Has LinkedIn figured out what it is yet?

Confused Felipe

Photo attribuation: By FelipeIbazeta (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

LinkedIn has been around for quite a while now. You never noticed? Well, it’s been here since 2002, ready to replace Facebook for professional people. Yet another social media site, to fill with photos and information about oneself. But, it wasn’t fun and… cool… so, it’s kind of a nobody in the social media world. Maybe more of a somebody than Google+, but still pretty low down on the totem pole.

Part of the reason LinkedIn isn’t a businessman’s “right hand social media man” is because LinkedIn hasn’t really seemed to know what it should be. Mix business with pleasure? Strictly Business? Hiring and firing site? Resume showcase site? All of the above? None of the above? Hundreds of people have been sent to this site by their bosses with instructions to get themselves a profile, only to find themselves pounding their heads on their desks, plaintively asking, “How are we supposed to use you, LinkedIn? What are you actually designed for and how can you help me?”

Crickets chirping…

Facebook is popular because it creates all types of varied communities, and allows you to set up groups and network about anything, be it higher things like philosophy, history and math, or more mundane things like the latest celebrity news. It’s also pretty self-explanatory, so much so that a child below the legal age of 13 can get on, fill out a profile and start friending people. In the middle of a serious discussion about whether or not to fire an employee, one can be entertained by a video of a cute kitty that just happened to pop up on your feed. LinkedIn, however, is largely, though not exclusively, a business community. It is not designed for Tweets and Re-Tweets, or discussion of the latest YouTube viral video. It IS a way for businessmen to network their skills, easily share their resumes, and solve business problems in a way that is largely drama free and professional. Now, if you think about it from a businessman’s point of view… isn’t that kinda nice?

The basics of LinkedIn are that you can list your work experience, your profile picture and add a personal touch to your business life. Unlike with Facebook, where you can willy-nilly friend any Tom, Dick or Harry without knowing them at all, this is not a good strategy to follow with your LinkedIn account. This is a SERIOUS networking site, folks. You only link in with people that you are working with or could be valuable to you business-wise. You won’t find any cats or dogs with people’s names either.

LinkedIn additionally allows one to create groups and network with professionals based on their areas of expertise. So if you are a professional historian, you can join a group on ancient Chinese history and network with professionals in that field, sharing information and details. Or, if you are an IT professional, you can network about PhP and C++ with other professionals in that area, without having to do some grueling searching.

This does sound intriguing…

Since being founded by Reid Hoffman in 2002, LinkedIn slowly grew and grew until it recently exploded in its number of users as well as its profit and revenue. In 2011, LinkedIn grossed more income from advertising revenue than Twitter. (Source) The number of users of LinkedIn has grown to 200 million members in 200 countries (Source). As it continues to grow, businesses have begun utilizing LinkedIn’s professional orientation to establish tools to apply for jobs through LinkedIn on their listings. Employees can search for jobs through LinkedIn, having fast access to thousands of companies and even meeting future employers directly. LinkedIn also serves job recruiters by sorting the talents and abilities of members who might fit the positions that businesses are looking for. Businesses can advertise on LinkedIn, listing products and services with descriptions on their company pages, and users can write reviews for them. All in all, there are endless opportunities for all types of economic activity. So, it’s not Facebook, it’s not meant to compete with Facebook; it’s meant to market you, and market businesses. Aren’t you glad we had this discussion and figured this out? Now, on to save the world.

What does the future hold for LinkedIn? LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner announced at the end of 2012 that the company’s plans in the coming decade are to establish an “economic graph,” which kinda/sorta pillages Facebook’s social graph concept. LinkedIn presents its economic graph (when finalized) as an all encompassing chart of the global economy and all of the connections therein. The terminus ad quem of the “economic graph” is to make the connections of the global economy thorough and universal, in order that LinkedIn might possess not simply all the job recruitment in the world, but furthermore the skills required to acquire those jobs, the total number of professionals who might work them, and the businesses (whether nonprofit or for-profit) in which they work. Weiner aims at nothing less than making the global economy mapped, charted and transparent. This sounds Googlish to me!

There are signs that LinkedIn could achieve this grand vision. Not only is it growing in the US and Europe, but even in markets which are not always friendly to Internet movements, such as China. (Source) Comprising 1/5th of the world’s population, the Chinese expansion could make LinkedIn to the business world what Facebook is to the social world, further linking the global community via their phones, tablets and laptops.

Is the world ready for this level of centralization? The growth, marketability, and versatility of LinkedIn would suggest that its heading in that direction, ready or not. Best to get on the bandwagon then…

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