The Big LinkedIn Miss: Real Referral Networking

The Big LinkedIn Miss: Real Referral Networking

I just endorsed Michael Dell’s understanding of Servers. I hope he appreciates my confidence in his abilities and knowledge. I’m pretty sure he won’t get back in touch with me about my endorsement. I’m pretty sure he won’t ever see it.

LinkedIn should be the top business social network. Actually, it probably is that, but what we really need is forLinkedIn to step up to the plate and become a leading BUSINESS NETWORK.

Today, LinkedIn is more of a rolodex with some social sharing added in. They have devalued their platform over the last few investment rounds and innovation attempts. No overhaul has fixed the fundamental miss. And added “features” like endorsement cheapen the referral and networking function to make LinkedIn more Facebook-like. We don’t need a Facebook for business. We need a network for business.

While collaboration tools have really begun to shine in the online, SAAS, world, LinkedIn’s capabilities have gotten worse not better. Let me show you why first, and then talk about what LinkedIn’s killer feature COULD be, but that they are not even working on.

Think for a minute about your LinkedIn network.

  • Do you check your LinkedIn inbox? (Or do messages on LinkedIn go unanswered for weeks at a time?)
  • Do you look to LinkedIn for business referrals?
  • What value do you place on a person with FIVE really impressive Recommendations? Now what about someone with 100 recommendations? How about NONE?
  • As a Rolodex, does linked in allow you to message more than one person at a time, or create personal mailing lists for you to share vital information?
  • Do you have your actual contact information listed on LinkedIn?
  • Have you gotten a successful business lead off a LinkedIn connection?
  • As a job hunting network, do you think LinkedIn has value beyond Indeed or SimplyHired?
  • If LinkedIn were to shut down tomorrow do you think your business would be substantially impacted?

My guess is, that just in thinking about these questions, you can see how LinkedIn has not really evolved with the times of Business 2.0. And, in fact, the most valuable opportunity for LinkedIn, or really for us users of LinkedIn has not even being explored.

So here it is.

LinkedIn needs to become the business referral network we’re all looking for. People with projects or jobs could post them to their REAL networks. If you passed along a lead for a job or a piece of business, the LinkedIn platform could pay you a commission. Today it’s the advertising model that makes LinkedIn go. But the real capital they are not even beginning to tap is TRUST.

When LinkedIn started out it was a fairly strong communication network. It has since become a Facebook-clone with a business focus. Where is the REAL REFERRAL NETWORK, that has financial incentives to prime the pump?

Business people and consultants keep hoping that a new platform would emerge to give us the Trust Network for business. And we keep waiting. All this time, LinkedIn has the money and the network but have sat on their hands and stagnated.

With a simple e-commerce platform plugin, LinkedIn could energize and build a true business network. If I get you a project, I get a percentage of the business. If you ask me for a referral on a job you need filled, you pay me directly if you hire one of the people I recommend.

Sure, there would have to be filters and policies for the gamers and hucksters that would try to exploit any innovative network, but it could be done. It must be done. And yet, it’s not being considered.

What would you pay to tap into a network that could actually bring you new business referrals rather than head hunter phone calls? What about a job referral that came from a friend with these words, “I’ve just spoken with the hiring manager at YYZ.COM and my contact there wants to talk to you today. I think you’re a shoo-in for the role.”

Ad revenue is how LinkedIn stays alive. But referral business is how they will expand into the real business of doing business.

Final thought: Today, via LinkedIn I exchanged 5 messages with colleagues (shall we get together for coffee) 2 messages with client targets. Shouldn’t we incentivize them for responding and passing my information on to their networks?

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

Reference books from Patrick Lencioni:

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