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A Warning for LinkedIn Users: New Upgrade Is a Trap

Matt Kelly | June 26, 2013

Users of LinkedIn, beware—the company is quietly changing the format of its Contacts page to make sending messages to your connections much, much harder. If you see an offer to “upgrade” to the new design, don't do it.

Historically, you've been able to tag your connections with various labels—“friends,” “recruiters,” “compliance officers,” “Los Angeles residents,” and so forth—and then send one group message to as many as 50 people with the same tag. Simply sort your contacts by tag, hit “send a message,” and you're off to the races. It was an easy way to fire off quick notes to large groups of like-minded people. I used it all the time to invite compliance executives to various events, Compliance Week surveys, and whatnot.

Sometime in the last four weeks, LinkedIn began converting users to its new design, which abolished that feature. Now if you want to, say, send a note to all your contacts in Chicago, asking whether they know any internal auditors looking for work, you can't do that. You have to send the same note to each individual contact.

LinkedIn does not disclose this change before asking you to convert to the new design—so if you use the site regularly, don't do it. 

And for in touch of Dilbertian irony, LinkedIn is converting its power users to this new design first. In other words, it is forcing its most loyal (and often paying) customers to a new version with fewer features, and leaving its less active customers with a non-paying version that has more features.

As you might imagine, this change has set off an uproar among the LinkedIn user community. You can read various diatribes on LinkedIn's own community forum, or on various outside websites that follow LinkedIn closely.

I voiced my complaints to LinkedIn's customer service department, asking to be reverted back to the old Contacts page design; no luck there. I also reached out to some contacts I know at LinkedIn itself, and they tell me they appreciate the feedback and are aware of customers' dismay. Whether that means LinkedIn will restore this critical feature, I have no idea.

What does any of this have to do with corporate compliance? Not much, although it does underscore the need to break down corporate silos, since I'm sure many people within LinkedIn would have grasped the gravity of this error had they known about it. But given the importance of LinkedIn to so many Compliance Week readers—I'm connected to more than 1,200 of you myself—I wanted to spread the word before you make the same mistake I did.

Typically I am a huge fan of LinkedIn; it has been a superbly run company, and done far better than any of its social media peers at integrating itself into its customers' lives and generating revenue. This was a step backward. I'll keep you posted on any news I hear, and above all—don't convert to the upgrade.