LinkedIn may be the most cheesy social network, but its strategy is working

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LinkedIn is so easy to laugh at. The professional network is 18 years old – Methuselah by social media standards. His insistence on adding Instagram-style features may seem fishy. Why would someone want to post disappearing photos on their LinkedIn page? Who wants to become a LinkedIn influencer anyway?

Undeterred, the company is plotting even more bells and whistles. Last week, he announced a $ 25 million “creation fund” to encourage users to post more content. Short TikTok-style videos are on the way. Soon it will be launching its own version of Clubhouse, the audio chat room app that rocked Silicon Valley last year.

Stifle your sneers. The most special thing about these efforts is that they seem to work. Over the past three years, LinkedIn has added approximately 200 million new users. Its annual revenues have almost doubled to $ 10 billion. This is growth at the level of Facebook. Not bad for the most outdated social network in the world.

Maybe being stupid explains part of LinkedIn’s success. The good thing about a low-key reputation is the ability to hang on to the trust wasted by other social media companies. A friend of mine was invited by a potential date if they could log in through LinkedIn before meeting so she could verify who he said he was. His reasoning was that no one tampers with a LinkedIn profile.

As the world worries about the destructive impact of social media, LinkedIn has been able to amass three quarters of a billion users without refoulement. As I was writing this column, I realized that I now have more LinkedIn contacts than Facebook friends, Instagram followers, or numbers saved in my phone.

What is less obvious is how valuable these connections are. It’s easy to click “yes” on an email asking you to join your LinkedIn community. But if my contacts were gathered in one room, I would have no idea who many of them were. They would probably say the same about me. LinkedIn may be the world’s largest platform for professionals, but it lacks the addictive quality that allows people to refresh their Instagram feed or scroll down to TikTok.

When Microsoft bought LinkedIn in 2016 for $ 26 billion, it was considered insane amount of money to spend on an unprofitable job board. There was speculation that Microsoft was really after the kind founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman. Hoffman is a member of the PayPal Mafia, the group of former PayPal executives that includes Elon Musk and Peter Thiel. He is well connected and well liked. Microsoft, on a mission to transform its business, needed his help.

While Hoffman joined the Microsoft board of directors, LinkedIn was left to fend for itself. Based in a rather glamorous office in downtown San Francisco, he makes his money selling ads, recruiting services, and premium memberships. I mainly use it to check people’s job titles.

Can audio chat rooms and short TikTok-style videos make us spend more time on the site? May be. LinkedIn says public conversations between users have already grown by more than a third in the past year. This type of engagement is popular with advertisers. LinkedIn made $ 1 billion in ad revenue in the last quarter – nearly double the previous year – although it is cautious about profits.

Microsoft boss Satya Nadella is clearly intrigued by content creation and online communities. Hence Microsoft’s attempt to buy American company TikTok and its interest in Pinterest and the Discord chat app.

To make LinkedIn more compelling, the content should be more interesting than congratulating your colleague on their first anniversary of employment. There are many aspirants of Tony Robbins offering humble vanities and “hard work pays off” platitudes. The challenge for the company is to encourage people with valuable knowledge to share it. There is an appetite for it. The appeal of Clubhouse was not just the audio, but the fact that conversations often consisted of professionals offering insight into their industries. These types of connections are underserved by other social media.

If that is successful, expect rivals to come up with copied versions immediately. Facebook has already encroached on LinkedIn’s territory by enticing users to search for jobs on its platform. This summer, TikTok launched a pilot program called TikTok Resumes. Users in the United States were encouraged to find their “dream job” by uploading a video resume.

LinkedIn has a good head start. If it continues to increase sales, it will prove to be a valuable purchase for Microsoft. Consider that Facebook has a trillion dollar market value, more than 11 times its annual revenue. If LinkedIn were valued in the same way, it would be worth at least $ 100 billion. Maybe it wasn’t that expensive after all.

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