LinkedIn, Stop Hiding People Behind Links

Last week LinkedIn announced an additional
infusion of capital from strategic investors. The company has been
around since 2003 and
Bernard Lunn recently
wrote
an in-depth analysis
of the LinkedIn business here on ReadWriteWeb. Most of us use LinkedIn a few times a week, yet almost
no one is emotionally connected to the company. Isn’t it strange that a
brand
which at its core is about
connecting people, is rather bland and unexciting? LinkedIn as a company and brand has never paid attention to the human
factor.

At first glance conservatism seems appropriate because LinkedIn is
about business connections.
Traditionally in America people have been unemotional about work – the
office meant business
only. This isn’t the case any more. Being a big part of our social life,
work is definitely
emotional. Often we are friends with co-workers and we care about them.

Until recently
LinkedIn’s website resembled something circa 1994. The latest overhaul of the
UI makes it more accessible
and useful, but still not fun – it’s dominated by links, not people. What if LinkedIn refocused?
What if there were elements of entertainment, story telling and human
feel to the whole
experience?
In this post we ponder how the brand could become more fun.

Hint at Humanity – the iPhone App

When the LinkedIn App for iPhone
came out I was struck by how a minor difference in user interface
represents a big difference in perception.
On the website, the list of contacts is dull and hard to sift through.
iPhone implementation
leveraged the standard widget for scrolling through lists and was
spectacular.

As names of my contacts flew by, my brain started reminiscing: Oh
I remember this person? Man, that was a fun project! I wonder where
this person is now?
.

I was compelled to click on some entries to see people’s faces, to
check their resumes.

The playful iPhone UI made the same LinkedIn information much more
engaging. It instantly brought
into the spotlight the most interesting aspect of LinkedIn – the people.

LinkedIn as Entertainment

LinkedIn is a great business
tool – you can use it to find jobs or
suitable candidates.
It’s helpful for introductions and lead generation, but it underplays
human aspects of business connections.
If LinkedIn were more interesting and entertaining, imagine what it
could do?

The opportunity lies in a better user interface, lending itself to more
exploration.
A visualization like the one PicLens provides would be great fun – e.g. the
ability to see peoples timelines
visualized, such as 5 previous co-workers now working for Apple. It’s
essentially slicing and dicing information that LinkedIn has, though in
a way that is
playful and useful.

In
addition to playfulness, there’s a
sentimental factor here. Enabling people to tap into their memories and
recall co-workers. Imagine a flashback – your job at Yahoo.
Remember Jane, John, Kate and Mike? Here’s where they are now. Jane and
Mike are still at Yahoo, John
is engineer at Google by way of Microsoft, and Kate is working for a
startup in Colorado.

Will Entertainment Pay?

Would this sort of thing help LinkedIn’s bottom line? Not directly,
because people
are unlikely to pay for such entertainment as they pay for other
LinkedIn
features.
But the pages would surely generate traffic and bring CPM advertising
dollars. Facebook
grew big because of entertainment.

It’s cool to see pictures of friends, to know what they’re up to, and
to stay in touch. By adding this human focus, LinkedIn could
become ‘cool’ in addition to useful.

What do you think about adding the entertainment dimension to
LinkedIn?
Is this something you’d like the company to do? What other features do
you wish LinkedIn had?

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