Sunday, February 10, 2013

USER TRUST, the dope that can't be ignored in the race to monetizing cyber-social engagement – A commentary in light of the recent revamps to LinkedIn user experience

Okay, here goes…


With a market cap of over US$16 billion & revenues forecast slated at US$1.4 billion and supposedly* out-pacing the original social media biggie Facebook in terms of revenue v/s user base, LinkedIn is surely fanning the flames of market expectation of an aggressive performance coming year (*the revenue per user as of last financial year is ~ US$5, coincidentally for both LinkedIn & FB)

As a part of this expectation frenzy, the analysts have been postulating various acquisition targets based on LinkedIn’s need to grow faster, hence inorganically through acquisitions, though not all necessarily as pricey as Slideshare buyout and generate more revenues & earnings that’d justify its two years into public listing - In a funny kind of way, I feel the financial markets almost want LI to compensate for the laggard performance of Facebook J


As a regular user, I’ve been wearily noticing the rapid dilution of what used to be the core value-add of LinkedIn platform (vis-à-vis’ other social media) – its high quality user-experience!

While a major portion of this dilution happened through the unceremonious withdrawal of various tools & applications, a lot of it is also owing to the subtle or probably not-so subtle attempt to move away from being an egalitarian professional platform to becoming an elite platform where a few celebrities & myriads of followers exist at different levels of social relevance effected through a methodically tempered and manipulated 'visibility engineering' by the overseers……. not sure about what I’m saying?... ponder this;

Unceremonious WITHDRAWAL of apps
  • Just like that, one fine day most used & adored apps such as MY TRAVEL (TRIPIT); EVENTS; READING LIST BY AMAZON (along with all my reviews), BLOG LINK et al are all gone!! - Ironically, the settings still point me to the applications page where all the above application icons still exist, but defunct.
The subtle social DISENGAGEMENT:
  • STATUS UPDATE - No more one can use Twitter to update the LI status, the other way is possible though. Also, the status update is now “just one more activity” on your profile & the moment you post a comment on anything else, your status update goes into hiding below. Furthermore, your comment on a LI article itself is never shown, but a grab of the article on which you commented is displayed on your profile
  • ENGAGEMENT - The LinkedIn Answers is gone…. taking with it the zillions of high quality & ‘free’ opinion and advice
And what features get strengthened? 1) JOBS - with the introduction of talent solutions; Premium job-seeker et al 2) NEWS - with LinkedIn Today, Signal et al 3) TALENT SOLUTIONS – introduction of Skills and Expertise endorsements moving away from the much cumbersome recommendation 4) COMPANIES – with enhanced options for engagement with potential business associates and job aspirants et al and finally 5) PREMIUM USER ACCOUNT and the paying account privileges that come with it.


Reading the trend of vanishing apps & features together with the names of potential acquisitions floating about, it does appear LI could end up acquiring and integrating a few companies such as;
  • VIADEO & ChinaHR  - to ramp up the user-base and thus the revenues
  • QUORA – to compensate for Answers & recreate the lost cause of stimulating user engagement.. and finally,
  • DEMANDBASE – to optimize the momentum of COMPANY pages and create a B2B integrated transaction platform
I don’t believe acquisition of MONSTER is something LinkedIn would/ should bother about?, as LI already enjoys the benefit of a better user perception (real?) of candidate quality plus a greater brand equity, which any association with a hard-core job site like Monster would only dilute.

Essentially, when the analysts out there propose these acquisitions, it’s all about money, valuation, market capitalization & essentially monetizing all the user-base unabashedly quite like what FB is trying to do.


But of course, these are enterprises after all and they’d want to make money & people who invested in those want them to make money. But when the very basis of a business is its user base, their interest and trust in the platform and it’s ethos, I am not sure if the solely revenue-inspired changes LI is affecting make complete sense.

I want to believe when LI web-page redirect I landed on says “We'll be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn” – I very badly want to……. I love/ loved being on LinkedIn, I want it to sustain my interest, I do want to still confide all my professional details to the platform without having a niggling doubt that LI is only teasing-out information it could use commercially and blocking-out information it can’t monetize – only I don’t see many signs of it. I, an average but avid social media denizen am not surely alone in this feeling of the user getting left high and dry in this chase of valuation.

I hope LinkedIn is listening & FB eavesdropping..... Please don’t do the mistake of taking the user for granted 'cause on a social media user is the primal stakeholder.



Is LinkedIn itself a candidate for take-over? I’d think so - it’d be the right acquisition for any company out there trying to dominate the cloud scene with an integrated gadget to boot. Would one of you gentleman please raise your hand? Tim, Jeff, Larry… anyone….??