The wealth of features that LinkedIn offers is superb (whether you pay or use it for free), and whilst all interactive websites have room for improvement, LinkedIn has a huge amount to offer anyone who uses it. It’s been incredibly impressive how LinkedIn has transformed itself from being a ‘fancy jobs site’ to a real-time business networking resource.
But this week, for reasons that any serious user of the site can’t quite understand, LinkedIn retired one of its most valuable features – Signal. And in the process seriously devalued its Search tool capability.
If you missed it, Signal would (in LinkedIn’s own words):
1. Filter: Browse only relevant status updates from your stream
2. Search for keywords, topics or people across the stream
3. Get an auto updated real-time stream with rich content
4. Find the hottest trending links across any relevant topic
5. Who’s Shared This Link?
6. Saved real time searches
Probably Signal’s core benefit was to be able to save searches on any topic under the sun, and then in one central place keep right up to date on who’s talking about it, where they are talking about it and then to utilise or engage with the information. A lot of people use Signal to find jobs with specific keywords in them and others used it to keep up to speed on mentions of themselves or their company. Either way, you were only limited by your imagination as to how you could benefit from it.
LinkedIn has a track record of retiring and introducing features in a fairly awkward manner; it often announces new features which a lot of users don’t see until many weeks later and also inexplicably retires some of its best features. I say ‘inexplicably’, the standard response along the lines of “… is being retired to better focus our resources and efforts on creating enhanced tools and experiences for our members” will often appear somewhere in the announcement.
For example, until it too was retired, LinkedIn’s Events tool was (for me at least) standard kit for promoting seminars, events and conferences – and not only that, for finding events that you might wish to attend. You used to be able to see a list of suggested events which were based on your profile page information and also a list of people who you knew who were already booked to attend.
You couldn’t get a better tool to a) promote your own events and b) to foster professional networking than that. What’s more, when you listed an event on LinkedIn, it would appear on the first page of Google search results for its keywords just twenty minutes later.
And then there was LinkedIn Answers – a fantastic feature where you could ask and answer questions about anything and everything. When you answered a question thoughtfully and carefully, you stood every chance of having your answer ‘rated’ by the questioner, thereby enhancing the perception of your online reputation. LinkedIn quite rightly stresses the importance of building and managing your professional reputation, but then goes and retires a feature which achieves that admirably – far better in many people’s opinion than the current Endorsements section.
What will LinkedIn retire next? Groups perhaps. Groups are incredibly powerful and popular, so maybe it’s time to get rid of that feature too.
But maybe I’m speaking too soon. Credit where it’s due, LinkedIn are bringing in new features on an amazingly regular basis, so for sure there will be something exciting to work with sooner or later. But retiring Signal on top of Events and Answers just seems poorly thought-through.
Who knows why LinkedIn retired Signal, but ultimately it will be something to do with revenue and its model moving forward. It’s just a huge shame that for a site that seeks to promote online professional networking, they’ve just taken a backward step in its facilitation.
By Philip Calvert