LinkedIn Needs to ReachOut

31 Comments

Professional networking service LinkedIn wants to emulate Facebook’s success by drawing users and applications through the use of a similar portal strategy. But LinkedIn’s best chance at success lies in doing just the opposite: reaching out to other web sites and applications.

LinkedIn announces personalized home page, Business Week partnership

New LinkedIn home pageToday, LinkedIn launches a new personal home page that provides a basic personalized news capability, along with modules showing where OpenSocial applications will go. They are also announcing a relationship with Business Week, their first partner for an external API.

LinkedIn’s new home page includes company news, network updates and customizable modules. The company news feed shows news articles about the company for whom you work, filtered by what’s most popular among your colleagues. The network updates show what your professional contacts are up to. And the customizable modules show how users will add OpenSocial applications to their home page.

LinkedIn, you’re no Facebook

The new home page looks like an attempt to create a professional version of Facebook’s one-stop-shop social networking site. But LinkedIn is no Facebook, despite rosy possibilities for next year. Facebook has found success in bringing people and applications to its site because it offers a rich social experience.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, has always been about recording and browsing professional networks, not building those networks. Building the relationships that LinkedIn displays happens elsewhere. Even with features like Answers and Introductions, which provide some person-to-person interaction, LinkedIn is currently more data store than social platform.

That data store has real value, but because it’s locked up on one site it’s far less valuable than it could be. If LinkedIn made itself the default way to keep track of and activate professional relationships, their service would be hard to beat.

LinkedIn ReachingOut

LinkedIn - Business Week integrationThe new partner relationship with BusinessWeek shows how LinkedIn might reach out to succeed. When you’re viewing a Business Week article with the new LinkedIn feature, you can hover over a company name and find out how you’re connected to the company via your professional contacts.

This flips news personalization on its head. Usually, personalized news means a service recommends articles to you. In this version, articles you’re already reading are personalized by virtue of their association with your professional network.

Imagine if you could access your LinkedIn professional network from anywhere: your email (LinkedIn integration is already available in Outlook), Facebook, your instant messaging client, Twitter, your contact manager, and so forth. And I don’t mean just downloading a CSV file and then importing it by hand.

The limited news personalization capability that LinkedIn is offering on the new home page suggests another way LinkedIn could reach out. It could make professional profile, network and company data available for integration into RSS news readers. People could find out how they’re related to other people or companies they read about on blogs. Professional profile and network information could even be used by smart newsreaders to come up with feed and article recommendations based on the people, companies, industries and job titles in a user’s LinkedIn account.

The riskiness of not risking enough

LinkedIn isn’t moving forward aggressively enough to unlock the value of their data and services; they need to bring them to the places where professional networking happens. “We’re taking a measured path because our audience is a professional audience,” Senior Product Director Adam Nash told me. But successful professionals know that the biggest risk you can take is to be too cautious.

31 Comments

Linda

I have a Facebook account for my social networking and a LinkedIn account for professional networking, and I definitely don’t want to use the same website for both! For example, my Facebook account (with the privacy set to high) includes my relationship status on the profile page but that’s none of the employer’s business when I’m applying for a job.

Dominic Roberts

I work for a start up company called http://www.jobsplay.com we lie somewhere between LinkedIn and Facebook but with a job board. LinkedIn is very good at creating professional contacts and is far more appealing to professionals looking to move their career on. Facebook is very much the dumbed down version of it and there is good reason why the user times on Facebook is dropping, it has become irritating to use. There is just too much rubbish being thrown at you all of the time. It takes so long to filter out the junk to find anything of use that people are beginning to give up on it. They have over 16,000 applications available and most of them are just advertising rubbish. Does anyone really want to send someone else an imaginary gift and if so why? Tehre is no point to any of it.

Steve Taylor

I pretty much agree with everything Joel York says, apart from his comment that LinkedIn’s audience needs “to get more social”. Why? There’s a youth/tech centricity behind a lot of this debate, which is irritating to us Boomers who work in Web/Business/Management 3.0 and totally ‘get it’. What we don’t get – and many of us don’t want – is a buzz from sharing the minutiae of our daily lives with strangers. I mean, Plazes…pleaze! Watching someone make their tedious way from home to office to coffee shop to pub to back home…aargh!

LinkedIn users are, I suspect not only more professional, but that little bit older. Young people cannot intuit or empathise with our needs because if you’re older you have experienced being young: the reverse is not true. It’s not that grown-ups don’t want to make connections with like-minded people, or that they eschew the internet as a way of making those connections. The key difference is that ego is not their prime unit of social currency. Knowledge, experience and information are.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself waiting for a meeting to get going with a dozen or so high level digital professionals in London, youngest aged 28. As the talk turned, inevitably, to social networks, each and every one admitted that they couldn’t be bothered with Facebook, they didn’t know where people found the time. There was a unanimous thumbs-down to the superficiality of it. Despite my own views,I was genuinely surprised.

Perhaps what my professional peers and generational buddies need is something that lets us dig deeper with people we know and trust. Anyone up for creating Headbook, Heartbook…or even Soulbook?

Attiya

I agree with Rob – LinkedIn has the same functionality as a lot of social networking communities, but it is no where near the same thing. The overall use case for a LinkedIn member is very different than your Facebook member. Plus – LinkedIn charges a fee if you want to connect with someone outside of your network.

LinkedIn has a lot more to think about thank competing with LinkedIn. I work for an emerging start-up called Salesconx (http://www.salesconx.com), which is a bit of a mashup between LinkedIn’s professional networking and eBay’s online marketplace model. And while we’ve never claimed to be a competitor of LinkedIn, I do think that there is a bit of overlap among our target demos.

I’ll be interested to see what comes of their decision to open up, so to speak.

Joel York

I am a FaceBook fan, but I am an even bigger LinkedIn fan.
I agree 100% that they are moving too slow…technologically,
they should build faster and your ideas are right on the money
…but they are evolving just fine from a go-to-market strategy POV.

Most of the LinkedIn criticism comes from Internet/tech pundits
that really get the society changing aspects
of the technology, but do not not the go-to-market aspects.
LinkedIn is NOT just going after the early tech adopters,
their core audience is mainstream; Internet users,
but not all that tech savvy.

Consider these points:

0) Most people naturally segment business from truly personal life.
The real question is what is your public persona. Therefore,
positioning your social net offering, with the right image
combined with privacy/security will be key to success
for all players. (what is your business? what is your private life?)
1) Facebook is clearly moving TOO fast for the market,
Look at the Beacon fiasco. (love the tech…hate the strategy)
2) Facebook, while wildly successful(today) is dangerously close
to being “stuck in the middle” from a positioning standpoint.
i.e., not cool enough for the kids, a little too cool for most
business professionals. Which leaves them open to niche players.
4) LinkedIn is moving at the pace of the average business user
They are still growing…and only with professionals.
For me, only Internet folks like myself say “I’m on FaceBook”
Every professional I meet says “Connect on LinkedIn”
5) I agree that LinkedIn is rather passive right now,
but so is their audience…they need to get more social,
but only 20% ahead of their target audience.
6) acebook might ultimately make more $$$ on ads
…but LinkedIn’s service is far “stickier,”
and is not as susceptible to fashion (technological or social).
6) LinkedIn has a solid revenue portfolio propopostion that
includes ads, subscriptions, third party fees (recruiting), etc.

All in all…it is good to see a company that is driven by solving
problems for their customers first and technology possiblities second.
If I were LinkedIn…I’d sit back…let FaceBook lead on the tech side, avoid it’s mistakes…and follow right behind scooping up a really
valuable, inherently global segment of customers. Professionals making real $$$ and willing to pay actual cash for services.

LinkedIn has a bright future…but they do need to move faster technologically to keep the pace.

My 2 cents.

Joel York

cassiejohanna

The reason why I love LinkedIn is because it’s absolutely NOT like Facebook. Facebook has been infiltrated with really crappy applications. Anyway, LinkedIn and Facebook should be for completely separate audiences – “professional” networking (LinkedIn) and “social networking” (Facebook).

While there is some crossover I, personally, like my professional networking site to be simply about that. I don’t need it to have a billion applications, I just need to be able to meet industry professionals.

tish grier

All I can say is, that from all the folks I’ve met at various Chambers of Commerce meetings across my region, even the old LinkedIn was a bit cutting edge. Forget about using Facebook! The plus side of LinkedIn’s new features are that they will make LinkedIn a destination for some of the stuffy types–who then might take a minute to poke around and find out more. Besides, I really like that my Facebook profile and my LinkedIn profile are two different things–as there are some folks I might do some blog marketing stuff for out here that really don’t need to know–nor would care–about some of my cutting edge contacts/friends. Sometimes we live in two separate worlds for legitimate business and personal reasons, and to keep them separate is important to surviving in our local economies.

Rob M

The big mistake is thinking of LinkedIn as a social network site. It is not social! It is a great online tool for managing and leveraging business contacts for business purposes. The recent enhancements have been great, and I’ve had great success in connecting with people and researching companies and job opportunities. If I want to engage in an interesting online discussion or connect with my social network, I’ll logon to Facebook.

Avinash

Facebook, Orkut, MySpace: to help service providers find and bid for consumers:
Facebook, Orkut, MySpace to help service providers find, and bid for services to consumers :

a) If I indicate on my social networking site that I wish to travel from SFO->NYC for duration of month in economy class, then sites like Orbitz, Priceline, Cheaptickets etc should use this info and come up with the cheapest/short-duration quote for me, instead of me going to their websites individually.

b) Similarly, lets say I want to attend online traffic school in a particular county (and I enter my details on my social networking site profile page), and since the cost of this varies from $9 to $29, online traffic schools should come to my facebook account and bid for me, with the cheapest rates.

c) Insurance : For example, I have my profile on your social networking site, and I would like to buy auto insurance. Using my profile data and my actual details like car, driving history, car model, etc (that I can make available on your social networking site under profile), insurance companies should come up with the best quote and let me know. Instead of me going to tens of insurance companies websites and getting quotes, they should be able to come up with direct quote for me.

Thanks, Avinash

http://www.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=misc.contact
http://groups.google.com/group/orkut-help-suggestions/post
http://www.facebook.com/help.php?tab=suggest

Ajay

I think that LinkedIn is doing a fine job. To me it is a useful tool. One new and interesting tool they added is the news feed.

pwb

I would tend to agree with Anne that LinkedIn’s strategy should differ from Facebook’s. It’s OK to be “boring”. Many of the most lucrative businesses are boring.

LoPhat

@ Sebastian Moser: Troo dat!

I use both LinkedIn and Facebook for different purposes and agree that LinkedIn is much, much more useful for business purposes. I’ve used it to get C level meetings on multiple occasions. Most of the people I meet with from LinkedIn are serious business folks who’d be unlikely to waste their time with the (fun but often useless) service that Facebook provides.

Sebastian Moser

Facebook won’t be able over to take LinkedIn’s position in business networking, for a simple reason: Facebook Platform

It’s openness opened the door for crappy applications, which make up aboit 99% of all applications, if not more, that just waste business people’s time. (I highly doubt that there are just 100 good applications in the platform!)

LinkedIn’s closed platform is very important, they should also be very strict when giving applications space in the newsfeed.

All in all, the recent weeks on Facebook with ever increasing application SPAM in the news feed and cluttered profile pages made me become a LinkedIn-fan more and more.

Federico

LinkedIn is the most closed and boring social network I have ever used. If they do not change Facebook will eat them.

Rajeev Hirani

This is a good move by LinkedIn else it was getting boring. I hope the would come up with more brilliant ideas to make their platform more interesting.

sally

Hey Linkedin is becoming very cool now…..Like facebook even they are coming up apps but the apps related to business. since Linkedin is very professional they are not compromising on it….they are still keeping it that way. More than fun people join Linkedin for purpose. I came across this site from some of the Blog which say Linkedin can be accessed over the phone without internet. In fact with this service, Linkedin access will be even more convenient than ever.
http://modazzle.com/cms/modazzleLp1.html?channel=CM&camp=LinkedIn

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