What Do The User Interface Changes Mean To Free LinkedIn Users?

An optimist will see salvageable boats, a pessimist…

I had figured to hold off on writing about the new LinkedIn desktop user interface until it is more generally available. Plus, I don’t have it yet myself. But I am receiving an increasing number of messages about the pending / ongoing changes to the LinkedIn desktop user interface. These messages range in angst level from mildly curious to “hair on fire.”  

So consider this an interim report.

There is a lot that is unknown, but here is what I can tell you, and what you can do about it.  

While I don’t have the new user interface, I have seen glimpses from early adopters, and done a lot of research online.  While nothing is final, some themes are emerging:

  • There are a lot of odd things missing from the new desktop interface that shouldn’t be missing. Many of these are probably bus type omissions and will be restored in one way or another. I wouldn’t consider anything we get in the next few weeks as “final.” This is a huge undertaking, much bigger than the publishing or messaging updates in the last year or so.  
  • The homepage will look different, as will your profile. There seems to be a mix of added features, changes to existing features, and features dropped altogether.
  • The biggest change, and the one getting the most attention, is that any serious  search ability will be disappearing from “free” LinkedIn. The assumption is that this will force users to upgrade to Sales Navigator.
  • The Business Plus premium subscription seems to be in the process of being morphed into some kind of job seeker product. Business Premium is adding LinkedIn Learning (nee Lynda.com), but losing advanced search capability. InMail remains, along with some other features that would appeal to people looking for jobs.  

We have seen functionality go away before, so features disappearing shouldn’t come as a surprise. Usually they were features that a small number of LinkedIn users were really passionate about, or features that weren’t adopted by users on a scale to make their continued maintenance by LinkedIn worthwhile.  However, losing Advanced Search tools in the free version of LinkedIn is a big deal. Lots of people use the Advanced Search tools. But when Microsoft bought LinkedIn six months ago, one of the things they mentioned was they felt they could “accelerate monetization through individual and organization subscriptions.”  So we have known for six months that something was coming. Now we know what it is.

So what should you do? Upgrade to Sales Navigator?

Well the first you should do is separate the emotional part. The emotional part is “I got all this stuff for free and now I have to pay for it.” If you use Salesforce for business, you have to pay for it. If you use a mobile phone,  you have to pay for it. You use LinkedIn for business. What were you expecting? Sorry folks, get over it. Be thankful you got it for free for so long. Put your anger aside and deal with the situation as it is now.  

Now that emotion is out of the way, make a business decision. If Sales Navigator is going to cost you 800 bucks for a year (or whatever it will end up costing), is it going to help you land enough deals to pay for itself?

Can you use Sales Navigator’s Advanced Search to find more prospects?

Can you use the “lead” feature to track more prospects?

Can you use InMail to reach more of the prospects you find?

If the answer is yes, great. Go for it. If no, great, free looks like it still will be good for LinkedIn groups, your profile as a reference check, Pulse, writing, sharing and commenting, and company pages.

If you are unsure, take advantage of any one month (or more) free offers from LinkedIn, or sign up for a pay as you go each month plan and try it for a couple of months. LinkedIn seems to be one of the few places where you can still try a premium subscription with no long term obligation. Take advantage of it while it’s still there.

As most people who know me are aware, I find LinkedIn’s search tools to be downright awesome. I am not as big a fan of the “designate someone as a lead and follow them” feature, because if I find someone I want to approach, I don’t follow them for two months, I approach them now.  InMail has a bad rep, but mostly because so many LinkedIn users have no clue how to use it correctly. InMail works if you know how to work InMail.  So while I am indifferent to the leads feature, the search filters and InMail make Sales Navigator a good investment for me.