Social networks are fads, like fashion, like pop songs from boy bands. We saw it with MySpace, Friendster and AOL; the list is endless.
If content is King and Context is Ace, how can Facebook last? It's almost all paid advertising now, at least in my feed when/if I log in.
But I seldom use Facebook... my sister gives me enormous flack about it... I tell her I only have so many hours in the day and my B2B world is LinkedIn. Facebook is full of ads, has a very confusing UI, and is Shangri-La for wasting time and the trivial. I definitely see how it's great for grandparents to help keep up with what's happening with their children and grandchildren interstate... but the rest is mostly narcissism at its finest, as far as I'm concerned. There are better apps for sharing photos and one-liner updates.
As a speaker and author, I can gain viewers if I pay for them on there. Why would I do that? I'd rather start meaningful business conversations in my RSVPselling Group on LinkedIn or go engage in conversations in other great ones like Strategic Selling.
Yes, there are ads in LinkedIn but they are unobtrusive and in the context of what I'm doing, just as they might be in The Australian or WSJ, out of sight - out of mind, unless something catches my eye.
I could fill this article with a million statistics and prognostications but I can certainly simply empirically observe behaviors from my own life. My 18-year-old son isn't going to hang out where his parents are on Facebook. As he gets into University, he'll most likely start building a living resume on LinkedIn, sharing his internships, community service, extracurricular activities and student involvement to ready for the workplace. He could even utilize LinkedIn's YOUNIVERSITY to find the perfect university matched to his skill-set aspirations right now.
Reid Hoffman is a humble visionary. He built LinkedIn with a slow burn marathon-versus-a-sprint mentality. He reimagined networking reducing the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon to 3 degrees of "everywhere you want to be" with millions of professionals. It took well over ten years to become an overnight sensation and generates the most revenue of any social network of its kind for B2B brands.
Twitter has stayed relevant and will continue to be so because of its ability to be the megaphone, amplifying the blogosphere and arguably that blogosphere is moving inside LinkedIn with the network effects now made possible by its true breakthrough: LinkedIn Publisher. Paradoxically, users are starving for content searching desperately for signal in the noise amidst the glut of it on the web. LinkedIn gets that and is curating a patchwork quilt to capture the Millennial meets Boomer Zeitgeist. I recently made a bold prediction on here that LinkedIn Publisher will replace the blog as we know it. I followed that up with a show-stopping decision to stop blogging outside of LinkedIn. Perhaps WordPress will run within the platform via an API one day, only time will tell.
My prediction: Facebook is a meme. We'll see 10 more like it by 2050.
LinkedIn will keep on trucking along because of stickiness, CV reference necessity, career advancement, it's 10X moonshot quest to map the "economic graph," the fact they built the new Bloomberg Terminal with their Recruiter product and the fact that the articles I'm reading on here that YOU, yes you - my peers - are writing, are so downright phenomenal not to mention hyper-relevant to me.
Straight talk: Executives are sharing candid insight about what it's really like out there from the polished halls of government [and the seedy backdoor corridors, I might add] to the trenches in the cubicles. Utility: The modern sales team can innovative with a 5-seat license of LinkedIn Sales Navigator for their LinkedIn War Room and has access to a full blown Social CRM plugging into Salesforce to unlock never-before-seen business intelligence and trigger event tracking functionality. The kicker: passive monitoring of what influential prospects are sharing rather than the awkward assumptive friend request. Ladies and gentlemen, behold Social Selling 3.0 and LinkedIn is ushering in a new era of disruptive sales thinking, along with the thought leaders and proponents of #SocialSelling who inhabit it, vaulting its status among the results-driven.
LinkedIn is the telephone or light bulb of social networks from a technology evolution standpoint. Nobody needs to reinvent the wheel because their savvy engineering organization is adapting and evolving fast enough to continue to disrupt themselves. Kudos to Jeff Weiner for his operational excellence, keeping an agile startup mentality at this size and staying LEAN. They've adapted to mobile, they've adapted to content marketing, they've adapted to mass collaboration and embraced the Wikinomics principle of prosumption. Users are co-creating the dream with them.
They're encouraging the world to read and write again proficiently. They're making itcool to get really good at it. It's cool to be smart, be mentored and learn from diverse cultures and generations. That's a message that resonates with me and why I'd encourage my son to log in to this network rather than turn another one off to go do his homework, study for an exam or complete a term paper. In fact, the resources on here could help him excel at just that. He could interview a veteran or tell a true story and find new context based on his life and experience. True, I've seen some "cats with snorkels" videos creeping in recently but LinkedIn does a staggering good job of policing itself.
What is possible for LinkedIn? Becoming the modern-day newspaper. Oh, it's done that with Pulse. Becoming the social network to replace all social networks. Well, it's done that for me. In essence, a virtual reality that synthesizes the neural networks of the analog world allowing for networked synergy never before possible as a once separated global business collective, now inexorably united.
Generations united. The true second life.
What is possible for LinkedIn? Well studies have shown despite 68% of CEOs not being on social media, LinkedIn is the gateway where they dip their toe in the water. When they achieve their grand vision of mapping the social graph of a billion professionals [see the above Jeff Weiner keynote], the network effects will render the concept concrete like the telephone achieving total ubiquity. From this platform, almost infinite combinations are possible. Knowledge sharing and the synergy of human creativity, ingenuity, compassion and collaboration become possible in dramatic new ways we can only imagine in our wildest dreams. Not to mention, employment opportunity abounds in all its various and sundry forms including meeting the demands of the freelance explosion.
Sorry Facebook, we get that ads drive revenue but LinkedIn has simply done this in such a more elegant, reliable way as of late. The argument will be made, well Facebook is for social and LinkedIn is for business. Not so! Outside of private time with my friends and family, consulting clients is my passion and since I do what I love, I seldom actually "work" a day in my life.
The point being is that the lines between social and business have blurred since the recession for many. In weathering any economic crisis, the workforce of the world gets focused on economic advancement and success to find the light at the end of the tunnel. This requires tremendous time, effort and energy and personally, I'd prefer to blow off steam on a long bike ride than socialize over a network mobile, Virtual Reality or otherwise if it's not immediately relevant to my interests, life and career goals. Others may have a different view here and contest this. I understand - entertainment is important too. But the interest graph is not enough, it must be overlaid with the economic and social graphs to build a four dimensional matrix, a garden where it's a joy to wander and even get lost (or found!).
They say the Millennial generation is poised to become the greatest entrepreneurial generation. This research also tends to support my thesis here. If this is true, they too will take to LinkedIn like a duck to water. And guess what, on LinkedIn, it is cool that parents and older people are in the mix. Every budding entrepreneurial Millennial will study Sandberg, Rometty, Wojcicki, Mayer, Whitman, Burns, Catz... ad infinitum. Many will go one step further and connect with them!
I was inspired to write this after reading Nicholas Carlson's brilliant missive comparing LinkedIn to the Yahoo of yore. I think he gets a lot of things right in this article and I noticed some heated debate erupt. Tea leaves aside, history will be the arbiter as YOU cast your vote with every mouse click. Zuck is a brilliant entrepreneur. Never-to-be-underestimated, he will endure. Is he one step ahead anticipating this to pivot in time, MANY TIMES?
Let's analyze: Instagram is the undisputed Queen of photo sharing (although some of us now eschew any publicly posted photos or data whatsoever, yearning for true privacy) and Oculus Rift may usher in a new era of commerce in virtual worlds. It would be amusing indeed to see a B2B meeting with conservative executives resplendent in their VR goggle headsets! Lest we forget, FB could carve out a strong niche in gaming with its wearable tech going up against Microsoft Xbox. Facebook is also experimenting with business networking for which they'll face the existential chicken-and-egg Branchout problem. Will they adapt fast enough to meet the market ahead of the cusp? Recently this Darwin riff has been floating around LinkedIn feeds and I think it's most applicable to theorizing why tech companies can win:
In the classic words of Dennis Miller, "Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong." What do you think? Comparing Facebook with Yahoo back in the day is one unique take on it. The other is just sizing up our own personal usage and each social network's ongoing utility and efficacy toward 2015. Any technology arc will typically play itself out in a winner-take-all denouement. For this reason, I believe LinkedIn to be the sleeper hit that will endure. They're adapting to change fast enough and continue to surprise and delight us upon each log-in by bringing us closer together.
It's an author's paradise right now; I'm humbled and grateful to be developing a strong following. My recent tribute to a real world hero, pilot Richard de Crespigny, who saved hundreds of lives with an emergency landing in Singapore has exceeded 60,000 views and is about to eclipse 600 shares. What's been most impressive are how people from all walks of life are coming out of the woodwork, reading the entire thing and contributing so thoughtfully in the comment thread. They're watching all the documentaries, reading his book and adding so much intrinsic value and nuance back to this incredible story in near real time. They're amplifying this with Twitter. So far I did find one share on a Pilot News Magazine's Facebook Page but unless they're paying to boost exposure I'm thinking under 15% of their 6,000+ followers may see it. My followers on here have doubled in under two months at a faster clip than any concerted effort I've made in the past to organically grow my Twitter or a Facebook Page traffic. I'm very excited to see where this networking, publishing and career building powerhouse phenomenon is going in 2015.
Who will be the first to map the economic graph? The world of virtual reality is definitely not flat.
Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.
Main image photo by Flcikr: Bratislavská župa
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