Product features lost in the translation..

Recently a friend in my LinkedIn professional network quizzed me about spurious messages which landed in his LinkedIn inbox. The natural reaction to spurious, unsolicited mail is to treat it as spam. I explained to my friend (with great detail) that these messages were not spam, but instead a new feature offered by LinkedIn called Answers. Unfortunately, this confusion could have been mitigated if LinkedIn marketing or product team would have advised its users of new features in the pipeline.

I am not picking on LinkedIn, as many companies are challenged to provide clear communication, especially in the social networking community. Features seem to be added each day (ie Facebook), and if you do not use the application regularly, it is easy to miss something. Having said this, what recommendations could be offered to prevent this problem in the future?

Well it appears that LinkedIn has a product blog and the LinkedIn application does make use of RSS feeds. Perhaps there could be a method to push down news to its end-users? This sort of strategy is common in Open Source space. For instance, Last.fm, 6-Apart, and Facebook offer inline widgets that include upcoming product feature enhancements. This information would clue people into the new changes coming on the horizon. Maybe the end-user could be given the chance to opt-out if they did not wish to participate?

I happen to like the Answer feature because it allows me to leverage my network to resolve concerns or technical problems. It essentially gives you access to subject matter experts within your network or outside your immediate network. I suppose if you did not know about the feature, one could easily misconstrue the information as spam. Dunno... Perhaps the message collection design should not be named 'inbox' as it immediately reminds people of email. These are good use cases for LinkedIn developers to explore. Hopefully they re-evaluate these issues before they go public with their forthcoming IPO.

Bottom line, though it is commonplace for end-users to discover new features on their own. Methinks companies should bear the burden of educating and informing the user community about feature enhancements and possible repercussions. It may not be advantageous for people to discover by accident. Especially if their first introduction to an application is not a favorable one. Not sure but it is possible, that my friend may never appreciate the LinkedIn Answers utility due his first impression.

Perhaps the broader question is how many other people in my LinkedIn network thought I was sending out unsolicited spam??

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    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by AG published on August 19, 2007 1:36 AM.

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