LinkedIn’s Gamification of Profile Views: More Harm than Good?
LinkedIn’s new “How You Rank Among Your Connection” function stacks your profile against those of all of your first-degree connections, according to the number of profile views yours is receiving compared to all of theirs. I described this new feature in detail in “Compete with Your LinkedIn Network for Profile Rank.” I was astonished by the overwhelming response to this post. Therefore, I am digging deeper now into the value of LinkedIn’s gamification of your profile. My initial impression of the new metric is that it can do more harm than good for legitimate job seekers.
You Are a Job Seeker, Not a Gamer
First and foremost, you are a job seeker, not a gamer trying to “win” in any arena other than the employment marketplace. To reduce your very real job search to a game is uncivil at best. Correct use of LinkedIn is essential, but for you to be focusing on an artificial competition imposed on you by the platform detracts from your true purpose in using it–building essential connections that drive your career transition. The new metric of how you compete with your network for page rank engages you to focus on the unnatural competition between you and the very people who are likely to be your most precious asset in your job search.
The Profile Rank Metric Measures Your Position but Tells You Nothing
Second, just because LinkedIn can measure something does not mean that the measurement has inherent value. Let us assume that your network is composed of one of three types of connections. On the one hand, you have those who can help you in your career transition but who could gain nothing otherwise from being your connection, such as senior executive leadership if you are a newer entrant to the employment marketplace. (Or you might be that leader who enjoys connecting with more junior players because you value the process of unearthing exceptional talent.) Next, you have those who can only gain from including you in their network, such as recruiters and those seeking to hire someone like you. Last, you have people professionally similar to you in industry and job function.
In slightly different terms, the first category is composed of people similar to you but to whom you pose no competition in the employment marketplace. The second category is composed of people who need your connection on some level (or vice-versa). The last category is composed entirely of connections with career histories, job functions, and experiences substantively similar to your own.
Unless your profile is actually composed 100% of people in the third category, the idea of ranking yourself against your every single one of your first-degree connections is baseless. There is truly no point in comparing your rank for profile views with, let us say, that of your grad school professor’s, that of your accountant’s, or that of your company’s CEO. The comparison measures two like things–the number of profile views you each receive–but relationship might be more apples-to-oranges than apples-to-apples than is immediately obvious.
Let us take a step back and look at this a different way: If we construct an artificial environment in which your first-degree connections are 100% like you, then the comparison metric makes sense. Theoretically, at one time or another, or even right now, you will be competing with this group for the scarce resources of informational interviews, knowledge of job opportunities, job interviews, and job offers. Of course, savvy job seekers connect with people across the three types, because all can influence and improve his or her success in the employment marketplace.
Your LinkedIn Profile Is Not Your Resume
Another critical problem with the gamification of your LinkedIn profile is that the comparison of profile views across your network encourages you to tweak your profile the way you might tweak your resume. Of course, there are very good reasons to consistently build a robust LinkedIn profile, and every participant on the platform should work hard to ensure that the profile represents the professional brand. However, tweaking for the sake of “beating” the competition has no value, given the fact that despite LinkedIn’s best efforts, your profile will never replace your resume.
There are going to be those who disagree with me; perhaps those in LinkedIn’s leadership will argue to the contrary, given the recent emphasis on applying for jobs posted on the platform (a revenue source for LinkedIn, clearly). However, smart job seekers know that not all job postings within an industry or job function are the same, so some tweaking is essential. LinkedIn has pitted savvy job seeking strategy against rank for page views.
LinkedIn, the Latest in Popularity Contests?
In conclusion, you need to decide for yourself how much you want to play the popularity game. Do you want more profile views, or do you want BETTER profile views? The best card you can play in this game is delivering top-flight content that accurately portrays your career history, accomplishments, and overall professional brand. I maintain that it is better to get 10 appropriate views by those
- In your industry or job function
- Connected to people who might be able to influence your career direction at some point
- Needing your help to improve their career prospects
- Positioned to influence the hiring people with your skills and expertise.
than 100 profile views from individuals unrelated to your area of expertise, whom you cannot help, or who cannot help you. If you focus on quality over mere popularity and cultivate meaningful connections, you inevitably will create real value out of your LinkedIn profile views. You will not be satisfied with the metric of LinkedIn profile view ranking as an end in and of itself.
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