LinkedIn Features: Does Everyone Have Equal Access?

LinkedIn in 2009 continues to upgrade their service with minor tweaks and additional functionality, but I am starting to find a gap between what features some people can see and some cannot.  I have never heard of this on Facebook or Twitter, but this is definitely happening on LinkedIn, and it is troubling.  And these are all people using the free service, not a free vs. paid account argument.  Let me explain what I have experienced in three distinct examples.

Do we have all access to the same LinkedIn features?

First example: I was with a friend recently who showed off the new Connections Beta feature of being able to group your contacts together by tags, companies, industries, etc.  This showed up on his screen when he pressed the “Contacts” or “Connections” link on the left-hand side of the LinkedIn page.  However, when I pressed the same, even though the URL was the exact same, I was not getting access to this same feature.  In order to satisfy my curiosity, I asked a LinkedIn Question here, and I surprisingly got a response straight from a Senior Product Manager at LinkedIn, with the explanation that “This is a beta feature that we’re testing with a subset of members. We hope to have it rolled out to everyone in the coming months.”  I was ecstatic to get a response from the source, but unless the beta users are told they are beta users, it just causes confusion when different people start seeing different features from the same service.  In fact, there are so many “beta” features on the Internet these days (even Gmail is still in beta!) that it really loses its meaning.  Maybe LinkedIn should only do this with their paid members or ask its members if they want to be part of a beta group?  Either way, this is one example of a feature that not everyone has access to at this moment.

Second example: Recently I realized that LinkedIn offers a Service Provider Directory.  If you go to the Companies page there is an option to search for Service Providers in the top right-hand side.  But every time I go to the Service Providers screen, although there is an ability to recommend a Service Provider, I get the same “We’re sorry, but the service provider directory is currently unavailable.” message.  Once again I asked a LinkedIn Question here, because of the first example where it was a beta feature.  Was this the same for the Service Providers feature?  Apparently not, as everyone who answered the question said that they could see it.  But then when I asked a different friend, he got the same error message I did.  What gives?

Third example: The same friend who couldn’t see the Service Provider directory quickly went to his Home page on LinkedIn where I spotted something different.  In the top right-hand corner there was a Recommendations text window that displayed people that were recommended for my friend to connect with…it looked very similar to what I see on Facebook.  But I had never seen this before on my Home page!  And my friend said that it was not a new feature, per se, but it had always been there!  Why can’t I access this feature?

Social media is about the democratization of information.  Why can some people access features and others cannot, as in the second and third example?  Does LinkedIn single out people to access each feature?  Or is it what I fear it is: the LinkedIn platform is just not scalable? After all LinkedIn is supposedly adding a user each second, so how can they keep up with the growth?

I am also a Facebook user, and even though they have 5 times the number of users that LinkedIn have (200 million vs. 40 million), their platform is robust and fast performing, and I have not noticed any scalability issues.  On the other hand, LinkedIn is notoriously slow and apparently have feature accessibility issues.

Where am I leading?  Apparently LinkedIn has gobs of cash.  LinkedIn, I love you, but please use some of your cash to make a serious investment in making your platform more robust, scalable, and barrier free for all to have equal access.  We would all appreciate it.  And it would not surprise me, through increased efficiency for the millions of people using your service, that it may actually help increase the productivity of the American workforce by 0.1% alone and help us, even so slightly, out of this recession.  Thank you for your consideration.  And if I have misanalyzed the issue and there is an official explanation, please let me know and I will post it here.

[May 6 Update]

I did, in parallel to writing this blog post, send an incident report to Customer Service.  Even after following the below instructions, I am still facing the same problem and am awaiting further word from them.  If you have the same problem, please read the below and see if it helps you.  Hopefully you’ll have better luck than I did!

1. Try logging out and back into your account to see if this corrects the issue.
2. Delete existing cookies from your current browser (found within the Internet Options).
3. Attempt to use a different browser. Some issues are browser specific. Trying a different browser could be a quick resolution to your issue and help isolate the issue down to that browser. Excluding beta versions, LinkedIn will work best with the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Safari, and Mozilla Firefox. If you do not have the latest version of your browser we recommend going to the browser’s website for the latest update which may resolve the issue.

If this issue persists, would you mind sending us a screen shot? This could help us replicate the item.

About the Author:

Neal Schaffer, Founder and Editor-In-Chief

The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professional strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer
PeopleLinx

Comments

  1. wfeigenson says

    Neal, what you describe definitely goes on at LI. But some of it could be due to browser settings. I use Firefox, with many add-ons. I once used a neat utility that let me remove anything from a webpage – great to get rid of some of the more obnoxious Yahoo ads. Eventually, I started noticing that other web pages were “broken.” Took out the add-on, and then had to manually remove all the stuff it left behind. That made FF much faster and fixed the broken pages.

    Are you using FF?

    -walt

  2. wfeigenson says

    Neal, what you describe definitely goes on at LI. But some of it could be due to browser settings. I use Firefox, with many add-ons. I once used a neat utility that let me remove anything from a webpage – great to get rid of some of the more obnoxious Yahoo ads. Eventually, I started noticing that other web pages were “broken.” Took out the add-on, and then had to manually remove all the stuff it left behind. That made FF much faster and fixed the broken pages.

    Are you using FF?

    -walt

  3. Neal Schaffer says

    Hey Walt,

    Thanks for your comment. I used to work for a browser vendor (http://www.espial.com), so I can honestly say that this does not appear to be a browser issue. The friend that couldn’t see the Service Provider Directory but could see the People You May Want to Invite was the same person, and he was using IE. I am using Chrome. I actually just went to LI again and tried it on my own IE, but alas same results. It is interesting that you are getting different results with FF which may partially explain some of this, but I don’t think that is enough to explain away the issue. Agree?

    - Neal

  4. wfeigenson says

    Sure sounds like it’s not a browser problem. So much for easy answers…

    BTW, at one point whenever I went to my home page, it would load and immediately open a new page with one of the right column components. That was really annoying, and it was definitely related to my FF configuration. It’s ok now.

  5. wfeigenson says

    Sure sounds like it’s not a browser problem. So much for easy answers…

    BTW, at one point whenever I went to my home page, it would load and immediately open a new page with one of the right column components. That was really annoying, and it was definitely related to my FF configuration. It’s ok now.

  6. Neal Schaffer says

    I can see how the browser issue could be the root to some of your problems! I definitely don’t have any of those issues with Chrome…it’s clean and fast, although it doesn’t have the extensions that you probably love about Firefox…

  7. inna says

    Dear Neal,
    I use FF on my mac, and all seems to be fine.
    I don’t pay.
    I’d wish they improve LI / some LI features, though I always had a recommends, no ‘annoying pages’ /some of ex. that u mentioned, I need to check others/
    Warm regards, II.

  8. inna says

    Dear Neal,
    I use FF on my mac, and all seems to be fine.
    I don’t pay.
    I’d wish they improve LI / some LI features, though I always had a recommends, no ‘annoying pages’ /some of ex. that u mentioned, I need to check others/
    Warm regards, II.

  9. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for the comment Inna…and glad to hear it works well for you using FF on Mac. The thing is I don’t have issues on Google Chrome, only with LinkedIn…

  10. says

    Neal,

    The Service Provider section used to be one of the main 4 Links on LinkedIn … People, Jobs, Answers & Service Providers. When they added the Companies section they simply placed Service Providers under it.

    I viewed this at the time as a big guy vs. small guy value statement form LinkedIn. Companies initially were added by LinkedIn and tended to be larger companies. The Service Providers section is made up of a bunch of categories that are represented more by self employed individuals.

    I think it’s a valuable part of LinkedIn but unfortunately it goes unnoticed by many users.

  11. says

    Neal,

    The Service Provider section used to be one of the main 4 Links on LinkedIn … People, Jobs, Answers & Service Providers. When they added the Companies section they simply placed Service Providers under it.

    I viewed this at the time as a big guy vs. small guy value statement form LinkedIn. Companies initially were added by LinkedIn and tended to be larger companies. The Service Providers section is made up of a bunch of categories that are represented more by self employed individuals.

    I think it’s a valuable part of LinkedIn but unfortunately it goes unnoticed by many users.

  12. Neal Schaffer says

    Hey Sean,

    Thanks for stopping by and for including some historical background on the issue. I never really noticed it until recently, but it is clear that although LinkedIn is always in a constant state of flux, they are definitely favoring big companies over the small guy. I agree that the concept of Service Providers is a great one, but to this day I still cannot view the information ;-( Bummer….

    - Neal

  13. Neal Schaffer says

    Hey Walt,

    Thanks for your comment. I used to work for a browser vendor (http://www.espial.com), so I can honestly say that this does not appear to be a browser issue. The friend that couldn’t see the Service Provider Directory but could see the People You May Want to Invite was the same person, and he was using IE. I am using Chrome. I actually just went to LI again and tried it on my own IE, but alas same results. It is interesting that you are getting different results with FF which may partially explain some of this, but I don’t think that is enough to explain away the issue. Agree?

    - Neal

  14. Neal Schaffer says

    I can see how the browser issue could be the root to some of your problems! I definitely don’t have any of those issues with Chrome…it’s clean and fast, although it doesn’t have the extensions that you probably love about Firefox…

  15. Neal Schaffer says

    Thanks for the comment Inna…and glad to hear it works well for you using FF on Mac. The thing is I don’t have issues on Google Chrome, only with LinkedIn…

  16. Neal Schaffer says

    Hey Sean,

    Thanks for stopping by and for including some historical background on the issue. I never really noticed it until recently, but it is clear that although LinkedIn is always in a constant state of flux, they are definitely favoring big companies over the small guy. I agree that the concept of Service Providers is a great one, but to this day I still cannot view the information ;-( Bummer….

    - Neal

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