When you enter your zip code into your profile, LinkedIn will display your city based on its own algorithm and database of metropolitan areas. Let’s take a look at how these locations are defined. If you go to your “Connections” screen on LinkedIn and choose the “Advanced Options” to “Filter by Location”, it is interesting what geographies of your connections show up on LinkedIn and which do not. These are the same locations that will appear when viewing someone’s profile. Smaller cities sometimes appear as their own location, while bigger metropolitan areas are usually bundled together.
For instance, in my native California, big cities like Bakersfield (315,000+ population), Fresno (470,000+), Modesto (200,000+), Sacramento (460,000+), and Stockton (285,000+) have their own locations. But so do very small cities like Redding, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara – each of these cities have a population of less than 100,000 but will be displayed if you live near then in your LinkedIn profile. Why does this upset me?Well, even though these smaller cities have their own locale on LinkedIn, the three biggest metropolitan areas are all lumped together into one: Greater Los Angeles area, Greater San Diego area, and San Francisco Bay area (hey, why isn’t it called Greater San Francisco area?). And, although I cannot speak for the demographics of San Diego and San Francisco, I live in Orange County. Orange County is considered part of the Greater Los Angeles area. Yet, after Los Angeles County and San Diego County, Orange County is the third most populous county in California with a population of more than three million. And how can you tell me that if you lived in Redding you will get your city name listed on your profile but everyone in Orange County is lumped together as part of L.A.? Orange County has its own airport, area codes, sports teams…what does Orange County have to do to be considered a separate location?
To be fair to LinkedIn, I can understand that they probably modeled this on some geographically-based algorithm. But if recruiters are one of their main customers, and if all of the job sites that I see list Orange County as a distinct location, shouldn’t it be in LinkedIn’s interest to do so as well?
LinkedIn has become such a social phenomenon that its users (myself included) are now making requests of it as if it is part of the public domain. This is a natural reaction to a technology becoming so pervasive in our lives that now its users are certainly making many requests on them. As the platform for professional networking becomes more pervasive, people will start forming opinions about it, both good and bad, in how it responds to user complaints. And how do they respond to such a request, to have Orange County become a specific location, to be put on the LinkedIn map?
Thank you for contacting LinkedIn Customer Support. We currently divide all global areas into geographic regions. However, these regions are not specific to the zip code level. We are providing broader search access capabilities by not limiting regions by zip code.
Responding to someone’s request in such a way makes one feel that LinkedIn really doesn’t care. And I don’t believe that that’s the case. I do believe that LinkedIn has evolved from a Silicon Valley start-up to a several hundred person enterprise. And maybe some of these issues are now slipping through the cracks and not being voiced to the people who matter inside the company, as what happens when small companies become bigger enterprises.
So, if you are a user of the networking platform and are unhappy about this, what can you do? A local friend of mine in Orange County, Sven Johnston, decided to take the initiative and do something both creative as well as empowering to those who live in Orange County and want to see change: he started his own LinkedIn Group! His Group, We are Orange County, has now grown to more than 1,250 members since being created on May 20 (that’s less than two weeks ago!), and the objective is to create change by petitioning to LinkedIn to create an Orange County locale through the numbers of members that are requesting it.
Already the Discussions board is filled with people networking with employees in Mountain View to try to convince them to change. The local Orange County newspaper, the O.C. Register, has also picked up on this and an article has already been published. In some ways, this group and movement have been created by the existence of LinkedIn itself, and utilizing a LinkedIn-created community is a perfect way to organically gather support within the platform for change.
I would go further in stating that this is a great example of how you can utilize social networking for a good cause, to create positive change for people in your community. If you don’t live in Orange County this may seem like a trivial thing, but to local residents who are very proud of their large community and want to see it given its due recognition, it is a sensitive issue.
Do you live in a geographic region that is not given its own unique existence in LinkedIn? Have you done something through LI for a greater cause? I am interested to hear other people’s opinions and experiences, as well as any advice that you have for us in Orange County. And I will definitely update you all on this blog if and when a resolution with LinkedIn is reached.