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…