Some co-workers and I were studying the Alexa and Compete scores of popular social networking sites yesterday and I was shocked to see LinkedIn traffic dwarfed by Facebook, Google and MySpace. I include Google, because according to Jeremiah Owyang (and I agree), Google is building a stealth social network by linking all of it’s web properties to one universal profile.
It’s clear Facebook has built better value into its platform and is keeping its users on their site for an average 30+ minutes. Stacked against the rest they’re the clear winner.
What’s unclear to me is why LinkedIn has not capitalized on its user base. I can think of many use cases that will increase user value and keep users on the site longer (see below).
In terms of daily reach, LinkedIn barely registers relative to the others. While almost 30% and 40% of people check in every day at Facebook and Google, slightly more than 1% do so at LinkedIn. Clearly, LinkedIn is missing some key components in the value equation.
Daily Global Pageviews for the sites is the most startling. Facebook appears to surpass Google, MySpace is in decline and LinkedIn is static. This reinforces my view that Facebook and Google provide a lot of valuable content on their sites that keep users on their platforms. MySpace is doing less so, and LinkedIn has been treading water for the past 6 months.
How can LinkedIn take advantage of its platform to build more value?
Initiative #1: Immediately and automatically create free Company pages for every company listed in LinkedIn (allow custom URL’s for a fee). Unlike Facebook pages however, these sites are limited to current employees (administrators can decide if company alumni can view the current site). The company sites are more than just post and comment, they are secure, functional and benefit rich corporate sites that facilitate collaboration, networking and communication. Potentially, these sites could replace the corporate Intranet, Knowledge Base or Extranet as additional value is added.
Initiative#2: Build SharePoint, Jive Software, and MindTouch connectors so that LinkedIn profiles can be ported to these sites. Users still control their profile, but they are bi-directionally updated either from LinkedIn or the host site. Users can control privacy features directly in LinkedIn so that information they don’t want shared in the host site is not shown. The benefit to the user are any awards, accolades, recommendations, work accomplished etc. can be posted back to LinkedIn. The benefit to the corporation is that employees can leverage user profiles to connect with suppliers, customers and partners in new meaningful ways.
Initiative #3: LinkedIn must become our personal knowledge work bank. Allow users to accumulate their intellectual property (IP) and store it privately or publicly (user choice). LinkedIn does have Slideshare and blog link but they are simply links to other 3rd party sites and are not stored. As an accumulator of your IP, both LinkedIn and the user can leverage the information and many foreseeable and unforseeable ways. There are legal implications to consider, but users still want the ability to at least review past work in one central repository.
Initiative #4: Create a meaningful expert search (a better service provider feature) on long tail subjects. After Objective #3 is implemented, LinkedIn will then have the capability of identifying experts and expert content. By leveraging its recommendation system, companies can decide whether the user or their IP is something they find valuable. In effect, LinkedIn becomes the facilitator of a new business model where LinkedIn users can take on consulting projects and companies can find quick experts to solve business issues (a better elance.com).
Initiative #5: Become an economic barometer. There’s no better place to find new employees than LinkedIn. It’s also a great place to see how your connections are transitioning from employer to employer and industry to industry. In fact, LinkedIn is a rich mine field of information that isn’t being properly exposed. Imagine the data economists and vendors can extract. Then by paid subscription, offer vendors the ability to mine data looking for opportunities to offer companies services and solutions. For example, if a company has grown rapidly, vendors may want to offer those companies their services through advertising or directly.
Initiative #6: Create an economic prediction market and exchange. Offer virtual or psychological currency to LinkedIn users for correctly predicting global economic activity. Want to know how robust the Romanian business climate will be in 12 months to help decide whether you should open an office? Ask the crowd. Want to predict how many widgets you’ll sell by December 2010? Ask the crowd. As the virtual currency banker, LinkedIn can reward users for betting correctly with virtual currency to spend on vendor contributed products and services (in exchange for advertising on the exchange).
Initiative #7: Really open up the LinkedIn platform to 3rd party developers. I’m not sure of the reason for the delay, but I am confident LinkedIn has suffered economically because they haven’t opened its platform to entrepreneurs.
What are you waiting for?
(Cross-posted @ Seek Omega)