After repeatedly receiving connect requests from people I do not know or have only exchanged a handful of Tweets I find myself asking: is LinkedIn losing its impact, or is it just a symptom of a much larger problem?
As social networks of any kind become more popular it is inevitable that the noise, the chatter and unfortunately the spam, will increase.
Perform a search for "LinkedIn losing value" and you will find a number of complaints about people following others at random, increasing spam and more. Some blame the feature that suggests people to follow, some blame the site functionality and others just aren't using LinkedIn as intended.
LinkedIn has a focus, a core purpose, but this seems to have been drifting and for quite a while. Many users seem to be treating the site more and more like Facebook - hardly surprising when both the UI and functionality becomes more 'Facebook like' over time.
A while back I asked if we as individuals are getting too social; now, is it a case that everything we do is getting too social? The impact of Facebook and Twitter is that everyone thinks they have to be completely social in order to succeed, to garner any interest on the modern web and beyond.
We are facing a catch 22 situation: it's not just the users who are using sites like LinkedIn incorrectly but by doing so they are forcing these sites to change - to crowbar in social functionality which is not really relevant and which they don't actually need - just to be 'cool' and appeal to the social generation.
Playing the game?
Twitter and Facebook are game changers but it is not a game that everyone should be playing.
It always polarises opinion when any service provides the ability to stream in your status updates from services such as Twitter. FriendFeed, Google Buzz and even Facebook itself have suffered with many choosing to un-follow those who pump their tweets in to their stream or using it as a basis for whether to follow someone in the first place.
Our status updates are frequently not work related and should not be included in a professional context so it is understandable that there should be a backlash against them being brought in to somewhere such as LinkedIn. We, therefore, come back to the matter of using LinkedIn as it is designed to be used.
Not just another social network
As I previously wrote:
Social media ‘friending’ has always been pretty incestuous – once we follow someone in one location we tend to seek them out on the new services that we join so that our following/follower lists become ever more similar across the board. While it is always nice to have a few familiar faces on a new service there is no guarantee that we will use it to interact with each other in the same way and this should be recognised, understood and accepted.
Social isn't new, social 'online' isn't new but many are still just getting in to it so, while the early adopters may say that it is not a fad, many are treating it as though it were and jumping on the social bandwagon - trying to find where social fits within their existing setup; sometimes it won't.
Is being overly social reducing the value, and indeed the effectiveness of LinkedIn? Is it still seen as a reliable method of finding people based on skills, business connections and recommendations? Maybe if used correctly.
Image by Raymond Larose