Do you ever feel like you've been left out, or not appreciated? That's how I feel with LinkedIn at the moment.
Rolling out certain features to a limited set of random users with lack of communication seems to be a worrying trend amongst social networks and other technology companies...
UPDATE (November 1, 2013): Shortly after my paid subscription to LinkedIn expired I realised that I suddenly had "Who's Viewed My Updates"! I wonder whether I've suddenly become part of the testing group. Absolute madness that I get this useful feature after downgrading.
Do you use LinkedIn? There is no doubt that it is a powerful network. There has been a huge growth in its user base over the past few years- with over 225 million users as of June 2013. I've been a member since 2004, although if truth be told, I've only been using it actively for the past 3 years, and seeing its power and usefulness.
Over the past year or so, LinkedIn have made some great improvements to the user experience with a revamp of user profiles. It's now possible to build up a portfolio of recent work including presentations, documents, videos and other media files.
One powerful feature of LinkedIn, particularly for premium users, is the ability of seeing who has viewed your profile. If this was a feature on Facebook, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a truly dreadful idea and an invasion of privacy worthy of the NSA. However, this is LinkedIn, and LinkedIn is a business social networking platform for professionals. It's a place to list professional information about yourself- not a place to post holiday snaps and other personal information! Finding out who is viewing your profile is a useful way to connect with people, generate leads and find out ways to optimise your LinkedIn profile and its reach. Free users can view limited information on this and I think this probably fine for new users to LinkedIn or if you haven't had the time to invest into using LinkedIn to its full power.
A More Personalized LinkedIn Homepage?
LinkedIn added two new feature backs on June 26, 2013 and made the announcement in their blog, entitled "A More Personalized LinkedIn Homepage". The new features were "Who’s Viewed Your Updates" and "You Recently Visited".
The "Who's Viewed Your Updates" was of particular interest to me. It is a new box that appears on your LinkedIn homepage (on the right hand side) that shows you how many people have viewed your updates, how many likes and how many comments.
I post updates on LinkedIn to share my interest and knowledge in digital marketing, social media, web development and technology. I regularly share articles I find interesting and share my thoughts on them. It's a way to connect with other people, discuss topics with like minded people and try to highlight my expertise. The problem is, it is very difficult to actually measure the success of these LinkedIn updates. You can view how many comments or likes on each update, but that isn't very effective. This new feature from LinkedIn promised to change this and I have to say I was very excited about it. LinkedIn also said that they were not going to charge for this service. A little odd, because many people find very few reasons to having a paid account as it is!
How Slow Can you Roll?
In the original announcement they said "Today we are introducing two new features..." with nothing about this being a test feature or something being slowly rolled out to their 225 million users. But that is exactly what it is- it has only been rolled out to a selected number of people (apparently random). As you can guess, I am not one of the lucky people!
It's common to push out changes in batches across your user base (kind of like A/B split testing). It helps with usability, bug fixes and working out how it can be improved.
The problem in this case is that LinkedIn haven't communicated their intentions very well. That can breed bad feelings. That's not good- all businesses need their customers on their side because they are the best people placed to do their marketing for them- to communicate how good their experiences have been.
Here are my issues with that LinkedIn have done:
- They made a big announcement of a "cool new feature" but forgot to mention that it was only available to a subset of users.
- No communication as to when this would be available to all users
- Lack of value for premium LinkedIn users. It doesn't matter if you are a free or paid user. If you're not in the testing group you are out of luck.
- It has been 4 months since the announcement. That is a long time. How much testing do they need to do? How long do we have to wait?
Chatting with LinkedIn
It was drawn to my attention when I was chatting with a lovely lady called Lisa Chilvers from Athena Business Solutions a few weeks back. She was telling me about the power of the "Who's Viewed Your Updates" feature in showing you your reach and effectiveness in delivering a message. I nodded enthusiastically, but it slowly dawned on me that I was missing the feature! I did a bit of searching, at it seemed I wasn't the only person.
So, I decided to contact LinkedIn and make my complaint. I was, after all, a Premium LinkedIn user. That means I am an important person to LinkedIn surely? And... what on earth was I paying them for?! So, armed with the trusted (and fabulous) article by Kristi Hines entitled "How to Contact Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Other Social Networks", I found the contact page and crafted my response. (UPDATE November 1, 2013 - as I mentioned above I now have access to the "Who's Viewed Your Updates" feature- shortly after I downgraded my account to the free version. How strange!)
Here is what I wrote...
After reading a few discussions online it seems that despite your announcement of the "Who's viewed my updates" feature back in June that has only been rolled out to some users as part of internal testing.
This is very frustrating. Not only am I a premium user and a loyal LinkedIn user since 2004 it seems very strange to announce the feature without any reference to restrictions or limited roll out.
Since I am working in the digital marketing and social marketing industry I really want to be able to have this feature.
I understand that giving some more people access to this will skew your internal statistics, but you must understand my feelings on this. Can you give me an idea when this is going to be rolled out to all users and when I can expect to have access? I am already in the position of re-thinking the advantages of being a premium user and this is just one more reason to downgrade to being a free user. I hope you understand where I am coming from here.
I was trying to get that sweet spot between understanding and complaining. Hope you're impressed!
However, I was less than impressed with the reply that LinkedIn gave (although to give them credit, they replied fairly quickly)....
Thanks for your enthusiasm and interest in LinkedIn's feature developments. We understand that some people might prefer to opt in or out of these feature tests. But since it could distort the results and would require a lot of extra tracking, the ability to opt in or out of this feature is not available.
We're continually developing product features to enhance your LinkedIn experience. Periodically, enhancements are tested on a limited scale before doing a full scale release to the entire membership. To get the best results and control distortion of the results, our test participants are systematically chosen from a cross section of members. Because of this, you may become part of a test program before a full roll out to our mass membership occurs.
As with any feature, we encourage you to provide your feedback on the feature test through one of the "Feedback" links available throughout the site or by clicking on the "Send Feedback" link found at the bottom of your homepage. This information will not receive a Customer Service response. Instead, your comments are directly routed to the Product Team. Because they are so busy testing the enhancement they will review your comments but they usually won't respond to your comments.
Feedback from members like you is extremely helpful in shaping how new features are finally released. Thanks again for sharing your opinions!
Customer Experience Advocate
Typical. They hadn't actually bothered to read my original message. They had copied and pasted their standard "Thanks for your enthusiasm and interest in LinkedIn's feature developments" response which you will see posted on other forums across the web. They didn't give me any idea of when the feature I was enquiring about would be rolled out to all users and no reason was given why premium members weren't included.
So, I responded...
I understand to save time and to be efficient you use the standard response beginning "thanks for your enthusiasm..." etc. - I tried to make it clear I understood why you were adopting the limited roll out in my initial comment. I was just trying to say that as a premium member I am getting frustrated that I don't have access to this. I am not sure I am getting a huge advantage from the premium features.
Would you be able to answer my question "Can you give me an idea when this is going to be rolled out to all users and when I can expect to have access?" as well as if there is a beta testers group I can join?
Again, I am being pretty understanding don't you think?! Unfortunately, despite saying they understand, I got a fairly bland reply...
...we do not have a date right now of when the feature will be rolled out to all of our members. We do send out updates to the new features on our blog, http://blog.linkedin.com, including release dates. I will send your request to our Products team so they know you are interested in the new feature in case they are looking to take on new accounts for the new feature.
I am sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and please let me know if you have further questions.
Maybe I give up too easily, but I left it there. At the end of the day, LinkedIn can do what they want whether I pay them or not. Despite that, I think this is an example of bad practice and communication. I have also cancelled my premium membership. I may upgrade again in the future, so I suppose this is like a mini protest vote!
So, what do you think? Have you got this feature? Do you even care? Have you ever contacted a social network? What has your experience been like?
Thanks for listening!