LinkedIn shares drop 40%

Most finance directors are nervous when they have to declare their annual results.  However, there probably aren’t too many that suffer the type of reaction that LinkedIn‘s FD did today from the stock market.

Proudly announcing their latest results, LinkedIn reported 34% year on year revenue increases.  They lauded full year revenues of $2,991 million.  Yes, that’s a lot.

As they went on to say how Premium Member subscriptions had increased 19% they probably didn’t anticipate what was to come.

The markets were interested.  Unfortunately, they were a lot more interested in the forecasts LinkedIn gave for the coming years.  Every single analyst reacted badly.  In a nutshell, analysts from Mizohu said that the figures translated to forecast growth of 15% in 2017 and 10% in 2018.  In social media, and indeed in any market, a slowdown in growth to that extent isn’t something that gets a favourable reaction.

Shares have plummeted.  As you’ll see from the chart below, at the time we wrote this the shares had dropped 40%.  They’ve been as far down as 43% at various points today.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 17.33.00
40% drop in price in a matter of hours

There are more than a few investors and experts out there that still think it leaves the shares over-priced, especially in comparison to competitor social media companies.

One group of analysts, RBC, went as far as to say they thought LinkedIn had been on the cusp of fundamentally positive change – and then added, in a client note, “We were wrong”.

Let’s leave the finances to the experts though.  We want to look at what isn’t working.

LinkedIn can be a fantastic tool.  For business to business connections, recruiter to prospective employee, job seekers hunting down a new role or simple person to person connections, it provides a unique platform.

It isn’t enough.  Organic features for companies are weak.  They have been for some time now and they don’t appear to be any closer to being addressed.  LinkedIn focuses on revenue growth without giving enough features to get enough prospective clients interested in the first place.

Showcase Pages were a great addition – but they’ve not been promoted well enough by LinkedIn and their feature set is still limited.

Company Pages don’t offer enough.  They’re still low in visibility from a branding perspective and the interface is, frankly, awful.

linkedin2
Nice logo, shame about the feature set.

The potential is there but LinkedIn have to look at something that both Facebook and Twitter have been very good at – interface change.  They’ve adapted and redesigned their browser based interfaces for those using the channels in the workplace on desktop or laptop devices.

With the above in mind, go take a look at the LinkedIn web based interface.  It is quite simply the worst of any channel in clunkiness and layout.  We include Google+ in that too, and despite their recent redesign it takes some doing to have an interface worse than theirs.

The opening up of posts to all users (instead of just Premium Members) was a good move, but LinkedIn have been nothing short of woeful in their promotion of the feature.

The ability to brand personal profiles and add media to sections of a profile was a good change too.  Why then do so few users know about the features?

The fact of the matter is that most LinkedIn members visit the channel infrequently.  It is not a Facebook or Twitter for the majority.  It is an occasional site, particularly for when they want to change jobs.

LinkedIn isn’t intended to be a social medium in the same way that the other two giants of social media are.  There is a very obvious and well understood business focus.  That doesn’t mean you don’t need to get your members to the site as often as possible though.

The app is good.  They’ve invested a lot of time, effort and money in it – but at the expense of what should be a much easier to use web interface.

Then we come to communication.  There’s an irony in the fact that a communications network should be seen as unhelpful in 2016, but that’s exactly what we hear daily.

Users often struggle to reclaim old accounts if they’ve not got access to their original registered email account.  Or they find simple actions to be painful due to the previously mentioned interface.  They turn to help on LinkedIn and find that it is as pleasant as having a hot poker shoved in your face.  Help and customer service is dreadful from an online perspective.

Search has improved beyond compare to a few years ago.  They should be applauded for that.  Where are the real research tools though?  There is nothing whatsoever to stop LinkedIn creating a tool similar to Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.  Their own real-time monitoring app.  Social media users want ease of use, not pain.  LinkedIn doesn’t give them it.

Invest the time into LinkedIn, brand your profile or company page professionally (or University page), maintain a presence and you’ll find that LinkedIn offers rewards.  The problem is that a lot of businesses find it unwelcoming and frustrating to do so.

In summary:

Sort the interface out. It is poor.

Build a much larger set of organic features for businesses to use.

Promote improvements more widely and let users know they’re worth using.

Get the online help and customer service communication resolved.

LinkedIn will probably never see this and won’t be too bothered by our words.  Our clients are though and all we’ve done is list many of the comments and conversations we hear every day of every week.

Ignoring the real world and focusing on what you “think” people want is a very dangerous game.

A 40% drop in share price in a matter of hours reflects that.

 

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