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Increasing engagement for delivery?

I’ve talked a lot about engagement here over the years and how increasing engagement can increase inbox delivery.

But does driving engagement always improve delivery?

Take LinkedIn as an example. LinkedIn has started to pop-up a link when users log in. This popup suggests that the user endorse a connection for a particular skill. When the user clicks on the popup, an email is sent to the connection. The endorsement encourages the recipient to visit the LinkedIn website and review endorsements. Once the user is on the site, they receive a popup asking for endorsement of a connection. Drives engagement both on the website and with email. Win for everyone, right?

I get lots of these endorsements, but I’ve had a few that have made me wonder what’s really going on. Are these people really endorsing my skills? If they are then why am I getting endorsements from people I’ve not seen in 15 years and why are some of the endorsed skills things I can’t do?

This morning I asked one of my connections if he really did endorse me for my abilities in Cloud Computing. His response was enlightening.

yeah, i just click on those to make them go away. seems like a cloying ploy to get people to interact with the site more, harmless. the endorsements do add up into a little graph-like thing, fwiw.

but it is true that they are blind, and unsubstantiated. i’ve no idea if you know cloud professionally.Neil S.

I also talked to another individual who complained to me that you can only endorse people for things that LinkedIn has decided are skills. This person was trying to endorse a connection for a skill, but LinkedIn would not accept that skill as valid.

This isn’t the only thing that LinkedIn does to get people to click on links and visit their website. In fact, most things that happen on the site and generate an email require or encourage the recipient to log into the site and act. Even digests for their discussion groups don’t contain the entire discussion, just a teaser.

It’s a great ploy by LinkedIn to increase engagement.

But is it real engagement? I don’t know. I get the mails because I can’t figure out how to turn them off. “Unsubscribe” leads me to a login page and a preference center that has more choices than your average co-reg page. It isn’t clear which preferences will turn off the mails I don’t want to get any more. Some of the mail I get from LinkedIn I appreciate, so I don’t just want to turn off everything.

Interestingly enough, as I’ve been writing this post, I’ve seen a number of people complaining that LinkedIn is purging their subscriptions to group digests. Apparently, failing to visit a group in some period of time triggers LinkedIn to send you a mail that says LinkedIn has noticed the recipient has not visited a certain group, so they will be unsubscribing the recipient from future digests. I don’t have examples, because at some point in the past I’ve managed to unsubscribe myself from group mails.

I have to wonder if LinkedIn isn’t doing all this in an attempt to address some delivery issue. They’re opting users in to mail to drive clicks to the site. While at the same time, they are removing folks who don’t click on other emails.

Based on discussions on various mailing lists, it seems that both behaviours are upsetting some subset of their users. Some are upset that LinkedIn is opting them in to mail they didn’t ask for. Others are angry that LinkedIn is opting them out of mail that they want. LinkedIn are trying to increase engagement, but seem to be annoying people in many different demographics and in many different ways.

The irony is that if these actions are designed to increase engagement and solve delivery problems, it’s probably not going to work. While I don’t know for sure, I expect that many people use work or business related addresses when signing up there. Most of the filtering at business domains isn’t engagement driven. Engagement is really a metric only used by the large ISPs that control the interface.

This strategy is not going to improve delivery. Even worse the different tactics are actually annoying and angering users: those who get mail they don’t want, those who have to deal with pop-ups and those who aren’t getting mail they do want. From the outside it doesn’t seem like a way to win friends and influence people. And it is certainly not a way to get mail into the inbox.

3 comments

  1. Tom Burke says

    That LinkedIn requires you to login to unsubscribe is extremely bad practice in my opinion. After someone left our company, we left his email address active for a while. We kept getting his LinkedIn notices, and there was no way to stop them.

  2. Catherine Jefferson says

    I don’t use LinkedIn for other reasons, but this new LinkedIn “feature” strikes me as designed to create noise instead of signal. Effective communication requires knowing when you have nothing to communicate, and keeping quiet. LinkedIn has not learned this lesson. Neither have most social networking services.

  3. Atro Tossavainen says

    I’m quite surprised that anybody would not see “Skip” in the “endorse this person/these people” box and would instead click a random endorsement to make it go away. That’s like clicking on “this is spam” to try to get removed from a mailing list, IMO.

    Since the poster of that comment was somebody I think I know, it bugs me even more. How can we (tinw) expect any form of media literacy from _anyone_ if we don’t even have it ourselves?

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