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.  

Why Share And Pray Is Not An Optimal LinkedIn Strategy

…and an alternative.

We are told that sharing posts is important on LinkedIn. It’s even part of the (vaunted by social sellers, questioned by me) Social Selling Index. This results in whole clumps of people out there that “share” as a strategy.

But for the most part, they share badly.

How? They just share the post with everyone. Sometimes they add a comment as an introduction to the shared post, but often they don’t. And what does this sharing accomplish? A little increased visibility for the post author and a little increased visibility for the person who shared the post. Possibly someone interesting will comment on the share. Well “a little” and “possibly” don’t strike me as results to hang your hat on. 

We do these things because sharing is easy. Liking is easier. And it is easy to convince ourselves that because we have shared a bunch of posts that we have made good use of our time. And while sharing is easy, actually getting somewhere as a result of sharing is much harder.

So (as usual), please allow me to make a suggestion. By all means share with everyone if you want to, but also share that post with someone where you really know it could benefit them.  Add a message with what you think is in it for them.  

When you share discriminately, three people benefit:

  • The author of the post, whose work gets disseminated to a person who will really value it.
  • The recipient who you shared it with, who receives content that may help him or her.
  • And you. In the end, even if it isn’t a perfect fit, or even if they have already read it, the person you shared it with is going to be impressed that you specifically singled them out for this content. I would take that one little bit of credibility established with that one person over visibility with lots of people any day.  

When you share on LinkedIn, don’t just spray and pray, share with intent. Share discriminately.

5 Ways To Feed Your LinkedIn Connections

a-feedIt’s simple: the more interaction you have with your connections, the more opportunities you will uncover. You will think of people and resources you can help each other with. More customers, more suppliers, more colleagues, more mentors. You may have a thousand connections, but if you only interact with one percent of of them, you will never realize the potential that your network represents. So show an interest and interact with these people. How? One at a time. Here are some suggestions:  

Give them endorsements

This is the easiest way. Not the best way, this is lowest on the totem pole, but it is the easiest. I use this when I don’t have a lot of time. Kind of like saying good morning to a colleague in the hallway. But this should never be the only interaction you have with a connection.

Engage with their published posts

As someone who writes and publishes posts on LinkedIn I can tell you that when I see  comments and shares and likes from my connections, I appreciate it.  

Give them recommendations

Vastly overlooked. If you really do know a connection reasonably well, and you feel comfortable doing so, this is a wonderful thing you can do for them.  And it’s right on the dropdown menu to the right of “send them a message.” A recommendation takes five or ten minutes and will mean a lot to a connection (well, it should anyway). Sometimes I think recommendations are the bizarro world opposite of endorsements. We give endorsements to people a bit too freely then make up for it by being tight with our recommendations.  

Introduce them to someone in your network

Your network is the biggest LinkedIn asset you have. So share it. And you don’t need to base it on business. It can be based on hobbies, shared causes, alma maters, anything.


Get off your duff and offer to have a call with them. You can guess what they might want, but why be sure and just ask? I have found that having a ten or fifteen minute  conversation with a connection uncovers all kinds of information that enables me to do any or all of the four items above much more effectively. I try and make two or three of these calls every day. The result is always a better understanding of what each of us is trying to accomplish and the types of people we want to meet through LinkedIn. And because hardly anyone does this, it stands out.

If you invest ten minutes of your time every day doing these things, you will be rewarded. You will know your connections better, and they will know you better.

Because in the end, what’s the point of having a network if you don’t network?