LinkedIn Gets It Right — Again
Reid Hoffman has done a spectacular job of building this company in a way that combines what I believe are the two most important aspects of leadership. First, he had a vision which he executed brilliantly. Secondly, he never let his vision get in the way of listening to what users and the market were saying.
Hoffman recognized that the fundamental structure of business typically created limited and insulated silos for individual employees. Your business network was basically fenced in by those you knew at school, former co-workers, and a few friends of friends. Sometimes even by someone you met once on a plane or in a convention. (What a sacrifice.)
LinkedIn busted that model wide open. Suddenly, you could organize and activate your first-level connections, and identify second-level connections-all of which exploded opportunities for networking, job hunting, and re-linking with lost connections.
As LinkedIn’s community grew, employers soon realized that it was the most transparent recruitment platform ever created. It let them jump over traditional recruiters, “disintermediate” them, as the lingo puts it, and engage potential new hires directly. It was a true disruption.
I’m intrigued by the many shapes and forms that engagement takes on the web. Engagement on LinkedIn is totally different than what it is on Pinterest or on the Army Wife Network, one of our Community Toolbar publishers whose remarkable story was just told on our blog. Engagement can be social, content-based, career-based, and, of course, it can be based on the satisfying activity of just wasting time.
The SlideShare acquisition shows just how broadly Hoffman and LinkedIn are thinking about engagement. I’ve always thought SlideShare was a fascinating two-way platform. People use it to post content they’ve created-largely PowerPoint presentations but also videos and increasingly-sexy new technologies like Prezi—to extend their personal awareness (yes, their “brands” if you insist). At the same time, those seeking ideas, insights, research, or just about anything that can be organized into a presentation, including a “Does God Exist” argument, can search SlideShare and find out if somebody has already done their work for them.
Even though SlideShare was already integrated into LinkedIn through its API, I fully expect to see its content become even more deeply proliferated within LinkedIn. When you’re invited into someone’s network, for example, you’re accompanied by a slice of their SlideShare content. When you search for a company, SlideShare content appears. SlideShare collaboration tools can even be created so that multiple people within the LinkedIn ecosystem can work on a presentation simultaneously. And, of course, LinkedIn’s premium membership can eventually include access to higher-value SlideShare content and features.
So I congratulate LinkedIn on its acquisition, and the entirely new category it has created—an open, yet self-policed business social network. It has leveled the playing field between employees and employers by allowing millions to advance their careers through a new kind of engagement network. Metcalfe’s Law talks about the value of a network being proportionate to the square of the number of connected users. Although Metcalfe developed it to describe a telecommunications network, it certainly applies to the value of an individual’s network in the case of LinkedIn.
Some—mainly cynics—have said that life isn’t a matter of what you know, but who you know. It’s an argument for connections over knowledge. But LinkedIn changes that argument by enabling connections to turn into knowledge. And that’s a change for the better.