LinkedIn – It’s Identity Crisis and the Future of Professional Social Media.

I’ve been following LinkedIn’s progress for quite a long time. I used to focus exclusively on employment and recruitment advertising so it was a no-brainer to be heavily engaged with LinkedIn back in the early days.

As you can imagine, seeing its successes and struggles is a little exhausting at times. I actually root for LinkedIn to succeed. I want them to ‘figure it out’. I remember waiting for their efforts to monetize and wondering where it would head. Would it work?

LinkedIn’s major types of users:

  1. Recruiters/headhunters/HR: obviously the main user. It’s a huge resume database and also an avenue for connectivity to possible recruits. This was one of the very first successful monetization efforts, though not without its hiccups. But through time, they made strides. Summed up in this article “…LinkedIn makes most of its money from a very expensive product tailored to only a very small percentage of its audience.”
  2. Job seekers: this has always been a huge focus, but how do you charge people when they are looking for a job? And if they are already employed, how do you keep it incognito so as to not alert their boss?
  3. Salespeople: this makes sense, sounds like there is an opportunity for revenue here. But unfortunately, sales folks are often lone wolfs, protective about the data they have access to and won’t share it even with the company they work for. So, who’s going to pay any significant dollars for this type of access?
  4. Who’s missing? Marketing? Ca-ching! The corporations are the ones with the cash.

Sadly enough, I have yet to see valuable marketing opportunities on LinkedIn. Which is a shame because their targeting is amazing, I can target a specific job function at a specific company if I like. You can’t get much more specific than that, but the sense that the message is missing its target and the environment is not conducive to this type of marketing is strong.

We get fooled into thinking that LinkedIn is a great place to share a corporate message because it’s such a professional site. Made for professionals and their networking activities. But something is missing that would let us share business ideas in any type of mass scale. At best marketing is using LinkedIn as a wasteland depository of articles into massive groups. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few people doing some awesome things, but on the whole, they haven’t quite figured it out after all these years.

So maybe LinkedIn will continue to evolve and find their way. Or maybe its beauty is in the way that it forces individual conversation – which as I’m likely to preach, is the most effective use of social efforts, but who has the time?