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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

LinkedIn is Broken

Is there any way it can be fixed?

Before I begin, let me be clear that LinkedIn does have some benefits. One can see who’s hiring, conduct research (industries, companies, and individuals), consume content, keep user-specific skills up to date….and that’s about it. But, unfortunately, LinkedIn is as broken as hollandaise sauce cooked with too much heat.

This is where I could point out issues the platform has, like an irrelevant job search algorithm that fails to push the correct results, the weird (and mostly useless) certificates LinkedIn generates that everyone ignores, or the fact that they treat paying for premium like a golden ticket to finding employment at the Wonka factory. Instead, I’ll focus on LinkedIn’s most significant and most frustrating issue:

The vast majority of users treat LinkedIn as a seedy dating site and proceed to send unsolicited messages seconds after connection.

These are often auto-generated and appear in the recipient’s inbox seconds after mashing that “accept” button. Here are some examples of messages I’ve received through regular messaging and their premium InMail feature:

“I thought you might be open to more options in your life. I work with Mid and Senior level people who are in a career transition or would like to add to their portfolio for an extra income stream.”

– Author/Consultant

“For many years, I built sales teams and drove billions in revenue for companies like Eli Lilly and Johnson and Johnson. I recently pivoted away from big pharma, and I’m now dedicated to helping smaller companies dramatically increase their revenue. If your company is in need of increasing sales, I would love to discuss how we can form a partnership.”

– A Sales Trainer/Coach/Motivational Speaker

I wanted to reach out and see if your promo company would be interested in partnering with an online store platform that requires no inventory and no order minimums for your clients.”

– Owner and CEO who sent SEVEN unsolicited (and unanswered) messages in the past ten weeks

“Important question: do you have the ability, desire, and opportunity to grow your sales? If so, I might be able to help you.”

– Recruiter at a Large Promotional Products Distributorship

These types of messages, my friends, are nothing more than spam – and not the “it tastes better than you think” kind. If you know me and read the digital notes above, it’s clear that not one of these people spent more than 11 seconds trying to understand brandivate as a business, let alone me and my professional goals. Instead, it’s simply a shotgun approach to growing a business that accomplishes little more than causing frustration and irritation in the recipient.

This begs the question, how can we make LinkedIn more effective, purposeful, and generally better? Here are my suggestions:

  1. Stop sending unsolicited messages – period. Just because one has access to the power of direct messaging doesn’t mean one should wield it carelessly. As described above, it’s amateurish and entirely off-putting to your intended audience.

  2. Start giving unsolicited recommendations to others. Think of it as a digital endorsement that lives on your profile and allows others to toot your horn so you don’t need to.

  3. Start engaging with content where you find value. Believe it or not, I still believe that LinkedIn has value in the world of content. However, to see better content, you need to do more than click a “like” button; you need to engage by commenting and contributing to the discussion.

  4. Observe professional etiquette. LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking website, but most seem to forget the word “professional.” Instead of attempting a connection with anyone who appears to have a pulse, only do so when you genuinely believe that both parties can benefit.

  5. Less pitching, more storytelling. Unlike other social media platforms, LinkedIn inspires excellent readership – even with longer posts. Tell your brand story, share an uplifting client case history, or even be transparent by communicating your struggles in growing your business. You won’t need to use a hard sell when you paint an accurate picture with a story.

What was once a vibrant platform that created professional connections has turned into little more than a good place to job hunt, curate content, and maintain an online resume. To quote Peter Campbell in Mad Men, “Not great, Bob.” We can – and should – do better. LinkedIn has terrific potential if we (the collective we) stop using it as a cheap and lazy way to message potential clients and start using it to build a brand that people congregate towards.


Together, we might be able to fix it enough to make it relevant again.

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