We’re nearing the end of 2014, and it seems a good time for a reminder that the InMail is in for a makeover. In case you missed it, beginning January 1, 2015, LinkedIn is making some core changes to InMail.
Some of the changes are marginal, while some could have a profound impact of how LinkedIn is used by recruiters (those paying a premium for a LinkedIn Recruiter account, anyway).
It’s not to say that the changes are overdue, long overdue, but they kind of are. For the last few years, the chatter among LinkedIn members, both online and off, has centered on the perceived “spam” problem that LinkedIn has.
The InMail system has been beaten, bastardized, and ravaged by users. Messages come across as assembly-line style communications. They are often glaring with errors. There’s a good chance the person sending the messages didn’t even look at your profile, aside from what appeared in the search results summary. So yes, the winds of change are blowing.
Here’s what’ll be different with InMail in the months to come:
Caution: Psychology At Work
The biggest change for InMails is in the behavior that it reinforces. Right now, users get credited back InMails that go unanswered. They are reversing this process, so that if a message gets a response (either accepted or declined) in 90 days, it is credited back their InMail inventory. Essentially you have just gotten a free InMail credit. As for credits for messages without a response? Those are now lost after 90 days. In essence, they are employing a positive reinforcement model now, a complete 180 from the old, rather unintuitive negative reinforcement model.
Who knows, it might work. It might just start changing the way people use InMails, if they know they are just throwing away credits if they just mass-blast. I’m not entirely sure if it will work, but I sure know if I’m LinkedIn, I wouldn’t want the success of my business dependent on the psychology of my member base. Still, score one for LinkedIn for finally getting wise to this.
Mo InMails, Mo Problems
Each seat will now get 100 InMails a month – up from 50 currently. It’s almost as though LinkedIn is saying “Here, here’s some more. We trust you.” Potentially, people will likely just see that they have more, and carry on spamming, business as usual. Except there’s catch. This time, LinkedIn has a much better scorekeeping system in place. It’ll be interesting to watch the short and long-term results for the response rates.
LinkedIn: The Scrooge Of InMails?
Under the new rules, unused InMails will accrue for 90 days. What? So essentially they are capping the inventory of any particular user at 300 inMails. At least this appears to be the case. Perhaps it’s just confusingly worded. That would appear to be a bit shortsighted. Some high-response rate recruiters may just use their InMails more strategically.
In my experience, an InMail is often little more than a last resort if I can’t find the person’s contact information elsewhere. But, under the current model, some users can feasibly not run out of InMails until 7 years after NEVER. Maybe LinkedIn is trying to reduce hoarding.
It would be interesting to know if they considered a model where the ability to accrue unlimited inMails would be based off of a member’s positive response rate. Again, if they want to increase certain behaviors, they have to reward those behaviors they want.
InMail: Sharing Is Caring
LinkedIn is still going to let you share InMails across your team. Whew. We have narrowly avoided recruiters killing each other in an agency’s pit over available inMails like it was raw meat. This is a basic service, and shouldn’t really be included with all of this. It’s fluff.
InMail: The First Taste Is Free
LinkedIn is also going to give an additional 100 InMails per seat for January 2015. (Control yourself!) Pretty nice introductory gift for inMail 2.0. And, free stuff is cool. End of story.
At its core, the InMail is designed to reach out and make a personal connection via a message. So, it appears LinkedIn is making an honest effort at improving quality by discouraging those who misuse the inMail. Unfortunately, the technology is geared to support that misuse. The results to their new approach to inMails and credits will be something to watch, should they make the data public.
It’s also hard to dramatically change the response rates simply by enforcing policy. LinkedIn is filled with people who potentially check but don’t respond to InMails, and people who are registered but inactive users. It takes two to Tango.
It takes a well-crafted personal message from the sender, and a willing, and active response from recipient of the message in order for the process to work just right.
It’s fair to also ask, what’s the revenue angle? LinkedIn is a public company and have clear revenue goals to hit. Perhaps it’s a longer term play to clean up the problem with the spamming, which could increase response rates, allowing them to leverage this is contract negotiations with customers. That would be banking a good deal on something that “could” work.
What all this points to, is that LinkedIn is going through a weird “pre-teen” type of thing right now. They’re a big, public company and are operating at a scale that is new territory for them. This is a good litmus to see how smooth they can implement other changes that they think will benefit the platform overall. Data (as always) is going to be king for them in making their case.
I suspect the savvy users will be pleased for the most part with the changes, and will feel minimal impact. These changes are mean to target specific repeat offenders, and not those who actually know how to use the platform the way it was intended.
About the Author: Pete Radloff has over 13 years of recruiting experience in both agency and corporate environments, and has worked with such companies as Comscore, National Public Radio and Living Social.
With experience and expertise in using technology and social media to enhance the candidate experience and promote strong employer brands, Radloff also serves as lead consultant for Exaqueo, a high-end workforce consulting firm. An active member of the Washington area recruiting community, Radloff is currently a VP and sits on the Board of Directors of RecruitDC.