I wrote the other day that I've always felt that Spoke was the "poor-man's LinkedIn." When LinkedIn introduced it's applications and other more social features, I joked behind the scenes that it was becoming Facebook-esque. Now I'm wondering if LinkedIn is trying to become the "rich man's MySpace."
Don't get me wrong. I know times are tough for LinkedIn, because even with its cash injection earlier this year, the company is still facing an imminent layoff of 10 percent of its workforce. I don't think, however, that surprising its professional networkers with pop-up ads from retail outlets is the way to go.
The background: On Nov. 3 the social business site launched a promotion with Banana Republic in which its users could win a $1,000 shopping spree and a profile makeover. Each time a user updates his or her profile he or she could get a 25 percent Banana Republic discount and a chance to win the prizes. Not a bad promotion.
I first noticed it as a little ad on my profile when I made an update, which was fine enough. Then I updated my LinkedIn profile picture and upon saving my changes I got a pop-up. In fairness to LinkedIn, it was very nicely designed and didn't have any glittering clip art on it, but it was a pop-up nonetheless. It truly shocked me. Why the need for a pop-up? Aren't the in-profile ads enough?
Here's a screen shot (click to enlarge):
For a moment I thought I might be overreacting. If it was a big deal, wouldn't I have read about this somewhere else by now? I am a little hypersensitive to pop-ups (and still surprised this surpassed my pop-up blocker). But more than that, I don't agree that a pop-up approach is going to endear professionals to the site. Sure, they might participate in the promotion but keep doing this and over time LinkedIn becomes the place to go to win cool prizes instead of a place to network. Or, if you're laid off, LinkedIn merely rubs salt in wounds.
I did a little bit of early-morning crowdsourcing and didn't find one person who told me it wasn't a big deal. The following four replies are good indicators (once again, click to enlarge)l: