LinkedIn giveth and LinkedIn taketh away.iStock_000032832292Small

As of January 1, 2015, all LinkedIn members (free and premium accounts) can now see the last names and full profiles of the people in their extended network--which includes first, second, and now third degree. Thanks, LinkedIn.

Also, as of January 1, all members now have a limited number of searches they can perform each month--and at this point the number of searches we are limited to is not being disclosed by LinkedIn. What? You have to be kidding, LinkedIn!

LinkedIn Giveth

Seeing the last names of our extended network will be helpful for all of us. However, for people who are still ramping up their LinkedIn connection base, this will be especially helpful, because one of the basic tenets on LinkedIn is more first-degree people leads to more seconds and thirds. Thus, it's important to continually add connections consistently and strategically.

If you'd like help formulating your connections strategy, be sure to read my article "The LinkedIn Connections Conundrum: Who Should Be in Your Network?"

LinkedIn Taketh Away

Regarding the number of searches you can do in any calendar month, LinkedIn refers to this as your "commercial use limit." They suggest, "If you reach the commercial use limit, your activity on LinkedIn indicates that you're likely using LinkedIn for commercial use, like hiring or prospecting."

I have spent a bunch of time this month researching this change (so you wouldn't have to). I've been trying to get a clearer picture of what it means. All I found was rampant speculation regarding the number of searches you get, what counts as a search, etc. And the only official statements from LinkedIn are their original announcement and a little bit of information they subsequently shared in the LinkedIn Help Center.

Also, only one person has contacted me to tell me he was warned that he was running out of searches. LinkedIn apparently starts warning you when you have used 70% of your allotted number of searches. Then they remind you again in 5% increments (25% left, 20% left, 15% left, etc.), until you see this final notice that you've reached your limit for the month. However, their website says, "After you've reached the limit, you'll continue to be able to search but will see a limited number of results."

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 6.35.42 AMThe person who contacted me did ultimately reach his limit for the month. Of course, he could have upgraded his account as LinkedIn suggested in each of the warnings--which, of course, is LinkedIn's goal. Personally, I haven't received a warning, but I have the Sales Plus premium upgrade, so I'm probably allotted more searches than people who have a free account.

To understand why I upgraded, read "Why I've Finally Upgraded to a Premium LinkedIn Account."

Is this really a big deal?

For those of us who have capitalized on the power of the LinkedIn search for prospecting or hiring, it certainly is a big deal. We do lots of searches, and we don't want to pay for a more expensive account so we can continue to do our jobs.

For the people who don't do a lot of searching, it's probably no big deal. But anyone who isn't taking full advantage of the search function is undoubtedly leaving a lot of money on the table--a topic I will address another day.

My most recent LinkedIn user survey shows 81% of the respondents use the free account. These users are already limited in a number of ways, including fewer saved searches and InMails, fewer people in search results, and more limited access to Who's Viewed Your Profile. Now that LinkedIn is also limiting the number of searches users can make, some day free account users may have to get out their credit card and upgrade to a premium account if they want to achieve their business goals.

LinkedIn giveth and LinkedIn taketh away. I'll leave it up to you to decide how you feel about these latest developments.