UX & Youngsters: How LinkedIn Can Improve Postgrad Appeal

UX and Youngsters

How LinkedIn Can Improve Postgrad Appeal

UX and Youngsters
[Photo credit: Optician Training]

In my previous post, I discussed some of the problems that face LinkedIn with respect to recent college grads and youth in general. Rather than be a Debbie Downer, I figured it was time we added some actionable advice that would improve the platform’s relevancy.

One potential remedy to LinkedIn’s relationship with younger Millennials might come in the form of seeing when their contacts are online, so that they can interact with them in real time. A large problem with LinkedIn’s user engagement is the feeling that there is nobody else around during each visit. There might be posts from five minutes ago, updates from two minutes ago, but unless there’s that name with a green dot next to it, the site might as well be abandoned. Not only would real-time interaction and chat functions encourage interaction with peers, building a sense of community, but it would also provide enjoyment, the sense of reward that keeps people coming back. In the end, nobody is going to use a product if it doesn’t make them feel good, and positive interactions with friends, coworkers, and clients is a fantastic way to get users an enjoyable experience.

We polled a range of users to try and get a mix of attitudes, but the same sentiment was repeated almost verbatim:

“I don’t really use it. I don’t see the point.”

It’s not true for everybody, but at the end of the day, that is what LinkedIn lacks for these users: the point. Plenty of people have a profile, but many of them barely use it in comparison to the time they spend on other social media platforms (see above graphic). Many people consider it to be pretty much just an online resume, something that they never look at except to update and send to people they’re interviewing with. LinkedIn has a lot to offer, but its rewards aren’t enough to tempt these users. As of now, there aren’t really a ton of elements that tempt users to hang around and spend time there. Is there a notification? Okay, address it, then leave. Why stick around?

Groups have spotty participation, despite the occasional diamond in the rough, and are used as a source for self-promotion instead of discussion. In fact, groups are one of the biggest wasted opportunities to make LinkedIn useful for its younger users. The ability partition this online experience – to make the group smaller and choose who you spend your time with – is one of the best features about Facebook. They allow for closer relationships with friends, create a sense of community within the site, and encourage collaboration. But instead they’re another tool to push new connections, instead of strengthening existing ones; they’re not groups with friends, they’re groups with prospects. It feels very artificial, and most are just filled with links to people’s blog posts.

This issue isn’t directly LinkedIn’s fault, but it’s still a result of the general atmosphere of the site. To mitigate this trend, it would help to encourage users to make groups, and add their friends. For example, if you’ve just graduated with a degree in business, add all your friends with the same interests and use that to share resources and post opportunities, or let others know when your company is hiring.

The lack of quality content on LinkedIn has hindered its ability to make users stay. For the most part, younger users need content on their social networks as much as interacting with other people. Consider the Facebook newsfeed in 2015 – how much time is spent looking at people’s statuses, versus the amount of time spent following the huge amount of news articles, pictures, quizzes, and websites linked? Facebook has become for much more than a tool for communicating with other users, and this is an approach LinkedIn has not emphasized enough.

Pulse was definitely a step in the right direction, but the implementation has its own problems: what was once a publishing platform limited to “influencers” has expanded to allow anyone to publish an article. This has led to a dilution of content and a shouting match as everyone works angles to get their article noticed. While this might be a good outlet for some users to get started with writing practice, it lowers the overall quality of the content for readers. Many articles are well-written and interesting, but it can be annoying to wade through clickbait titles and rehashed information, articles filled with platitudes and non-advice. It also doesn’t help that contributors’ favorite word seems to be millennial, which treats the age group as a sort of commodity to be controlled, and feels incredibly paternalistic. It makes the site seem like a place for higher-ups to discuss how to parent these young scamps, not network with them.

This all might sound harsh, but these are very fixable problems that are holding LinkedIn back. The website is a behemoth, and it has the potential to draw much more engagement from users if it updates its layout and its structure of interaction. The foundation for a fantastic website is obviously there. And though it seems cluttered, there’s a beautiful product underneath – it just needs an ‘80s fixer-upper montage to clear out the gunk.

There are still plenty of younger people with accounts, and impossible to speak for an entire generation with 100% accuracy. But it is very frustrating for those entering the workforce – after all, they want LinkedIn to get better. It’s not exactly news that the job market is tough, and many graduates are lacking guidance in their career development. They want to take advantage of what the site has to offer, but if they lack the tools and guidance to interact with peers and potential employers, they will not have any use for it.

At the end of the day, younger people don’t avoid LinkedIn because it has nothing to offer, but because they have so many other, more attractive platforms for competing for their attention. There’s very little, if anything on it more interesting than there is on Facebook or Twitter, which leaves only professional development to LinkedIn, a feature stymied by lack of direction. So if the site wants to entice younger users to spend more time there, it’s going to have to lower the pressure of interaction, find natural ways to foster engagement, and provide more relevant content to keep users interested.

Luke is a G.H. Jenkins Award-winning journalist. He received his BA from the University of Michigan in Sociology and Writing. Drawing from his background promoting emerging ideas, Luke is an up-and-coming voice in business writing and brand outreach, providing insight on some of the overlooked aspects of public and professional communication.