Will LinkedIn become the next Google for professionals?

Tony Hughes


Ask yourself, don't you start your day in Linkedin? Maybe you check your email but isn't that just notifications from LinkedIn or notifications of InMails and LinkedIn emails? What about group digests and alerts or updates from Sales Navigator of important triggers?

Is it possible that reactive company email will be a batch process function and secondary to first logging into a tool like LinkedIn which becomes your uber-dashboard to the world of selling and business?

Growing empirical evidence that this reality could soon emerge includes:

  • Sellers are performing the majority of searches in a given business day within LinkedIn.
  • InMails are the new cold call. Targeted, they have exponential response rates.
  • Referrals and studying the interrelationships of our own employees via TeamLink gives us a distinctive edge to understand how our internal networks overlay with that of our dream prospects.
  • Traditional databases are less accurate as they often take time to update whereas the community on LinkedIn self updates in near real-time.
  • When salespeople are studying organizational charts for account planning or whale hunting (power-base analysis), they literally check LinkedIn first.
  • Trigger events are easier to track than ever before because you can perform advance searches to understand the relationship of where prospects came from. You can even track down prospects that left that company for intel on the best way to get back in.
  • Alumni networks are thriving inside LinkedIn and connecting in via alums has an astoundingly high acceptance rate.
  • Groups are becoming the chat rooms of the future where your contemporaries hang out in the field exchanging advanced knowledge and debating the finer points of cutting edge solutions. Customer-facing groups where executives hang out are accessible to the modern business developer.
  • Pulse is now so deeply embedded in SEO and engagement so off the charts, that many Pulse stories hit the front page of Google News. To my knowledge, LinkedIn Publish gets crawled by the spiders and provides tremendous SEO value as there is so much interlinking, commenting and interactivity that sends key signals back to the [Google] Panda machine learning algorithm.
  • LinkedIn is at the heart and epicenter of the social selling movement more as the hub than the spoke. (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube all duke it out there.)
  • Passive candidate searches have never been easier so it's possible to now acquire top talent. This makes the entire paradigm of staffing a more efficient marketplace which is fundamentally a democratizing force in society and engenders meritocracy. [This could even have a profound positive impact on ameliorating gender inequality via it's mere technology approach].
  • LinkedIn Navigator allows a second mailbox for business development to preserve personal privacy in one's own inbox so if you're un-engaged and unhappy like 80% of the workforce... go do something about it right now!
  • The analytics engine behind LinkedIn is the ultimate matchmaking resource from a recruitment perspective. The better this big data crunching machine becomes, the more tailored the applicants it will serve up. This just makes LinkedIn even more fundamentally sticky and core to every startup and enterprise in the world.
  • CRMs could literally melt away were Navigator to allow for just a few extra features like: Sorting of lead lists, designation of current contacts and opportunity management with minimal stage creation.
  • Just a few basic classic CRM functions could help LinkedIn Sales Navigator be an end-to-end enterprise selling tool. Small startup companies will definitely begin to leverage LinkedIn as a complete replacement for CRM this year and with great results, I might add.
  • There's a growing number of people that just connect LinkedIn to Twitter, Facebook & Google+ but only utilize LinkedIn as their core network. Just like TV, I'm trying to minimize time-wasting platforms so I curtail my usage of the internet to where the most additive value to developing my consultancy can be derived.
  • According to Business Insider: "For the full year [2014], LinkedIn reported revenue of $2.219 million, an increase of 45% compared to 2013. Non-GAAP net income in 2014 was $254 million, compared to $192 million in 2013." Translation: They've cracked the code on making a social network into a profitable business model.
  • They've essentially transcended the restrictions of "social networking" nomenclature / classification and become something entirely new: a human-centric virtual world mapping the economic graph.
  • Who else is mapping the global economic graph? I'd be hard-pressed to answer that question [maybe ask BranchOut?] which further highlights the level of blue ocean strategy and divergent, focused and memorable value curves they've effectively exploited.

We can almost make the argument that the internet itself, Google searching and email are all secondary and tertiary channels. For many of the top performers on terra firma, they're a necessary evil and afterthought.

My challenge would be to see what would happen if a salesperson for just one quarter, had no email and simply utilized the full functionality of LinkedIn on desktop and mobile, without even having a traditional phone. Behold the transformative power of the entire suite of LinkedIn applications. How much business would it be possible to develop?

A lion share.

Like any system, we are only as effective as the quality of the data. That's what makes LinkedIn so unusual in how it's innovating the way we do business globally with a data driven approach at the fore. The fact that people are by and large who they say they are, in many industries all relevant companies are represented, and most core business functions from a recruiting, sales, marketing, business development and R & D perspective are achievable on here; would suggest a brave new world is upon us.

That's not to say the greater web or search engines will ever go away completely but for a variety of industry verticals, much of the utility represented by those past paradigms will simply live inside the LinkedIn system or ones like it. This is disconcerting for those that tend to perform Google searches religiously. I think the thing to remember is that 92% of all traffic is on the first page. So in essence, most of Google's function is to serve paid or semi-paid (lest we forget organic SEO strategy still costs a fortune when done properly) to the first page above the fold on a laptop.

I've had major warnings about blogging exclusively in here. What if they close and own your I.P. or go down and your blog is gone. My response is, the architects of this infrastructure are a) much smarter than I am; b) have a redundant system for a back-end technology stack; and c) run a reverse pyramid where my content in the system is the most valuable player. The more bestselling authors who migrate all their I.P. open source into the Publisher blogosphere, the more traction LinkedIn has as the leading publishing platform. And I'm OK with that... I get 15 to 50 inbound LinkedIn invites per week, sometimes even per day when a great article hits Channels like Leadership & Management or Sales Strategies. Many of these inbound touches have translated into training, speaking or consulting gigs. It's worth the risk but I do not believe that risk exists.

Weiner and Hoffman are in this for 100 years from my lens.

What do you think the possibilities and limitations are for LinkedIn? Could it replace CRMs? Could it replace Google? How about email? Will new forms of email be developed that run inside professional networks like this which render emailing and Googling on the open web, less necessary? Could the salespeople of the future get by solely with LinkedIn running on their smartphone and desktop, [perhaps in a smart contact lens] leveraging SlideShare for presentations and making cell phone or conference calls natively on the phone, or even with a simple edition of chat functionality they could add. They could add video-conferencing or partner with a Citrix or Skype to do so, fairly easily. Will traditional and cutting edge CRM vendors respond by supplying feature functionality parity?

One of the glaring things missing from LinkedIn which I've been talking about for years as the Magic Bullet for the entire system is LIVE Chat. Google+ has hangouts, Facebook has real-time 'always on' live chat interfaces. Now maybe there's a fear this is too obtrusive but if you were able to 'knock' just like on Join.Me - now that would be the killer app! Imagine knocking on a profile, spinning up a video chat and accelerating the deal.

LinkedIn is powerful in how it focuses and based on the many things it doesn't do but as it's expanded it's product and services offering, I truly believe the sky's the limit and every competitive tech company needs to be constantly vigilant.

Last feature I'll recommend, is around LinkedIn Publisher. Building out a vanity link to the corpus (or compendium) of posts would be excellent so someone could type in http://www.linkedin.com/tonyjhughespublish < or any customization here. The other side of this is building in more of a WordPress blog like index instead of a series of scrollable tiles. [Teaser copy would be great here too to attract relevant clicks and capture intent.] This would allow someone to search posts by month or search them by keyword.

Granted, few are getting near the 200 posting mark but some of the more advanced blog organization features would be great in the product roadmap. I actually like how responsive and tight the CMS is because it just looks so much cleaner than a traditional blog by maintaining one consisting format / theme across the entire ecosystem.

RSS is critical and many have adapted to Feed.ly so it's important for LinkedIn to enable RSS and feature it prominently for those of us that have pioneered a full blogging strategy within here.


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/.


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