There's a lot going right for LinkedIn nowadays. It's on the back of its most successful quarter and year - boasting 202 million members and 116 million unique visitors - it has a business model that the majority of sites envy and it's showing stable growth in the stock market while other sites fluctuate wildly.
Overall, in a time of disruption to desktop sites, LinkedIn has a very solid foundation and while it's taking its time with the move to mobile - it does have a very solid app, it must be said - it seems to be making a few odd moves as it begins 2013, moves that are coming across as puzzling and even annoying some users.
Two things has happened since the start of the year. The first has been LinkedIn sending out offers to upgrade to its premium service over the month of January. This isn't entirely new, LinkedIn has been sending these types of emails regularly over the past few months, but the frequency of which they have appeared seems to have increased. Messages that aim to entice and encourage users to get more out of the service.
You only have to look at the wording used to see how this works. For one it calls you a "loyal LinkedIn member," which depending on how often you check it, will make you feel like the site values your membership. Once it has your attention, the stats it provides will convince you to sign up to the service since figures get a message across faster than a long description.
The second factor happened this week. Chances are you will have received or seen people mention that they're in the top 1/5/10% (delete irrelevant values) most viewed profiles on the site. When I first heard about it, my initial thought once I saw people posting it was that it was spam, it seemed like an odd move to make and was one that was somewhat uncharacteristic of the site. However, it was when numerous reputable people on Twitter started tweeting the same thing and sharing screenshots of it that I decided this wasn't the case.
While the premium signup email is rather self-explanatory, the top profile views isn't. So what is LinkedIn playing at and what does it expect to achieve?
Stroking The Ego
To make a long answer short: It's to increase the number of visits to the site. In a sense, it's rather clever. For one, my Twitter feed has been bombarded with "Hurray, I've one of the top x% most viewed profiles on LinkedIn," which gives the entire idea some virility and gets people talking about it, both positively and negatively.
Also, more importantly, it gives people an ego boost because who doesn't like being popular? If you use the service regularly and you didn't get the email, then you might feel a little peeved and will start using it more so that you do become popular. Either way, it becomes a powerful motivational tool for wanting to use the service more. While the majority of users would sign up and forget about it, provided you use it regularly, being in the top 10% isn't inconceivable by any means as Dan Barker explains in this brilliantly succinct post.
While LinkedIn has services like company pages and LinkedIn today, the site wants those people who view it as a glorified CV and instead for what it really is, a professional social network. It already has recruiters and dedicated professionals using the service regularly. Now it needs to entice those people who rarely use it to start using it more, to the point that they check it as often as they do with Facebook or Twitter.
It's been doing things to make the site more accessible, the app is an example of how to put together a vibrant user interface and LinkedIn Today is slowly becoming a valuable news portal. However, for the average user who would be more inclined to visit Facebook or Twitter, they would only login if they happened to look for a job.
LinkedIn does have a lot going for it, and running this gives it a nice bit of publicity, but it will need to do more than this if it's going to increase page views.