Mobile Innovators Series: Q&A with Udi Milo, Product Lead at LinkedIn

By: Kahuna | July 24, 2015 | Mobile Innovators Series
Mobile innovators LinkedIn

In this installment of our Mobile Innovators Series, we’re happy to share an interview with Udi Milo, Product Lead at LinkedIn. Udi discusses the LinkedIn approach to mobile, some challenges with a multi-app strategy, and insights into LinkedIn’s messaging strategy.

LinkedIn grew to prominence as a desktop service, but has since transitioned successfully to the Mobile Era. What were some challenges in adapting to a mobile-first environment?

LinkedIn officially launched in 2003, and for the first seven years of its life, it was primarily a desktop company. Mobile quickly went from being “the future” to becoming the present. One of the major challenges was changing the culture inside the company because the design, vision, and execution for mobile is quite different than it is for the web. We had a year-long initiative called “Mobilize” which aimed to transform the company in order to build a culture where we can effectively build a suite of mobile-first products.

Previously, mobile was handled by a small, centralized group who handled all of LinkedIn’s offerings, but that wasn’t set up to scale. Also, mobile is different from the web. On the web, it’s a constant iterative process, while mobile is more like packaged software. You have to change expectations of organizations when it comes to how we release, when we release, what happens if you miss a release date, and what’s important enough to stop the release train.

With apps like LinkedIn, Pulse, Job Search, Recruiter, and more, LinkedIn is embracing a multi-app strategy. What are some of the unique demands of this approach?

As we look to grow our family of apps, each app requires different thinking about optimization and how to drive it forward when it comes to marketing. This includes app store optimization, in-house and external promotions, mobile messaging, and figuring out the best time time to spotlight the new apps to members.

Our guiding principle is to figure out a way to promote these apps in a way that’s value-first. Because LinkedIn has more than 350 million members, there’s a temptation to just throw up banners to try and drive adoption. Our members’ attention span is a precious resource, and when we promote something, we’re very strict and judicious about who sees what, and when. For example, the Pulse news reader app may not be relevant for every LinkedIn user, so we’re mindful of that when it comes to channel promotion between our apps.

What are the most important mobile engagement metrics to keep track of?

LinkedIn offers many benefits to professionals, and each of these have internal metrics that we can proxy for through lower-level metrics like the number of people who applied for jobs and how many times a person has engaged with his news feed. We combine these with relatively standard metrics like uniques over time, engagement, click-through rates, and more.

Should a push notification be tied directly all the way to the action? Should it be measured as top-of-the-funnel engagement? We’re still evolving on the best practices but we’ve had some interesting discoveries. We recently looked at all of our notification times, found some that didn’t make sense to push, removed them, and saw a huge spike of engagement with the rest of our notifications. The correlation became clear: If you have one bad push notification, it’s not just impacting that type; it’s impacting all of them.

How do you think about the balance between email, push notifications, and other channels?

Doing smart channel selection is not a trivial thing, and we’ve put a lot of effort into balancing email and notifications together. We want to reduce as much noise as possible.

With email, you can try a lot of different things and optimize. With push notifications, if you miss the golden ratio between signal and noise, it’s easy for the member to shut down push or just uninstall the app. That’s almost irreversible, so you have to be very, very careful.

When you look at different demographics, including some outside the United States, you see that many people don’t use their email at all. So, you move to a world where it’s mobile-only, identification is via a phone number, and push becomes the dominant way to engage. We view push notifications as the strategic next wave of communications with our members.

We’re constantly debating “What is push-worthy?” The bar for push notifications is high; higher than email. It has to be urgent, important, and personalized to the members. If it’s not, then it doesn’t clear the bar.

What advice would you give for learning more about mobile, particularly for those in a product management role?

This may sound super basic, but use your phone as much as you can. Download stuff you normally wouldn’t use to understand where the market is going. Be sure to turn on all notifications on all your apps, all the time. This can show you what works and what doesn’t.

As a product manager, I’m trying to create empathy between me and the audience. We’re seeing that push notifications are a very emotional way of communicating. When you have all your notifications turned on and receive one, ask yourself a few questions: How does this make me feel? Do I feel respected? Do I feel like I’m the product?

Your mobile messaging must address those questions in a positive fashion first, then you can start worrying about actions you’re trying to achieve.

About Udi:

Udi is passionate about delivering innovative and high-quality products by blending data, intuition, research and deep empathy. At LinkedIn, he is leading several strategic teams geared around LinkedIn’s multi-app vision. Prior to LinkedIn, Udi held various positions leading product teams and received his MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business.

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