LinkedIn: It just ain’t social…

Cast your eye over any article, blog or tweet regarding ‘social media’ platforms and pretty much every time you will hear LinkedIn included in the list, especially when talking about ‘social’ recruiting.  I don’t know about you though, but I don’t see LinkedIn as social technology at all, certainly not in the same way as I would see Twitter or perhaps facebook.

LinkedIn is getting on now.  Launched in 2003 its original game plan was as a lead generation tool.  It did a great job and over the years has carved out a superb niche in the market.  It’s inevitable deep dive into recruitment has ensured its place as an industry standard.  But to me it is showing its age, especially from the ‘real time’ perspective of how social is developing.

A simple casting of the eye over the three core usual suspects and where they started helps to illustrate the point:

  • LinkedIn – May 2003.  I recall that at the time they didn’t have status updates in the more interactive form as they do now.  They did introduce groups early on, but suspended them, only to re introducing them a few years ago with enhanced functionality.
  • Facebook – February 2004.  Not the same thing obviously, but a distinct difference in communication strategy with the ‘wall’ and a much more conversationally led approach.
  • Twitter – March 2006.  Less is more.  Less features but much more ‘real time’ in its application.

At a glance its not hard to see the ‘conversational’ evolution.  There is no doubt that LinkedIn has real value for me, certainly as a more convenient reference point for my career and background, which is it’s ace card in terms of being the defacto tool for direct sourcing.  It also rather handily points to my blog and other entities that make up “brand Garelaos” (Yuk!).  But as we move to a more ‘distributed’ model, by which I mean a situation where significant parts of ‘me’ exist in other places – my blog, my own website, my video’s/presentations, other networks etc, is it going to become less central?

Perhaps the biggest influence I see is the ‘real time’ drive of our social habits, and in particular, twitter.  I don’t converse on LinkedIn.  Ok, I have ‘discussions’ in groups, but it’s not really a conversation.  For me, and for many others – especially an increasing number of ‘professional’ people – our conversation is taking place on Twitter.  In real time.  And here is the interesting thing – this Twitter dialogue is personally led, not professionally led.  Yet Twitter has delivered more for me professionally in terms of quality business relationships and commercial benefits (i.e. business and revenue) in the 2 years that I have been really active on it, than the 7+years I have been active on LinkedIn.  Better still, I have met genuine friends for life though it too. #win.  In fact, Twitter has breathed a new lease of life into my LinkedIn account as I now go back and connect on LinkedIn with people I have met in real life first through twitter.

On another front I have been talking to a number of organisation’s about LinkedIn’s credentials as a credible marketing channel.  There is no doubt the latest numbers for the Marketing Solutions part of the business are impressive – $36.8m, a YOY increase of 111% and accounting for 32% of total revenues.  So who am I to argue.  But when I consider what this consists of – the LinkedIn ‘site’ real estate, banners, buttons, targeted ads, personalised content etc etc – I don’t know but it all sounds a bit Web 1.0.  Or is it just me?  I gave this a lot of thought after seeing this video interview with Adam Bain, the Chief Revenue Officer for Twitter (No doubt about his KPI’s eh?!).  Watch it, its compelling.  HT to @Chris_Dutton for the video link.  The marketer in me sure gets more excited listening to the potential wrapped up in the possibilities of reaching my client audiences via twitter than LinkedIn.  Particularly when you hear that 50% of all twitter activity is on a mobile device.

Now, I appreciate we are not comparing like with like here.  But Facebook has moved from a no go zone from a professional/career perspective to a hot spot for every corporate talent strategy in less than 2 years.  And given I spend so much time engaged (There’s the magic word!) with Twitter , if they suddenly upgraded their platform and provided me with a richer, more integrated personal ‘profile’, would I use/complete it? Well, yes I would.  The lines, ladies and gentlemen, are blurring.

So what of the future?  What happens next?  It Occurs to me that whilst the Twitter adoption curve is now climbing rapidly, it is already nearly 6 years old and the fundementals of how it works and what it does have not changed much or been significantly enriched.  Is it time for a new layer?  Is twitter about to about to unleash a new matrix?  Who knows.

But if I was in the strategic team at LinkedIn HQ, I know what I would do.  I’d take the brightest minds I could find across the business – forget seniority, focus on imagination.  I’d throw them in a room with some creative development types, give them an unlimited budget and scope, and a piece of paper with the following three things written on it:

Real time. Personal First. Mobile (HT @felixwetzel)

The future is bright.  The future is personal…


  1. Interesting post G.

    Unlike some I am not an early adopter of technology but tend to be one of the first in the early majority. Without consciously thinking about I tend to let people try and test and only engage with those that have some sort of validity.

    I was relatively late to the linkedin party only signing up in 2007 but have since embraced it as if nothing more a live card index box. Business cards are now discarded and it’s my way of keeping in touch and tracking those people I know and have worked with.

    That said I agree with you that in terms of growing my network and generating meaningul relationships Twitter has been far more effectively but interestingly I still find myself using Linkedin as a reference point for people I come across on Twitter so for me one reinforces the other.

    I don’t disagree with the “shove a load of bright people in a room” approach and think Linkedin needs to keep it’s eye on the ball to not be left behind but from my perspective they are mutual and complimentary (Twitter & LI) rather than true competitors


    1. Hi Rob, thanks for Stopping by! I agree with you that one informs the other – LI is the first place I usually look to ‘check someone out’. I also dont see them as direct competitors but I do think they will overlap and be competing for similar audiences in terms of revenue generation – in some ways they already are. Thanks for the comment.


  2. Very true Gareth. LinkedIn does need to ‘get social’ and fast. The main social touch-points at the moment are Status updates (not a conversation), integration with other platforms (retweeting to Twitter and reposting blog content – not conversational) and Groups (infuriating).
    Groups are crying out for an overhaul, because they just don’t work. LinkedIn Groups are a brilliant idea, but are poorly displayed, difficult to connect into and illogical. There is immense potential, but they need redesigned, incorporating many of the practices and norms established by FB, Twitter, old fashioned forums, and easily understood by users.
    Maybe it’s in the works already – I hope so.


    1. Hi Stephen, thanks for the comment. Agree, very little is conversation on LinkedIn and dnt get me started on Groups. I had high hopes for Groups when they suspended them a few years ago, stating they were improving functionality. Indeed it was ‘improved’ and for a while actually cannibalised a lot of other community discussions as we all flocked to the groups in their shiny new status. But the lack of spam control and the flood of activity has led to a really bad experience generally in my view. I also think the latest update in functionality actually made the experience worse. Lets see whats in the pipeline!


  3. Thanks for sending this to me Gareth, I did read it back in December actually. LinkedIn do have an activity problem here and Twitter was helping (I know it helps me to get people to vote on a poll for instance, by sharing it to Twitter I can reach much more people). Emails are probably the number one source of traffic to LinkedIn though and I don’t think they will stop anytime soon!


  4. Apples and Pears come to mind reading this – they are two different platforms doing two very different things. I agree the groups need sorting out – too many spammers, RSS feeds and job listings – but LinkedIn is still a great tool for any sales person.


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