In the past two weeks, I've had to answer five different rounds of questions about a Linked In "Company page". When I say five different rounds, that's essentially questions about the same topic, repeated five times in five different ways from five different people. Well, truth be told, one of those was the same person relaying a stream of conscious question that was about the same topic but raised in a slightly different way.
For your average moronic observer (like the guy who raised the question twice), it's a simple question of WTF, this area is hot, people are submitting inquiries, there is interest, WHY AREN'T WE DOING SOMETHING?!? Meanwhile, you and I, we're trained marketing pros -- we're sitting back, glassy eyed thinking, "what is this about"?
Linked In's company page feature is not new. It's similar to company pages on Facebook. It's a dynamically created page assembled from their database based on people selecting that company as where they work. From there, the page can be expanded with supplemental content. All well and good. Linked In also enables people who register with a company domain email address to become 'Admins' for the page. This ad hoc approach to administration is not new either, but it does raise important things to consider about who is publishing your company data and on which sites. If your company chooses not publish on Facebook or Linked In, should you have to monitor these types of sites that enable ad hoc administration and publishing?
But my real concern with Linked In's company page is that their product section. If you don't have products listed, they have a link that allows you to send a message to the company to let them know that you'd like to see their products and services listed on the page. This is the source of my recent round of WTF emails.
Essentially, Linked In wants to incite their visitors to shame our business into building content for their site.
So, as a marketing pro, the question that you have to ask is who is the audience for this and how do they use this content? How is it different from content that they have elsewhere? And why should we have to add content to their site when they could simply link to our web site?
While I understand using Linked In to help with hiring or to research social relationships in a business, I'm at a loss to understand how putting information about our products and services on their site is supposed to help our business -- unless our business is recruiting or sales consulting.
The Shame Engine
The really stupid part of this Linked In issue is the whole "send a message" aspect of this. Let's call it a shame engine. Essentially, it's similar to social shaming apps that try to drive behavioral change by socially publishing information about what you do so that you'll feel obligated to behave differently that might otherwise. Of course, it's one thing when you choose to use one of these things, it's another when you are simply subjected to it. That's kind of a dick move.
But using a Shame Engine is not limited to Linked In. Microsoft recently released an app for Windows Phone users called "Where's my App?". The app is supposed to help Windows Phone users find apps that are similar to software that's available on iOS or Android. But if you can't find a Windows Phone version of the app, it allows you to "send requests to app developers, encouraging them to develop for Windows Phone".
Ultimately, I think that attempting to leverage this approach against a business in this way is a significant marketing misstep for company using it. For Microsoft, it smells of desperation. With Linked In, there has always been sense of skeptical discontent inside the corporate firewall -- this is likely to push policies on restricted use.