It’s been a while since I’ve gone for a proper rant here, but this one’s been brewing for a while. And my chosen victim is….. LinkedIn.

How LinkedIn is meant to be

Personally, I’ve been using LinkedIn less and less over the last year or two, but it was working with a client in the education sector last week that really brought the reasons why into focus for me.

For her, LinkedIn is still a great resource. Most of her contacts have kept their networks small and “real” (ie, people they’ve at least corresponded directly with a few times). The groups that we found which are relevant to her product, are genuine discussion forums full of useful information.

That’s how it’s supposed to be. But, my personal experience when I log in to LinkedIn couldn’t be more different. Especially in the marketing / small business sector, so many people seem to be making it their mission to behave like a one person spam campaign. By which I mean, trying to connect with everyone who’ll let them (with no obvious advantage beyond contact collecting), and treating Groups as a contest for who can post the most pointless rubbish.

“…sound and fury, signifying nothing..”

As soon as I log in, my inbox is twitching with invites from people i’ve never heard of, claiming to be a “friend” or “have done business with me”.  When I check out most of my Groups, the discussion threads are full of interaction-killing self promoting posts, containing nothing but a link to someone’s (irrelevant) blog article or company news.  To put it bluntly, if I want to read your latest blog post, I’ll subscribe to your blog. At the very least, add some invitation to discussion or commentary as to why it’s relevant before you spam your links all over the site. Ditto posting links to news articles; there are a few which are so relevant that they need little explanation, but quite often the links being posted are so irrelevant to the group topic, that it’s obvious the poster just wants to get their profile “up there” on the Influencers list.

The majority of the groups I see are so dominated by the members’ marketing agendas that there’s no space for actual discussion. It’s a shame because collaboration and business support are two of the best aspects of social media; on Twitter, for example, we often see people going well above and beyond to help out a stranger. And there are certainly exceptions within LinkedIn; for example, The Inspired Group often has detailed and supportive discussion threads on all kinds of unexpected topics, from a great group of businesses based around Cambridge.

But, it IS an exception, and increasingly the “me me me” approach seems to be spreading. It seems that more and more people have read those articles suggesting that marketing gold will result from them connecting and posting indescriminately (it won’t. Any more than having 100,000 spammy twitter accounts follow yours will benefit your business).Personally, I think that much more rigorous moderation is needed from the majority of Group owners, and ideally some kind of function within LinkedIn that allows you to discover the really valuable groups in any particular sector much more easily – a voting mechanism of some sort perhap.

Otherwise, will the less vocal majority just get turned off by the relentless noise and leave it to the spam merchants?

What do you think? Do you get more or less value from LinkedIn than you used to?