Meet the new Mr Clippy

'Should I stay or should I go?' That's the song that keeps being played on BBC Radio 4's PM programme for their lengthy named but light hearted section about the EU referendum. It's also something I found myself asking with the news that LinkedIn had been bought by Microsoft.

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Now LinkedIn has not been doing well for some time now and has seen its share price fall by almost 50% before the buyout. Among the many complaints about the network is that it is infested with spam, people you have never met are able to give recommendations making them meaningless and so on.

The $26.2 billion buyout is good for LinkedIn, in a way. However, the presence of Microsoft in the deal is turning a lot of people away and may well be a poisoned chalice for the social network. You see LinkedIn isn’t making money, its value to Microsoft is in its users and their data. Microsoft hope to leverage that in Cortana and Microsoft Office. What with all the negative stories about Windows 10 and fears about Big Brother, trust in Microsoft is rather low. In comments online I saw many people saying they had or are planning to delete their LinkedIn account now that Microsoft is the owner.

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The proportion of people saying they had left felt quite high, so I started a poll to find out if my assumptions were correct. At the time of this writing the split is roughly a third saying they have left or are planning to leave, a third that they are thinking about it and a third that they are staying. The number of responses are low at the moment, but early indications are that this is really not good for LinkedIn. Time will inevitably tell.

I mentioned that one of the criticisms of LinkedIn is the amount of spam that users have to deal with. That is often true of other networks too. Just this week in a Facebook group I use, someone commented on the number of ‘adverts’ being posted by businesses, which lead to a discussion about it. A lot of the posts were worded like adverts you may find in the classified section of a local free newspaper and often contained the exact same text and the exact same image each time. That is not social behaviour and - like Microsoft buying LinkedIn - puts people off. If you are trying to sell a product or services, do you really want to be putting people off?

You see there is a misconception that social media can be used as a free advertising network, when in fact it is a free social network. The difference is really important. You can still advertise on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and others (not Google+), but you have to pay for the privilege.

It is still possible to market your business on social networks and to do it well, without ‘advertising’, but it does require some effort on your part. My advice to anyone wishing to do that is to listen to others and be helpful. Join groups, follow people and connect with others. In other words, be social. It really is that simple.