LinkedIn: the database that doesn’t decay and go bad

very early database

Rule number one for any database: it goes bad over time

…and at its core, LinkedIn is a database.

Today’s newsletter starts in the old paper catalog days, makes a side trip into the email database realm, and ends with LinkedIn, but I can do all this in three minutes, so stick with me.

My first high tech sales job was selling my employer’s low end products – those under a thousand dollars – through catalog companies. This was 1985, and there were maybe three dozen catalogs in North America specializing in the products we made, datacom and telecom test equipment. In each catalog I would typically be allotted a quarter, a third, or half a page for a photo of a product and the accompanying copy.

I learned a lot about the catalog business (these were my customers after all) and one of the basic principles was that their mail lists decayed at the rate of two percent every month. Every month two percent of the people on their mail list would change companies, jobs or addresses so that a catalog sent to them was undeliverable. If a catalog company had a hundred thousand people on their mail list, that’s two thousand people that disappeared every month, and sending two thousand catalogs out that were not going to generate any revenue was something these companies wanted to avoid. This monthly decay in their mail lists was a major cost for them.

So imagine my surprise when I was reading a post on Hubspot’s blog and they said statistics show that 22.5% of email databases go bad every year. Things haven’t changed much in 35 years!

So what does this have to do with LinkedIn? Just this:

LinkedIn is a database that updates itself. It is the exception to the database decay rule.

When someone changes jobs, one of the first things they do is change their LinkedIn profile (if this wasn’t the case you wouldn’t see recruiters paying eight thousand a year for access to LinkedIn’s recruiting tools). If I am connected to a thousand people on LinkedIn, on average around twenty of them are changing jobs, departments or locations every month. But I don’t lose them. They update their profiles, and LinkedIn even notifies me when connections get new jobs or promotions.

This is one of the things I love about LinkedIn as a database. Is it perfect? No, of course not. But it is the most up to date one there is. LinkedIn is the place to search for people and the place to research those people.

But you actually have to do that work yourself. There are utilities and apps and extensions that will crow about how they can access LinkedIn, scrape the relevant data from profiles and they can also look for email addresses and phone numbers, but you risk the wrath of LinkedIn if they catch you using automated tools like that. If you are ever tempted to use automation on LinkedIn, I want to you to keep these three points in mind:

  1. The people that sell those tools aren’t the ones that get in trouble, it’s the people that use them on LinkedIn that do.
  2. The usual punishment for someone caught using these tools is being tossed off LinkedIn for good.
  3. LinkedIn signs up two new members every second. That means it will take LinkedIn half a second to replace you.

Take advantage of the LinkedIn database, but do it wisely.

Today’s newsletter is one of my shorter ones. Next week, one of my longer ones: My adventures discovering hundreds of fake LinkedIn Profiles in the past few weeks.

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Who Shows Up In Your LinkedIn Homepage Feed?

A lot of people complain because they don’t see their Connections’ activity on LinkedIn. What they don’t realize is that there is no way they could realisitically see it all even if LinkedIn did present it to them…and LinkedIn may actually be doing so.

Allow me a small diversion in order to illustrate this.

I have just over 5,000 connections. In the past thirty days over 2,000 of them posted on LinkedIn (I have a Sales Navigator account where I can run a specific search and find this number), an average of sixty every day. So in order to see all my connections activity there are sixty posts a day from those people that LinkedIn needs to somehow stuff into my feed so that I have the chance to see them.

  • That’s if those posts are spread out evenly over the 30 days in a month so there are only sixty or so a day,
  • and that’s if I log into LinkedIn every day and posts aren’t piling up while I am gone resulting in a backlog of posts LinkedIn needs to show me from the days I was off LinkedIn,
  • and those 2,000 people only posted once each.

And even if all of those unlikely conditions can be met, those sixty posts have to be shoehorned in and around all the other stuff in my feed – group posts, paid ads, new comments on posts I commented on, the always bizarre “maybe Bruce didn’t see this post the first time so let’s keep showing it at the top of his feed till he does something with it” posts and so on.

Now it is completely possible that in fact LinkedIn is placing those sixty or more posts in my feed every day. After all, LinkedIn does say that when you post that it is put in your connections’ feeds (I looked it up in the LinkedIn Help section, that statement is there). But with those sixty posts interleaved with all that other content I mentioned above, I am going to have to do a lot of scrolling to see them. Or let me put it another way: when you logged in to LinkedIn today, how far down did you scroll in your Homepage feed?

So LinkedIn is left with a conundrum: if we can’t show Bruce everything, how do we figure which of it is the most relevant stuff to show him?

Enter the Connection Strength Score. Another of LinkedIn’s many algorithms, this one tries to figure out whose content would be most relevant to you by calculating which of your connections you are closest to. It does this by looking at which of your LinkedIn connections you have interacted with lately, and how often you have done so. We don’t know if it weighs different types of interactions in different ways, but that seems likely. So if you have a connection you have not interacted with in months, and another you have been trading comments with on a post over the past few days, and both of those connections publish a post this afternoon, which one do you think LinkedIn will favor to put prominenly in your feed? Correct, the recent publisher, the person who currently has a higher connection strength score.

And “currently” is the operative word there, as one thing I have figured out is that the CSS is transient. If you and I interact a lot over a three month period and then we each take two weeks off LinkedIn, our CSS seems to reset back to zero. There appears to be a heavy reliance on recency in the CSS. And that’s smart, because who is more likely to read, comment, share or otherwise engage with your next post, someone you have been trading comments with in the past few days, or someone you haven’t engaged with in months?

This explains why when you comment on my post and we trade messages back and forth on LinkedIn, all of a sudden my posts are all over your feed.

This brings me to Following on LinkedIn. If I follow someone, the reason I usually do so is in order to see more of their content. But how does LinkedIn put that content in front of me given the absolute packed feed I already have from my connections, promoted posts and other sources? This may indirectly explain why Following doesn’t seem to “work” that well on LinkedIn. And it may explain the role of LinkedIn Newsletters. As Newsletters are nominally “guaranteed” to be delivered via notifications to subscribers, this may be the feature that LinkedIn is ultimately counting on to solve the Homepage Feed issue.

And one final note: if you do want to follow specific people – and companies for that matter – you can do so if you have Sales Navigator by designating them as “leads”. Your Sales Navigator feed consists only of the people and companies you want there in that feed.

What are your thoughts on this? Is LinkedIn getting it right? Getting better or worse?

The obligatory disclaimer: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. LinkedIn gave me early access to this Newsletter feature. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? I publish an email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

LinkedIn’s Agenda Is Not Necessarily Your Agenda

It’s all in your perspective: You see a teddy gear. The teddy bear sees lunch.
LinkedIn is on a roll these days introducing lots of new features.
But a lot of these features are experiments. If they work, great. If they don’t that will be the end of the feature. A lot of these features are just copies of what is working elsewhere. Video is huge somewhere else? LinkedIn is all over it. Stories are big? Tiktok? Here we come.
 LinkedIn’s product managers are no smarter than you or I.
You have to remember that what LinkedIn wants from us is three things:
  • Our money via subscriptions or advertising dollars. LinkedIn should never be confused with Mother Theresa.
  • Our time. The more time we spend on LinkedIn, the more money LinkedIn can charge advertisers.
  • Our data. The more info we have on our profiles, the more lucrative LinkedIn is as a platform for the sales, marketing and recruiting people that make up the majority of their customer base.
I have no problem with the first one, the subscription and advertising dollars, that’s obvious. I have no problem with the third one either because that is easily controlled and we understand that. It’s the time one in the middle that is insidious and that we need to watch out for.
Getting more utility out of LinkedIn is nice, but for LinkedIn, getting you to spend more time on LinkedIn is nicer. So you will see features that appeal to your vanity like post views. You will see features that make you think you are not spending enough time on LinkedIn like the Social Selling Index. And you will see features like LinkedIn Stories that quite frankly are a complete and utter waste of your time.
So when you see any new feature on LinkedIn or suggestions as to what you should be doing on LinkedIn, remember that LinkedIn is making that recommendation because it is good for LinkedIn. If it is good for you, that’s a bonus. It’s like the old joke we used to make at a company I worked with twenty years ago, that our ideal customer had to have a pulse and be able to pay their bill. And if push came to shove, the pulse was optional.
LinkedIn can be just as dangerous a time suck as TikTok, Instagram or any other platform. Your time is precious. Have a plan for how you use LinkedIn and stick to that plan.