This is a question I’ve been asking myself since LinkedIn began to systematically remove features from its basic account and required its members to upgrade to premium accounts in order to get them back. I’m no fool in thinking that LinkedIn is a charity. But I wonder if it is slowly squeezing job seekers out of the overall picture.
One example of LinkedIn taking a valuable feature away from LinkedIn users is Unlimited Search. In order to have access to this valuable feature, members must pay for the Business premium account (for now), which costs $60 if bought on a monthly basis, and is of very little use to job seekers, based on the other features it offers.
But here’s the thing: the people who need this valuable feature are not only sales people who are trying to locate possible leads, or recruiters who are trying to source talent. People who also benefit from this feature are astute job seekers who are trying to locate connections at their desired companies, or optimize their profile.
This said, weekly unemployment benefits range from $235 (Mississippi) to $747 (Massachusetts) . On the minds of people out of work is how to pay important bills like their mortgage, college tuition, groceries, car payments, etc. So once the bills are paid, the likelihood of shelling out $60 a month is nil. In fact, it might put them in debt.
(Even for many people who are gainfully employed, the chances of paying $60 a month for the features, that were once free, is a stretch.)
The least expensive premium account (for now) is called Career. It costs $30 a month. It doesn’t offer Unlimited Searches, but job seekers can benefit from direct communication with recruiters, access to Lynda.com, and candidate statistics. Oh, let me not forget, people who’ve viewed your profile in the last 90 days is also a feature.
Although half the cost of Business premium, the job seekers with whom I speak say this package is also too expensive for them as they’re struggling to live on their unemployment benefits.
So what are most job seekers left with? The basic plan. And according to my valued colleague, Marc Miller, this free plan is dead or slowly dying. I, like many of my fellow LinkedIn instructors, don’t want to see this happen.
A Possible Solution
Now, I’m not one to raise a complaint without providing a solution. To do that would be unfair to LinkedIn’s decision makers. So here’s my solution.
I’m currently paying $9.99 a month for a health club membership I’m not using. Although I haven’t ended the membership, I barely feel the cost, unless I look at my expenses online. I would NOT feel the expense if LinkedIn were to charge me the same fee, as long as I get rid of the $9.99 monkey on my back (health club membership fee.
Job seekers would feel the expense of $9.99 a month, but if they are serious about using LinkedIn to find a job would most likely cough it up. They would have to give up two trips to Starbucks.
The first part of my solution is to charge all LinkedIn members $9.99 a month. With millions of loyal LinkedIn members paying $120 a year, that’s some serious cash for LinkedIn. Features that job seekers need, Unlimited Search, job statistics, and a limited number InMails to recruiters would be available to everyone.
Business people could opt to upgrade to the Sales Navigator premium account (currently $80 a month) that offers features required for business success, which include 20 InMails, Sales Insights, Advanced Search with Lead Builder, Who’s Viewed Your Profile, Unlimited People Search, and tagging. In other words, features serious salespeople would benefit from.
Another positive outcome from charging a $9.99 fee would be a lot of dead wood leaving LinkedIn. This might result in 100 million non-users closing their accounts. But the remaining members would be quality users generating leads, partnerships, and ultimately sales. As well, job seekers serious about their search would pay the fee.
I’m not a mathematician, but a rough estimate of the revenue LinkedIn could bring in at 300 million legitimate members is $3 billion a month, $36 billion a year. Throw in what corporations are spending on the Recruiter Lite and Corporation Recruiter premium accounts, LinkedIn is still making serious cash.
As one of my connections told me, “LinkedIn is trying to profit from its product. Can we blame them?” Of course not. No business is in it to give money away. Eventually LinkedIn would like to see the majority of its members paying $80 a month for its Sales Navigaror premium account.
Of course many LinkedIn users will remain basic users, some will upgrade to a lesser-priced account, and a select few will opt for the $80 package. Another zinger LinkedIn has delivered is that faithful LinkedIn members must purchase the Sales package to continue to receive a Advanced Searches, a feature they haven’t had to pay for for 14 years.
Job seekers would find the Sales premium account impossible to manage and really have no need for the features the Sales premium provides, except for Unlimited People Searches.
LinkedIn’s goal is to create a unique clientele base that can afford the steep price of $80.00 a month, which leaves job seekers out of the picture. The company may argue that job seekers can still use the basic or Career accounts. But already the all-important Unlimited Searches has been stripped from job seekers, forcing them to upgrade to a $60 premium account they can’t afford.
What it means to people like me, who teach LinkedIn to job seekers in a nonprofit agency, is that we will lose our clientele. We’ll have to adapt and train LinkedIn users who can afford the outrageous price of Sales premium account.
For recruiters it means they’ll lose many job seekers to source for jobs they need to fill. They might be more successful looking on Facebook and Twitter for job seekers.
As mentioned earlier, LinkedIn was developed to help businesses better network with other businesses. LinkedIn’s proud statement that the average member makes over $100k indicates that LinkedIn is not dedicated to help job seekers.
However, LinkedIn doesn’t have to give up its vision of having the majority of its members purchase the Sales Navigator premium account. I’ve heard from many people in the business sectors who are pumped to use the benefits of this account, even though it costs $80.00 a month.
Photo, Flickr, Peter Grifoni