Back in the early 90s…(last century), I spent 4 really terrific years as the creative director of a great little marketing company called the Long Group.
One of our clients was Rogers Communications, which was the division of the massive Rogers empire that had to do with the Rogers Cable TV network.
The first meeting I had with them was a tactical discussion on different ways to announce rate increases and another discussion on general overall communications strategy.
Being the new kid in the meeting, everybody was curious to know what my own take on strategy would be. So I told them. And it was really simple.
1. Be invisible.
2. Only become visible when there is a problem, explain it honestly, then solve it quickly and…
3. Become invisible again.
I wrote it on a whiteboard and they stared at it for a long time.
They asked me if there was any more to this strategy, and I told them that there was not. And I also told them why.
And the why was that people pay them good money for a TV service. And they’re happy to pay for that service as long as it’s a good service. And when the service has a glitch, which they understand will happen, they expect it to be fixed fast and be back on board getting their money’s worth.
This strategy is what it is because if it was any more complex than that, people would become resentful because they would start thinking that Rogers was taking up too much of their time, and people have little of that to give away.
They asked me how I came to this strategic position and my answer was simple. I am a customer. So I asked myself what my level of expectation was and what I told them was what I told myself.
People don’t care about your internal problems. They don’t want to know all the details of how you are tweaking your service. They’re buying a service that they see as a product. The product is advertised as something that’s going to be a good value to them.
So it had better deliver or you will hear about it. And so will the media.
My Customer Perspective On LinkedIn
While LinkedIn is different from a cable service, there are similarities. They have customers and whether they are paying customers or non-paying customers (who actually do pay by being exposed to ads), there is a certain level of expectation here.
The Ubiquitous 80/20 Rule Of Just Abut Everything
The 80/20 Rule of Just About Everything states, in this case that probably about 80% or more of the LinkedIn customer base are passive. They don’t actively participate, they just nose around reading the odd INfluencer blog and looking for a job. They basically don’t know or care what really goes on here.
The 20% of active and engaged LinkedIn members make use of a lot of the services here, including the Pulse publishing platform.
Where The Dysfunction Is Most Obvious
Since the launch of Pulse last June or July, LinkedIn has been screwing around with the Almighty Algorithm than controls who sees what on Pulse.
I have been pretty vocal about this over the past several months, simply because I cannot, as a customer, not figure out what was so wrong with Pulse that it needed to be screwed around with so much.
And a lot of people share my mystification.
There are a number of theories being floated around, and none of them are very flattering to the marketing, or customer relationship skills of those who are calling these shots.
From The Customer Point Of View
I have read tons of absolutely brilliant posts, from bloggers on the Pulse platform, that are going nowhere. That are not being featured or promoted by LinkedIn, based on their merit as valuable and useful pieces of communication.
Instead, the majority of the material that gets special attention from LinkedIn is, let’s just say not at the same level of value.
I know this because I’m a customer. Like most customers I have read a great many of the so called INfluencer posts, and came away with a distinct feeling of “Where’s The Beef?”
The writers and authors who post their articles on the Pulse platform, and I know a large number of them now, are perfectly willing to let the chips fall where they may and find their audience organically.
The problem is that the deck is stacked against them, to the point where they cannot even count on LinkedIn to notify their followers when they have published a new post. And to add insult to injury, LinkedIn even tells them that is what they are doing. But they’re not.
I know this because I am a customer, and I polled my followers and no more than a handful have ever received a notification about any of my 267 Pulse posts.
I would respectfully submit, as a professional marketer, that by their actions, or inaction, LinkedIn is shooting themselves in the foot.
And where this will take them long term is down a slippery slope which will be a direct result of:
1. Pissed off bloggers and other engaged members, who will be on the first train out, a number of whom already are, and
2. Fewer visitors and new members, because there will be less worthwhile content to read here and therefore less reason to play.
The content that LinkedIn Pulse generates is part of the lifeblood of the site. The number of groups that have formed in LinkedIn are also part of that lifeblood.
These are what make the site interesting and appealing. As a customer, I spend the vast majority of my time in those areas.
But all the screwing around that LinkedIn does just make it increasingly unappealing for bloggers to want to posts on Pulse and increasing more difficult for group and community managers to do a good job of managing and growing their groups.
From The Customer Perspective, This Doesn’t Look Good
The fact that LinkedIn doesn’t appear to see the marketing logic of a level playing field for all members on their site makes me think that, as marketers, they are pretty clueless.
There is a great deal of inequity. Customers and group and community managers, i.e. the people who provide the content for LinkedIn are complaining constantly, maybe not to LinkedIn (because that’s hard to do), but to each other. And these numbers are growing.
When it will reach a critical mass is anybody’s guess. When LinkedIn will stop its endless tinkering, also anybody’s guess.
If It Ain’t Broke…Don’t Break It.
In the eyes of many engaged customers, LinkedIn is broken. Many of us are simply hanging in because it’s just one more place to post, as opposed to what it used to be, which was the place to post.
My advice to LinkedIn, and it really comes from the heart, because I hate to see this happening, is simply this:
Fix it. Level the playing field so that all your content providers have equal opportunity. So the groups can run like they used to and be user friendly again. So that people will start recommending LinkedIn as opposed to avoiding it.
Then become invisible. The customer will know you’re there. But it won’t be thought of as there in the pain-in-the-ass way.
Start helping your customers and they will show their appreciation. That’s actually the very first thing I learned in marketing.
Jim Murray, (that would be me), is the creative director of Onwords & Upwords, a Toronto based communications resource that creates and implements strategically focused branding, advertising & promotion in all media for companies who appreciate solid creative thinking and value reasonable rates.
I am a strategist, writer, art director and producer. I work directly for companies in the SME sector and or the business & marketing consultants who work with them.
Lately, I have been have great conversations with several entrepreneurs about the direction their businesses are taking. I like to think that’s helpful to them and that when they get themselves organized, they’ll be able to hire me to help them.
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