So You’re the Top 1% on Generic Social Network X. Great – Now What?

You might be aware of a certain email that’s doing the rounds at the minute from LinkedIn that’s generating some online buzz.

In the email, LinkedIn shares its milestone of reaching 200 million users. Then they go one step further and add in (for certain users) where you personally fit into LinkedIn.

Some users received emails saying they were in the Top 1%. Some received saying they were in the Top 5%, and so on.

It’s a smart but lazy move on behalf of LinkedIn when it comes to some viral buzz around the platform.

Smart, because it plays to peoples’ egos (as Bilal Jaffery points out in a Facebook discussion around the email), and lazy, because this kind of short-term hit and ego-massaging offers little in the way of context and long-term value.

Top 1% of What, Exactly?

The email itself is pretty generic, as you can see from the screen grab below from the email received by my friend, Karim Kanji:

LinkedIn 1% BS

In Karim’s own words:

Thanks LinkedIn, but I’m calling bullshit on this.

It’s not only Karim who views this as no more than a numbers play by LinkedIn to create buzz, possibly due to their slip down the pecking order of social network user numbers when it comes to active users.

Over at MarketingTechBlog, Douglas Karr shares his view on the email:

This is the kind of campaign that drives me nuts. The percent is a ridiculous number that means nothing… truly nothing. If you’re a superstar in your field that is picky about who you connect with on LinkedIn, you didn’t get one of these emails. But if you’re in an industry with heavy recruitment with a big network… and you’re crappy at your job… you still received one of these emails.

At Soshable, J.D. Rucker, while congratulating LinkedIn on savvy marketing for stroking egos, muses:

When you really think about it, it’s not as much of an accomplishment as a great marketing ploy by LinkedIn to get their name out there and into conversations on Twitter. Top of mind… The math makes it seem less impressive. Even those who received the top 1% email might not have been as quick to brag about it had they realized they were one of over 2 million users to receive the honor.

And this is what it boils down to – there’s a complete lack of context as to what the “award” really means.

Without Context, It’s An Empty Metric

If LinkedIn truly wanted to share who had the most viewed profiles on their network – and, by definition, who people should connect with from a business point of view – they should have included at least some modicum of context with the statement.

For LinkedIn’s message to offer value to me, I’d want to understand the following:

  • What does the 1% mean?
  • Who’s viewing these profiles – recruiters, headhunters, or just old colleagues and friends from high school?
  • What are the industry specifics of those viewing?
  • What’s the likelihood of all these views resulting in a job offer or consultancy hire?

These are just four basic but immediate questions that spring to mind. There’s much more value to be had in knowing it’s people that want to do business with you viewing your profile, rather than the majority of views coming from ex-colleagues and college buddies.

The email has been compared to a recent campaign by social scoring platform Kred, who sent out Top 1%, 5% and 10% emails to their users.

Kred top 1%

This email generated a great discussion over at Geoff Livingston’s Google+ account.

Andrew Grill, Kred CEO, stepped into the discussion to answer questions and criticism, much of which centred around the same mindset as that of the recent LinkedIn email – is it truly recognizing top users, or simply a mass market email to generate buzz?

One of the areas that Andrew accepted could have been better was the area of context within the email. Again, Kred – like LinkedIn – simply sent a generic message with the percentage of where a user fell inside the Kred database.

Had the message been more specific – say, “Congratulations, you’re in the Top 1% Marketers / Bloggers / Social Good Advocates”, etc, then that shows the algorithm was used to determine your niche listing and they’re sharing that with you.

The smallest amount of context can make the biggest amount of difference when it comes to perception of a campaign, as highlighted by some of the reaction around both LinkedIn and Kred’s emails.

Stroking Egos and Long Term Benefits

One of the things that both sides of the coin mostly agree on is that stroking the egos of users is a smart move from LinkedIn.

By advising users of their mythical status within the ecosystem, and encouraging recipients of the email to share on Twitter and other networks, it ensures a healthy amount of buzz around the platform.

The problem is, ego-stroking this way generally doesn’t work long-term. Now that LinkedIn has placed these “1% leaders” on a pedestal, will they continue to make them feel special with regular outreach? Will they answer their email questions to support quicker than the rest of LinkedIn’s non-1% userbase?

Because that’s the funny thing when egos become involved – once it feels like it’s no longer being massaged, the owner of the ego can be quick to move elsewhere where they’re treated in a manner worthy of such lofty percentile.

If you truly want to sustain long-term benefits and buzz around your brand, it takes more than a warm, fuzzy email as a one-off viral push.

Then again, truly smart brands already know this.

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