After about 2 years of talking about this topic, I thought it best to collect some solid data before doing an official blog about it.
LinkedIn is not a social network.
A thing is defined by it’s major attribute. While LinkedIn has aspects of a social network, it is actually a social database.
Hey Donato…But they say they are a social network!
In the early days they were. As the network grew, savvy users realized they needed to grow their networks as large as possible to spread their reach. In polls done over the last year in live webinars, I’ve asked groups ranging from 200-600 how they use LinkedIn. Here are the questions and the responses.
1. I get as many connections as possible and figure out how to contact people directly.
2. I use LinkedIn to as it was meant. Connect with people through a series of connections.
3. I don’t use LinkedIn.
69% of people choose option 1. Last year, it was only 50%. The trend is growing and…
LinkedIn is a social database.
That is how the majority of people are using it. Social database. Why does this matter? It is about methodology. First, I will admit, in some cases, an introduction is the only way to get to a high level contact. Admittedly…this is one way how I use LinkedIn. However, connecting through a chain of 3 people is too slow. Painful. Sales and especially recruiting cannot work at those speeds. If they guy at the second place in the chain of connections is on vacation, kiss your placement goodbye. Another recruiter that goes direct is going to eat your lunch. Sales is much the same.
LinkedIn promotes bad outreach methods.
Have you ever received a canned message from LinkedIn member that starts with “Because you are a person I trust…”. When I am in a particular mood, I will reply to those messages with “Send me $50 please…if you trust me”. Sometimes this will get a laugh and people will realize how bad their outreach was. Sometimes, I never hear from them again. As yet… none of these trusted connections has sent me cash.
Bad outreach is easily cured. Remove the canned invites and force people to actually write a real reason of why they want to connect. Score the text of the message for uniqueness. This is not hard to do. Flag messages that were mass mailed. Give users the ability to automatically remove any messages sent to more than 1, 5, or 10 people. If I see a message that was sent to 50 people, I would delete it. I have a personal policy to read all 1:1 messages that are sent with a reason. I sent this suggestion to LinkedIn and got response “they were working on something like that”. Based on the amount of unsolicited LinkedIn spam I get…I’d love to see it.
LinkedIn makes money on quantity, not quality
The actions of LinkedIn show that they want to make it as easy as possible for you to connect to as many people as possible. They know that they have a tremendously valuable social database. This is good business sense.
LinkedIn: are you reading? Recently on the focus.com site, my answer about the worst thing on LinkedIn got the most votes. Everyone hates the canned invites. Here is the link: http://www.focus.com/questions/if-you-could-change-1-think-about-linkedin-what-would-it-be/
The quality of LinkedIn will continue to drop over time. Unless some major changes occur to (1) stop the LinkedIn spam (2) Force quality outreach (3) Give users more control on what is sent to them.
The LinkedIn Exodus
The future of the web and of technological interaction must be permission based. Today, LinkedIn is mob-based-permissions. Many of the recruiters and sales people I sell to on a regular basis are part of 50+ social networks and groups. They are being bombarded with outreach, unsolicited from members of those networks. Eventually, I predict, vendors such as Facebook and LinkedIn will continue to (1) Follow the money (2) Abuse users best interests and then (3) lose those users. It will be interesting what Google+ ends up looking like. At some point, users will take back control and all interactions with networks will be on the users terms. A centralized (maybe mobile) set of permissions that *dictates* to the outside world how the network may interact with the user. This will happen.
Positioned for permissions.
Which company is going to step up and have some vision? Give the user total control over what and how often they receive any type of outreach. It is against LinkedIn’s and Facebook’s short term financial missions. Maybe Google? Google does not have to make money on their social network. That may be one of the key pieces of building a permissions technology. If money is involved, if the need to sidestep privacy in the name of profit is anywhere in the equation… it won’t work.
Examples of permissions:
Facebook: Block all Apps from Posting on my wall. I will accept any personal wall post, but darn it, I don’t want to join F*&@ing Branch out.
LinkedIn: Block any messages that are sent to more than one person. Again: personally I like personalized messages and respond if I can.
LinkedIn Groups: No, because I joined a group, you cannot add me to your widget mailing list. I must request it and you cannot prompt me.
Google+: Stop notifying me that someone added me to a circle….. score one for Google… they actually just did this!
Social Agents: Yes, my wife’s iPhone can check my iPhone’s calendar and meetings scheduled.
Newsletters: Only accept 1 newsletter per quarter from my financial adviser.
Email: If the person is not in my email history, mark as low priority (this I already do)
Excessive? You won’t think that when the RFID label on a bottle of water you just bought sends your iPhone and advertisement. In a technologically explosive world, permissions that we control will be required to keep our sanity.
A permissions foundation?
What if an independent foundation was created by the major players out there? Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple and …LinkedIn. Mission: to create a portable technology that is tied to an individual. It includes all the rules of how the world may interact with that individual. The “profile” is portable and exclusively owned and controlled by the individual. Profit could be made by companies that have a better mousetrap for managing those profiles.
Time to get disrupted.
The permissions technology/widget/APP would lead to other interesting side effects. As it is a few years away, it will coincide with very fast mobile processors. Good bye Facebook, unless they lead the change. Reality: trust in Facebook and other social networks is declining. Give people an alternative social network, with permission you absolutely control, that you carry on your hip on your iPhone or Android… why would you want Facebook? Caveat: Facebook could lead this movement?
Social Networking evolves: Mobile Peer to Peer
How will Facebook stop this? They can’t unless they lead the change. It is inevitable. Every major technology starts centralized and then moves to distributed as the technology is democratized. Create a news alert on social networks and violations of user trust. You will see the trend. 10 years ago…how many people in the world could develop an app for a mobile phone and distribute it in days to millions of people? Not many. Today it can be done by an industrious child.
Mobile Peer-Peer social networking will look nearly like Facebook or Google+. The only difference is that all the data is stored on your iPhone/Android/Device. New picture of the kids? … it automatically connects to all your friends devices and uploads the pictures…based on permissions. Think of it as a group DropBox for pictures, status, check-in’s, etc.
What needs to happen for Mobile Peer to Peer
Mobile phone processors need to have about a 2X improvement in processor and battery life. The iPad2 is there today. In a recent live talk, I demonstrated my iPhone acting as a mobile web server. It was a bit slow, but the point was understood. Ten years from now, mobile phones will be hosting full blown websites. Peer-peer social networking will be child’s play comparatively.
Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Microsoft want to control your data, your friends and record your interactions. What you do & say, who your friends are, etc. They want to know, save it and use it. It’s good business. Chances are they won’t invest in something that takes control away from them. One option is that they build the platform & tools, which sits peer-peer, but they push ads. Not a bad tradeoff if they pay to develop the infrastructure. This is the perfect recipe for disruption and however it turns out, should be interesting. Pick the right time, build it and monetize.