. The reason is because when you let that loose spammer into your network, LinkedIn’s database has no way of knowing whether the spammer is really a close contact or not. So LinkedIn might then use that spammer as a go-between when you’re making an important request to meet with that crucial second- or third-degree contact. Which weakens the network. “People with lots of connection started to grumble,” Guericke admits.
So that’s what Guericke wants to change. He says LinkedIn is about to reduce the reach of normal users to three-degrees of visibility across the network, instead of four. Users would continue to use the service for free. That’s fine for celibates, because four degrees is really too far to have meaningful connections — and it takes a long time for contact requests across a four-person chain to get fulfilled. Our best results have been reaching someone two degrees away.
But Guericke will solve the problem for the promiscuous 12.5 percent by letting them pay for access — giving them the right to search the entire database for potential recruits or other needs. That’s cool, but what about the celibate who don’t want to be spammed? Guericke will allow the recruiters to see the profiles of their targets, but not their actual names. So no more cold phone-calls. Moreover, he’s created a special sort of email connection, called InMail. That’s when those recruiters, or other people outside your network, send you requests through the system after seeing your profile. The requests might get batched, say into two mailings a week, so you don’t get overwhelmed. And LinkedIn will also offer users the option not to receive any InMail, and to only receive messages from people you already know.
UPDATE: Good comments below pointing out how Perkins’ comments should be seen in light of the fact that he’s a competitor in some ways.