What the purchase of LinkedIn means for recruitment marketing budgets

June 17, 2016

I joined LinkedIn as a member years ago when it started and I have benefited from it.  I love what it can do and I have been a huge advocate of it.

Yet increasingly I am becoming disillusioned.  The restrictions put on the use of the product and forcing people to pay increasingly more for it is getting out of hand, the inability to have a conversation with anyone in a support capacity is tiring, and the whole American style approach of the company has lost its quirkiness and is becoming frustrating.

Even the account managers I work with, good people, have their hands so tied that the blood circulation is likely to be cut off anytime soon.  They cannot get answers to simple questions, have no latitude and are clearly under micromanagement.  And yet every meeting or conversation I have with them on behalf of a client is less about how I can get the product to work better for my clients, and more driven by how LinkedIn can get even more money from them.

We need it to be known: recruiters are not cash cows for LinkedIn to put increasingly higher prices onto them.

This company, whose invoices are requested for payment in Ireland*,  have now been given the title in the recruitment industry of “necessary evil”.  And that is not a good place for LinkedIn to be.

What it means is that people in the recruitment industry are waiting for the next big thing to come along.  And not just waiting – frantically hoping.  They are falling out of love with this innovative business social network and are ready to move on.

Let’s get one thing straight.  Recruitment marketers and CEOs are prepared to pay for LinkedIn (and boy do they pay for it as any recruitment marketer knows).  It is not about recruiters being tight.  Nobody expects to get something for nothing.  But at the moment LinkedIn have the recruitment industry, to coin a phrase, by the proverbial ‘short and curlies’.  And with the purchase by Microsoft, the fear is that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

Remember, a significant bulk of their revenue comes from recruitment based activities and/or companies.  Maximising this is going to be their priority.

In the UK it was a similar story with reed.co.uk . The move from “freecrutiment” for those of you old enough to remember, to the traditional job board caused similar feelings.  Then recruiters felt betrayed and targeted.  Whilst somerecruiters stayed with Reed, others – a huge number of others – moved away.  I strongly believe it is why the likes of CV Library and Indeed have come alive in the UK.  Without Reed.co.uk pricing themselves out of the market for many (they will insist that visitors remain strong, and the company is performing well financially.  In fact it is a board I quite like, but this is a separate argument to the once being made), these other things may not have come about.  And the cycle repeats itself as I am increasingly becoming aware of more and more clients getting fed up with indeed.

Maybe we need this natural evolution to promote innovation:  Start something organically; get everyone interested; invest in it; grow it; introduce reasonable charges; get too ambitions; sacrifice what people loved about it; remerge as something else.

Perhaps we’ll all look back at Linkedin in 10 years and wonder what it was all about.

For now though, all recruiters I speak to would like it to go back to what it used to be, and that may well be difficult if Microsoft need to make every dollar back.  There are many recruitment marketers and CEOs worrying about their marketing budgets for next year.

Microsoft need to tread carefully, otherwise they could find themselves spurning innovation more quickly.

Of course I could be totally wrong.  Recruitment companies may fall in love with LinkedIn all over again, the evolution of products they promise may be affordable to companies that aren’t in the top 15 recruitment agencies, account managers will allow recruiters to properly trial a product without having to pay, draconian ways of working which don’t suit the UK recruitment industry may change, and it may not be seen as a necessary evil, but as a necessary pleasure.

And to be completely frank, it is still an enormously valuable tool, but this week has had many people questioning LinkedIn and so it has been a great opportunity to gauge opinion. I do still love it, but just in a different way.  So what do you think?

*Linkedin insist it’s not based in Ireland for tax reasons, that they contribute to the UK economy, pay all UK taxes owed and that any inference comparing it to Google, Starbucks et al and/or stating it is set up this way to avoid paying UK corporation tax is unfounded.