By most measures LinkedIn is one of the most successful social networks ever created. That said, the company is still working to educate a large percentage of the population — even those with profiles — on how to use the service, and why it’s valuable.
“We are still trying to have people understand what having a public professional profile means,” founder Reid Hoffman tells Sarah Lacy at tonight’s PandoMonthly fireside chat.
Lacy was the first to admit that she rarely uses the site, because she has never found herself looking for a job in the LinkedIn era. “I sort of think of it like the AAA card that’s in the back of my wallet,” she says. “I know that it’s all filled out — my information is all there — and I’m sure that it’s providing me some sort of value, but I have no idea what it is.
Hoffman was quick to counter with a list of features and benefits available nowhere else. “How do you know what’s going on in the industry?” he asked. “How do you invest in yourself? What are the right trends that are going on? What’s the selection of the entire Internet that’s relevant to you as a professional? All of those things, those value propositions, are there in some form now.”
As Lacy pointed out, I’m in the same boat as Hoffman, finding enormous value in the professional social network and use it on a regular basis in my reporting — I frequently cross check the work-history and connections of sources and the subjects of stories I write.
The founder went on to describe the difficulty in using tools that enable users to move in ways that they weren’t before. As he pointed out, most people aren’t very good at this. “It’s our job to help them,” Hoffman says. “We get told all the time that we have a boring user interface. I’m certain there are things that we can massively improve. We learn. We try to fix that. Our brains don’t work like computers. I will actually use LinkedIn as my prosthetic memory.”
“If I can convert the Wall Street ‘that’s amazing’ talk to ‘now we understand better how to use the product,’ that’s something I would take,” concludes Hoffman.