This will be the fourth and last look at the recent changes made by LinkedIn in the Groups and Inbox functionality. Now that Inbox is positioned, literally, in the top center of your Home Page and as the central location for your online communications on the professional networking site, it raises the question of how do you actually utilize the Inbox.
I actually created a question on Answers to ask others how they utilize Inbox in comparison to all of the other email, web, and social media applications that exist. You can see all of the answers here: http://budurl.com/neal6.
In general, people don’t like having to use Inbox. In fact, most people that answered the question stay away from using the mail functionality provided by both LinkedIn as well as Facebook, preferring to use Outlook or an Internet Mail client like Gmail. I fall into this same category. If this is the case, shouldn’t LinkedIn try to utilize what everyone else is using instead of trying to reinvent the wheel? I mean, if an online social networking platform is only an extension of our professional networking, why do we need to do everything within its own infrastructure? Shouldn’t LinkedIn be coming into our way of communicating with people? Having become a big Twitter person recently, I can see how their approach of an open API allows the community to create great applications like TweetDeck. There is so much potential for LI to do the same!
If Inbox provided functionality or performance that was even close to Outlook or Gmail it would be acceptable, but that is not the case. Yet, they perform enhancements on the Inbox that, together with new restrictions for LinkedIn Group Managers, are forcing more people to have to use Inbox. Why?
The only reason that I could think of is that they want to increase the number of people coming to the site for more views, and thus more advertising revenue. In other words, this is part of their plan to monetize the service. LinkedIn claimed the changes were in the name of “privacy”, but it sounds to me that a lot of members already are putting their email addresses and phone numbers on their profile, so if they wanted to create a “stickier” service, shouldn’t they concentrate on improving the basic service, performance, or functionality? The new LinkedIn Group “enhancements” are a boom to Ning.com as Group Managers set up secondary sites there, and I believe that this combined with the new Inbox “enhancements” are driving people away from using LinkedIn to communicate with others.
As many people who answered my question said, after they make a connection, they exchange email addresses, and then immediately move to another email communication platform. I believe that LinkedIn really needs to look at addressing this problem if they want to keep their user base happy. If you agree with me, show me with your comments to this post. Maybe if we get enough comments here someone will listen…
As for those who want to know how best to utilize their Inbox, where there is no functionality to create folders, delete mails, bad performance when sending to more than one person, and difficulty in following a message history with someone (which Facebook does well, by the way), my only advice is to do your communication elsewhere until LinkedIn makes some serious changes. One answer recommended importing everything into Outlook and mentioned that you can respond to a LinkedIn mail directly from Outlook assuming that that person is directly connected with you. I am a Gmail person myself, but both approaches (Outlook as well as after connecting moving to Gmail) seem to make the most sense.
Let’s hope that LinkedIn has some tricks up their sleeves on how to improve the situation over the next several weeks…