Why I hate LinkedIn

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Last month, LinkedIn’s share price dropped by around 20% - meaning that the business social networking site is currently worth $7 billion or so less than it was a month ago.

It’s at times like these that – as a managing director – I feel very relieved to be part of a privately-owned company rather than a publicly-listed one.

It also puts my own modest achievements as an executive into perspective: I reckon I’d have a pretty good idea about it if our revenue was going to be $45 million lower than I’d predicted last quarter.  Along with the board of Tesco, Jeff Weiner is now on the list of corporate bosses I have significantly out-performed in 2015 to date.

LinkedIn isn’t the only social network feeling the heat at the moment, but we should perhaps take this opportunity to take a step back and admit openly what I suspect most of us know in our heart of hearts.

That everyone hates LinkedIn.

I’m not saying it’s ineffective – Axonn Media uses it a lot and for many of our clients it generates excellent results. Indeed, as a platform for content marketing, LinkedIn appears to be on the up. 40% of its Quarter 1 advertising revenue came from Sponsored Updates, which publishers pay for to be promoted into users’ feeds.

So as the head of a content marketing company, I ought to love LinkedIn – shouldn’t I?

No.

I can’t. And I won’t. It’s personal.

This tweet sums it up for me:

A great pun, but one which exposes a deeper truth.

As a user – particularly, I suspect, as a user whose job title suggests that he might be hiring – I find LinkedIn’s continuous pestering to be on a par with the levels attained by my children on an unplanned visit to Toys R Us.

Yeah, content marketing may be providing a growing percentage of LinkedIn’s ad revenue – but that only accounts for 19% of the total. 60% comes from job search and recruitment services.

Like they say: if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.

Which is fine. I can live with that – up to a point.

In this user’s experience, LinkedIn is undergoing or has undergone what the economist Garrett Hardin called a “tragedy of the commons”.

The essence of this problem is that common resources tend to get over-used, thereby depleting the value of the resource. Like 19th century shepherds driving their flocks onto common land to nibble the shared grass at the community’s cost, LinkedIn and its users are rapidly devouring the goodwill which is necessary for a sustainable social network.

It’s reaching the point where everyone on LinkedIn is selling something. And it makes you suspicious about engaging in any conversation, when you know it’s heading sooner or later to a request for a sales meeting.

That, I suspect, is why content marketing is contributing more and more to LinkedIn’s survival. Just as I will reluctantly talk to the people at trade fairs who are giving out goody bags and shamefacedly scuttle past those who just want “a quick word”, anyone using the platform has increasingly got to give to get.

OK, that’s not exactly a profound lesson. Anyone reading this would – I hope – already know that online attention has to be earned. My point is that LinkedIn is showing this dynamic in its most pared-down form.

So come on, LinkedIn users: relax! Get back to networking for networking’s sake. Like the zen archer who stops focusing on the target and starts focusing on his own movements, I suspect you’ll score more bullseyes.

Stay tuned for Part Two, where our CEO will be defending LinkedIn's honour.

Where do you stand on the LinkedIn debate? Let us know on Twitter