Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Company Blog Checkup: LinkedIn

LinkedIn created waves earlier this year in the blogosphere when it made the surprisingly smart move of hiring Mario Sundar, one of the most popular and respected marketing bloggers, to be its Community Evangelist. Soon after that, the networking site announced that it was launching a blog. The blog has been up and running for a couple of months, and now that they've had time to get their feet wet, how does it stack up?

The first thing that strikes you when you arrive at LinkedIn's blog, is how incredibly clean the layout is. Seriously, is that not gorgeous? It's very minimalist, but the plain white background is contrasted by the pictures of EACH author in EACH post, and the Flickr photo set on the side. Just love it.

Now let's move to the all-important content section. First, I noticed that as with many company blogs, posting is sporadic. For example, there's only been 6 posts on the blog this month, and 2 of them have been left in the last 3 days. Again, many companies don't have a regular posting schedule, and I think an easy way to solve this problem, especially for a blog with multiple writers, is to simply have each writer commit to a set number of posts a week. It appears that LinkedIn has at least 4 regular writers, so why not have each commit to at least a post a week? Then if anyone else wants to occasionally post twice in a week, that gets you up to 4-5 posts a week, which is fine for a company blog.

LinkedIn seems to be focusing its subject matter mainly on posts related to its community of users, and site features. Good choices (although I would like to see more posts on networking and careers in general). The blog notifies users of community-oriented offline events, which are also a great way to foster evangelism for the site. But just from scanning the number of comments left, it's obvious that the posts that are related to explaining some of the site's features are easily the most popular. And just from scanning the recent posts, you see that you have to go back to last month to find one of these type of 'tutorial' posts. This needs to become a weekly feature ASAP. Pick a day, say every Wednesday, to tackle a different LinkedIn feature, and explain it in depth to LinkedIn's users. What the feature is, and how we can utilize it effectively. My guess is that you could even expand this and leave a post on say Monday asking for readers to give their feedback on what topic they'd like to see covered in Wednesday's post, then pick the winner from reader comments (which is also a great way to give your readers a greater sense of ownership over the content of the blog).

Now let's turn to comments. Attention to comments seemed to be hit or miss. The writers seemed to do a pretty good job of replying and addressing comments left for the 'instructional' type posts, but were a bit lax in the others. So many of the people I talk to about LinkedIn simply have no idea how to use the service. For the most part, I am in this category as well. So I think it really behooves the staff at LinkedIn to do everything they can to encourage conversation, because I believe there's a lot of people out there that want to learn more about LinkedIn and how to properly use it. BTW the 'instructional' type posts seemed to easily be the most popular, again based on solely number of comments.

Finally let's look at the sidebar. All the 'greatest hits' are here, the archives, recent posts, a button to subscribe, and LinkedIn also clearly spells out its comment policy, which I think is a nice touch. And they also include a cool Flickr set. Inbetween the Flickr set, and having pics up of EACH author in EACH post, LinkedIn is the first company I have seen that is all over using pictures to give their blog a sense or personality. They even do a better job with this than the Kodak blog did.

But the problem I see on the sidebar is that I don't see any non-company links. Where is a link to a site to help me with relocation? A cost-of-living calculator? Career guides? Again, I am assuming that if someone is using LinkedIn regularly, they are either looking for work, or workers. So I would tailor my sidebar around offering content with the reader in mind. Or what about a section for articles that the writers tag as they come across them? There's a ton of blank space on the sidebar that could be utilized for this.

All in all, LinkedIn has the usual mix of some good and bad areas. I absolutely love the look of the blog, and I think it's the best company blog I've featured so far for using photos on the blog. On the flipside, I think the posting needs to get on a regular schedule, and the content and commenting needs a bit more attention.

Now having said all of that, I would be completely remiss if I did not point out that LinkedIn's blog has only been up for 2 months. So any of the criticism should be taken with the assumption that the blog is still to some degree a work in progress (as they all are). In fact I started not to even profile the blog now, and instead wait a few more months, but I figured that it's sometimes easier to act on advice when you get it at the start, rather than after a blog has gotten 'set in its ways'.

And I can verify that Mario does spend time on other blogs replying to users' comments/posts about LinkedIn, and encouraging their feedback. This is a HUGE plus for the company, and it's exactly why they were smart to snag Mario as their Community Evangelist.

And now let's go to the scoring:

Content: 29 (Out of a possible 35) - The blog is positioned as a resource to show users how to better use its features, and to give examples of users that have successfully done so.

Comments: 23 (Out of a possible 35) - Most posts get comments, but few get over 10, and the writers could be more active in replying to LinkedIn's users that comment.

Posting Schedule: 11 (Out of a possible 15) - The blog averages about 3-4 posts a week, but I do see some gaps and multiple-post days.

Sidebars: 8 (Out of a possible 15) - Love how each writer has their pic and link to their LinkedIn profile on their posts. But I don't see a blogroll, although I do like the Flickr photos and explanation of the comment policy.

Total Score: 71 (Out of a possible 100)

If anyone from LinkedIn wants to discuss this Company Blog Checkup with me, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, or both. And keep in mind that every company so far has responded to their Company Blog Checkup with their own feedback, so I know LinkedIn wants to continue that streak, right guys?

If you're a company that would like to hire me to do an extensive checkup of your blog, you can click here for more information on my blogging and social media consulting services. And if anyone can think of a company blog that they want me to do a checkup on, feel free to email me, or leave a comment here!

UPDATE: Mario Sundar, LinkedIn's Community Evangelist, leaves his feedback in the comments.

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Anonymous said...


This is a great series -- thanks for investing the time. Lots to be learned here!


nat said...

Thanks for these post. Together these posts form a checklist that all companies should follow as they are starting and redesigning their blog processes.

Anonymous said...

Good post and review Mack. How do those you review react to your critiques?

Mack Collier said...

Drew and Nat, glad you're enjoying the series!

Lewis you can check the previous entries, as so far Kodak, HomeGoods, and Dell have all been very good about leaving their feedback, and taking my checkup as advice more than criticism. Which is how I approach the series. Dell has also invited me to talk with them later this month about their blog, Direct2Dell.

Mario said...

First off, tremendous post, Mack. You hit all the right notes with this post and your feedback is along the lines of the changes we've planned thus far.

1. The Layout: It's work in Progress. As you may've noticed we've made some subtle changes this week, like adding a search box (which I think is so important for a blog) as well as removing redundant categories.

2. Feature posts are exactly what users demand and we've already planned a tutorial series. In the meanwhile, you will see regular feature posts. Stay tuned for updates shortly.

3. Schedule: We're currently at an average of 2 to 3 posts a week and the goal is to increase it to 4 posts a week shortly.

Thanks a ton for your in-depth analysis. Much appreciated and valuable.

Mack Collier said...

Mario a tutorial series is a home-run waiting to happen. If there was only one change you could make to the blog, I would do that. And if possible add a way for readers to vote on what area they want instruction on, maybe even add a poll on the sidebar?

But the steps you have outlined should get LinkedIn's blog seriously firing on all cylinders. I'll be sure to do a followup post later in year. And thanks for stopping by to explain what LinkedIn is working on!