Rory Cellan-Jones

Can LinkedIn win from losers?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 6 Oct 08, 12:09 GMT

If we are heading for a recession, there will be many losers, but a few companies will actually benefit from a downturn. They will include insolvency practitioners and pawnbrokers - but could a social network also be one of the winners?

When I was experimenting last year with all of the big networks and joined everything from Bebo to Facebook, from MySpace to SagaZone, a friend cautioned me against one particular site. "Don't bother with LinkedIn," he said,"It's for losers. People only join it when they fear they're about to be made redundant, and want to put their CV out there." My friend, a middle-aged advertising executive, is wise about the ways of the world, and while I had already signed up to LinkedIn, I mostly ignored it from then on, failing to respond to requests to join other people's networks.

Late last year I met LinkedIn's irrepressible founder Reid Hoffman at a Cambridge Union debate, where I got a few cheap laughs by describing his product as "Facebook for losers". But Mr Hoffmann - a charming, portly figure from the West Coast who was wearing a suit for the first time in his life that night - is the one laughing now.

His business appears to be going from strength to strength, winning plenty of funding from investors, doing advertising deals, and attracting new members. In recent days, the business sent me a very excited press release claimig that 28 million people - or "professionals" - have now signed up. And where are they coming from? You've guessed it, the finance industry.

The numbers joining from investment banking have doubled, and it's pretty clear why. LinkedIn conducted a poll and found out that 42% of its members felt that the current economic climate made their jobs less secure. In other words, they fear the axe is about to fall and they think that being part of a professional network could help them find another job. It sounds pretty desperate to me - and I still fail to see the attraction of a network where everyone is only interested in what you can offer them, rather than what you have to say.

Still, just in the last 48 hours I've received invitations to connect on LinkedIn from people who I already know from other networks such as Facebook and Twitter. What are they trying to tell me? That their jobs are in danger - or that mine may be soon?


  • Comment number 1.

    I guess it allows head hunters to look over a brief CV and decide if they want to ask for a full resume or to interview etc; useful for companies that can recruit that way and not have to advertise.

    I`m on LinkedIn (it`s free). I see some advantages to having a professional profile on the Web, given that employers and customers etc do Google people`s names nowadays; but I can`t see how a head hunter could search LinkedInfor specific experience or qualifications. I`d guess you`d have to hope to be recommended by someone.

  • Comment number 2.

    I've been on linkedin for years, not anything to do with job insecurity but I find it a nice way to keep in touch with former colleagues as we go our ways. Sites like facebook are much more for friends I have met through non-work activities.

  • Comment number 3.

    LinkedIn is all about professional -- not social -- networking, and allows its users to keep in touch with each other, whether formal colleagues, business associates and / or infrequent clients.

    It also allows people to advertise their expertise by allowing them to answer and discuss questions posted by other users.

    That way people can promote their business in the hope of gaining more business.

    It doesn't take a genius to recognise how beneficial this can be to people.

    Perhaps, however, there's no use in LinkedIn for a journalist, seeing as how journalists aren't in the business of creating anything, just in misreporting what is created.

  • Comment number 4.

    Perhaps, rather than relying on the view of your friend, you should use your membership to make your own mind up. It can't be any less useful than Bebo surely?

  • Comment number 5.

    How bizarre! Change your advisers, Rory. LinkedIn has a lot more going for it than that.

  • Comment number 6.

    I couldn't disagree more!
    LinkedIn is an indispensable business networking tool that is used every day in our sales organisation.

    It is invalulable for finding the right decision-making person in a company I should be targetting, and which of my exisiting connections can either introduce me to them or give me some insight into the person/company/role etc.

    I can also see (from the network updates) when my exisitng customers connect with competitors, which gives me a tip-off that they are trying to break into my accounts!

    Along with, LinkedIn is one of the best Web 2.0 businesses out there.

  • Comment number 7.

    The advice you have been given should be ignored!

    The vast majority of jobs remain unadvertised - the right career move is not going to fall in your lap.

    One has to give themselves every opportunity of being found, especially if they feel uneasy about their future.

    Linkedin is a great place to advertise your skills. All of the best recruiters use it as one of many sources to find the right people.

    Of course people are intereted in what you have to offer them. That's how things work. But think about it; noone can force you take a job so recruiters only get what they want when you take the role they've presented to you.

    My advice is to use any source you have to secure the right move.

  • Comment number 8.

    Rory, you've missed the point completely.

    Linkedin allows me to connect with old colleagues, keep up with what they are doing now etc. More importantly it allows me to ask a connection for a favour, say "please introduce me to Fred Bloggs in the Acme Equipment Co.". Because that connection knows me and Fred, that opens dosrs for doing a deal. At some point in the future I may return the favour, or, more likely, I'll do a favour for someone else who might do a favour for someone else who might do a favour for the person who helped me in the fist place.

    And that's before I tap into advice from others on, say, business practices in a certain country, a great restaurant in a certain city, etc. etc. Naturally I answer questions similarly and help my contacts.

    Just because LinkedIn users aren't vain, self-obsessed, publicity seekers who think the world is interested in their every thought (did someone say "Twitter". or was that "journalist"), please don't think we are all losers. I haven't applied for a job using the site, though of course some have. In fact, I introduced a couple of old colleagues to their current employers...

  • Comment number 9.

    I see LinkedIn used for two things: reconnecting with former colleagues and research on people at companies that are targets of sales/marketing campaigns.

    The first of these is nice, but I know these people already of course. It's not doing much to help me meet people I don't know who might need what it is I do. And as big as my network is (300+) I don't expect many of the people in it to spend much time helping me find new customers.

    The second of these purposes is useful, but to those using the information more than those submitting it. And what use is in influx of unemployed financial services workers in this?

    LinkedIn is really missing a trick by not providing more tools to help broker valuable new connections. In fact, it advises you don't accept invitations from people you don't know. That doesn't seem like business networking to me.

    Ian Hendry
    CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ

  • Comment number 10.

    I think what this post shows more than anything else is that as financial and economic conditions continue to worsen then people will naturally gravitate to solutions that are actually useful as opposed to those that are fashionable or an entertaining diversion.

    Linkedin certainly has more substance and potential than this post gives it credit for and has also helped with the progression of my career in the past so I am more than happy to be described as a ‘Linkedin Loser’

  • Comment number 11.

    I thank LinkedIn every day! for giving me the opening to the role I'm in now.

    I had only asked some previous colleagues for a reference, and lo and behold if one of them didn't contact me and offer me a job.

    So, although I wasn't using it to find a job, having access to past (and present) contacts makes it a very useful business tool. Facebook is for the social side of life.

  • Comment number 12.

    Don't think your post is balanced - misses the point. LinkedIN is being used, as you know, as a forum for many special interest groups in much the same way as Yahoo groups

  • Comment number 13.

    Here's another use....recently I was looking for a way to present a couple of ideas to a potential client. I looked through my LinkedIn contacts and found that one of them had just taken up a senior position in that company. One email later and I'm presenting to the company! Without LinkedIn I'd still be cold calling, leaving voicemails and getting nowhere fast!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Facebook for losers. A bold statement indeed.

    However comparing Facebook and LinkedIn is like comparing a Ford Focus with a Landrover. Yes they are in fact both vehicles but they are built for completely different purposes. Sure they can intertwine but the Ford doesn't work so well down the farm and the Landrover is hated in the city, not to mention the fuel costs.

    Throwaway statements such as Facebook for losers, is only going to enhance people's thoughts that advertising execs are behind the times, when most of them are in fact full conversant with social/business networking and many have their details on LinkedIn for business reasons, and not as your friend sees it as - a cheeky wee nod to the head-hunters to say 'come and get me'.

    People are too quick to scorn an idea without actually understanding the complexities of technology and how our lives are shaped with its use.

    Use it if you wish, if you don't feel the benefit, due to many possible and rational reasons, then delete your profile and move on. Don't deride it without the necessary argument and facts.

  • Comment number 15.

    As someone who is not in marketing or recruitment, there are other advantages of LinkedIN. When you recieve an unsolicited approach, it can be useful to search out the individual or company and see if any of your network has expierience and if so, you contact them for som eoff the record feedback.

    As for the point with Ian Hendry (8.39am), there is some disagreement within the two types of networker within LinkedIn. There are the open networkers some of whom chase number of contacts and size of network and then there are the netowrkers who link to people they know.

    There are benefits in both types of network, the first is useful for people looking for leads and names of contacts in companies. The second is useful for people who want recommendations and suggestions. Which is right? They both are, but they are not the same. My network is not open to all, it is open to people I have met and know that means for the vast majority of them I have an opinion based on experience and am therefore able to recommend with confidence when I do so.

  • Comment number 16.

    LinkedIn is very useful for self employed people in particular. It keeps me in touch with both previous and potential clients and other professionals in my field.
    This post is so out of touch with how LinkedIn works I can hardly believe it's from the BBC.

  • Comment number 17.

    I wouldn't waste a minute on Fraudbook (they are not your real friends), or ecademy (for people pretending to work but just showing off to each other), but I like Linked In - it's more for grown-ups. I have never used it to find work, nor am I likely to, but it's an easy way to keep in touch with people that you wouldn't see otherwise.

  • Comment number 18.

    I recently used LinkedIn to do a bit of research on someone I was working with that I had a very bad feeling about.

    He listed his previous companies and roles. That was all I needed to tell me where to look further. This boastful bombastic son-of-a-***** turned out to have lost millions for one firm as chief exec, had his own subsequent firm closed down by the authorities after losing a fortune in a few months and was then disqualified as a director.

    He is still presenting himself as a director making him liable to legal action and prison.

    Another guy I know has lots of recommendations from people he has appointed into positions and takes a cut from but this is not spelled out on LinkedIn.

    Beware the power and corruption of websites. Trust nothing you read on people's own puff sites.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm a little surprised at your friends opinion, but more surprised that solely on that basis you got a cheap laugh at the expense of the LinkedIn guy. I would have thought that spending an hour creating an account and exploring a little would qualify as basic research?

    I can't say that I use LinkedIn every day, but I have found it very useful for keeping in touch with ex-colleagues. A lot of people only maintain a work email address, so a change of job means a long and error-prone exercise of sending out updates. LinkedIn allows a consistent point of contact.

    I have had a few contacts about possible jobs, none of which have come to anything but which are at least a bit more relevant than usual blanket emails I get. Like a previous poster, I am also self-employed so a network of previous colleagues is of significant value.

    The groups facility seems to be a relatvely recent addition, so time will tell if this is any more use than its Yahoo predecessor (not much IMHO).

  • Comment number 20.

    My apologies for not reading the blog properly!
    Clearly you did join LinkedIn and try using it before making your comments. Personally when I did this I found a lot of current/recent colleagues on there, but I work in IT and presumably a lot of the early adopters do also.

  • Comment number 21.

    Rory, you'll see from all these responses that you really have missed the point of Linkedin..

    You need to change your andvisors and revise your blog!

  • Comment number 22.

    You were experimenting but you didn't reply to requests to connect with other people in Linked In because of an amusing sound bite. Sounds like very poor experimentation to me. I also experimented and concluded that LinkedIn is a great way to keep up with Professional contacts, Facebook and Myspace just didn't work for me they seemed to be for kids and I did get the point of poking someone or buying virtual gifts or selling friends. I think that might classify me as an old fogey but not a loser.

  • Comment number 23.

    You managed to steer up the sentiment of many people with your story, by offending at least 28 million people, or "proffessionals". You are also claiming that people that have to deal with job insecurity, these days, are losers...
    You and your middle-aged advertising executive friend, did not realized, that social networking websites are just tools. It's up to you if you use it as a looser or a winner. From your story, I can conclude that you and your friend have the attitudes of losers, you lack any creative thinking.

  • Comment number 24.

    Well I have people pitch me jobs on the basis of my linkedin profile that hasnt happened on facebook not quite sure if that how I got aproached about a job ironicaly at the BBC - I think that one came via more traditional routes.


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