Social media platforms on the web are somewhat schizophrenic – some are focused on consumers, some are focused on business and some just do not seem to know what they want to do when they grow up. We typically acknowledge Facebook as ever focused on the consumer and their pages for businesses, local merchants, brands and products were added as kind of an afterthought believing that consumers had a desire to connect to their favorite brands. While consumers have ‘Liked’ their favorite brands in big numbers, studies suggest that this kind of behavior is not always an indication of brand loyalty.
LinkedIn however, has always presented itself as the business platform of choice. First it was THE platform of choice for sourcing professional talent. LinkedIn has since extended its position as the preferred platform for B2B interactions for a global audience in over 200 countries in 17 languages, (notably including China where Facebook is not being permitted) and over 1 million LinkedIn groups. They also perceive their membership as more business-savvy, always referring to those with LinkedIn account holders as ‘Professionals’. The distinction may be subtle perhaps, but it points to the way they think about their community of 161 million professionals around the world.
Still, LinkedIn is in the middle of the biggest transition in its history – first by going from a privately-held concern to a publicly-held one and second, by creating more and more options for businesses to connect with other businesses. Reid Hoffman and the team appear to have pulled off an IPO almost flawlessly, while transforming the platform from a place where job-seekers parade in front of recruiters and hiring companies, to a place where professionals worldwide go for business.
Creation of company pages was the great move and over 2 million companies have taken up the opportunity to exhibit their wares using a company page. The company page itself can now present info about the company, the people that work there as well as the products or service they offer. A recent addition in functionality that looks like a significant game-changer is the ability to present product messages particular to the visitor based on their position, industry or geographic location. This shows that LinkedIn is getting increasingly serious about drawing companies to their platform for business, regardless of where on the planet the company decides to conduct business.
The recent acquisition of SlideShare will benefit professional speakers and presenters for sure, with a capability to blend professional credentials and presentations, but the rest of the community will also benefit by creating a rich media experience for visitors to their profiles. Other LinkedIn apps today include WordPress, SixApart (TypePad) and Box.net, so a professional can corral credentials, blog posts and slides all in one place and communicate them to an almost strictly B2B audience. This is highly targeted, relevant communications to a particular audience without the use of ad network cookies and I cannot see anywhere else this kind of targeting can be achieved. If you are serious about business, you need to be serious about LinkedIn.
Postword – If I sound like a fan-boy for LinkedIn, I readily admit that I am. I have never received any remuneration or favors from them since I opened my account in July of 2003, but today I do serve as one of the 43 SMB Company Page Beta testers (under NDA and for no compensation) so I do get to share my perspective regularly and see some of the new stuff earlier than some. I’m also one of the earlier adopters for LinkedIn – when they went online in May of 2003, 4,500 people signed up in the first 30 days. My member # on LinkedIn is 11,005 with a start date for me of July 1, 2003 so I’ve seen a lot. Since I opened my account, I have been able to attribute a good deal of my professional success to my presence on LinkedIn. Had it not been for LinkedIn I would never have met Guy Powell, (my co-author of ‘ROI of Social Media’ – affiliate link), nor would I have come across the gig that drew me to a home in Colorado from Arizona. Going forward, I am certain that LinkedIn will continue to influence my professional development and aid me in uncovering opportunities and business in the decades ahead as well – where else would I go?