2011: A Year for LinkedIn

If you’re like me, you rush into just about every new website that you hear about. I have to. It’s my job to. People expect me to know about developments in interactive communications. They want to know which sites they should know about, to promote their brand, message, or even themselves as an individual.

As the world of online recruitment evolved, sites like Monster.com, TotalJobs, HotJobs and others emerged as places where individuals could promote themselves. They weren’t the only places to do this. Not everyone wants a job in the traditional sense and equally not everyone wants to advertise the fact that they are looking for a job.

People moved to niche websites that served a specific sector, or profession. Others created websites and blogs. And in the midst of this ‘Web 2.0’ happened and along came sites like Friends Reunited, Classmates, MySpace and LinkedIn.

Some of these sites were easier to use than others. Some appealed to certain groups, or types of people. They developed reputations, some fair and others not so fair.

Among people that I know, LinkedIn became known as a place to go if you were looking for a job and you didn’t want your CV/resume floating around in Monster’s global database (or your local equivalent). People were typically very skeptical of the value of using LinkedIn for much more than allowing yourself to be contacted by a recruiter.

Although it offered far more features, it was not really seen as a viable place to build a brand.

Then along comes Facebook.

I won’t get into the technical stuff that I think seriously contributed to Facebook’s success. I want to comment on what the success of Facebook has meant to LinkedIn.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter have shown that brands, and individuals, can use Social Media to show that they have a viable point of view, a network that validates their place in the hierarchy of the business world, and the necessary experience to back up the things they say that they’ve done or can do.

Those that actually do have something to say, and are not simply regurgitating other people’s ideas, sharing the same stats and/or polishing up average work as “Best Practice” or “Best in Class” have become very successful.

More importantly, however, people have gotten used to the idea of sharing information on the internet. 5 years ago (certainly in the UK, it happened earlier in other markets, like the USA) people would laugh when Facebook was brought up in a business meeting. There would be comments about the inane things that teenagers were posting on sites like this. As things progressed, people found themselves reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and sharing the small moments in life (holiday photos, relationship news, songs/videos they like and more) that make relationships happen.

With experience, some of those early fears about what people would do with this content have subsided. We’ve learned how to protect our data, what our individual preferences and boundaries are when it comes to being tagged, or talked about online and what to do if someone posts something that we don’t like. Our collective understanding of Social Media has shifted.

As we move into 2011, a lot of people want to discuss what’s next. Mobile? Location? I think mobile will continue to grow (what a huge and ubiquitous category that is) and location will continue to intrigue us and teach us things about people, how we move around and how location makes a difference in communications.

But I think that one of the big things that will happen this year is people will look at a lot of the tools that they have already had at their disposal and see them with a fresh perspective.

Take another look at LinkedIn and you see that you can:

  • Share what you’re reading
  • Share presentations that you’ve given
  • Link to your Twitter Feed
  • Talk about what you’ve done
  • Talk about what you’re doing
  • Join groups based on industry, profession, location, or just about anything else
  • Ask questions of the people in your network
  • Post details of your business’ products and services
  • Link to your blog

And this is just the beginning. There are tons of apps and ways to customise LinkedIn to interact with your professional network in more meaningful ways, just as you connected with your personal network in new and more meaningful ways as you got used to Facebook.

This new-found open-mindedness about sharing details, applied to a business context, could significantly shape the landscape as the world moves out of the global recession that we’ve been dealing with.

Just a few random thoughts:

  • It’s much easier for people to be independent, because they can share their professional experience in a way that is about them
  • It’s much easier to verify whether someone really knows what they’re doing, because you can see who you know in common and check for references
  • It’s much easier to find someone that has faced a similar challenge to the one you might be facing in your career, and to get help
  • It’s much easier to show people how or why you have the edge that you have over your competitors
  • It’s much easier to spot a fake

These are just some initial thoughts, but I do find myself turning to LinkedIn as a more productive way to channel my “Social Media addiction”… if I’m going to waste away hours on Social Media, it’s best that it pays me back in ways that provide more ROI on my personal time.

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