There’s been a ton of conversation in social media circles about LinkedIn’s new marketing campaign.  LinkedIn has been notifying users that they’re among the top 5% (and even 10%, now) of viewed profiles on the social network.  Some mentions of the campaign bemoan it. Other mentions seem to make attempts at a “humble brag” about it. And still others seem to genuinely think it’s pretty cool.  But what I love about the campaign is that these e-mail notifications aren’t aimed at the receivers of the e-mails at all.  These congratulatory messages are targeted at the LinkedIn users who aren’t getting them.

One of LinkedIn’s most valued assets is the data it possesses about each of its registered users.  As of January 2013, LinkedIn has 200 Million registered users.  Most of them have at least indicated their current career situations and probably their work history.  But there’s so much more a registered user can do with their profiles, accounts, and activities. And as LinkedIn constantly likes to imply while it encourages those activities, doing these things could help a user’s career.

So when 2(0) Million LinkedIn users start talking about the congratulatory e-mails they’ve received about the interest in their profiles (which, presumably, has some notion of career benefit attached), it leaves the other 95% who never received such an e-mail to wonder: What can I do to enhance my profile on LinkedIn and help my own career?  After all, even after people realize 5% of 200 million is 10 million, the other 95% must ponder what they’re failing to do to be among that massive pool of “better” profiles.

LinkedIn’s answer: Add more data about yourself and get more active on their social network. (Read: Give us more data.)

It’s a brilliant move.  It’s Judo Marketing.  And yet I can’t help but recall this Onion’s piece on “personal branding” even as I enjoy this gambit.