LinkedIn the #2 Social Media Platform across Multiple Metrics

LinkedIn is now the number two social media platform by usage, advertising spend, ROI and analytics tools.  Facebook remains number one.  “While LinkedIn is often considered a hub for job hunters and corporate recruiters, the platform has also shifted to position itself as a marketing engine in recent years,” said Jerry Ascierto, executive editor of The Social Shake-Up Show. “The recent updates to its ad platform and UI seem to be encouraging brands to increase spend. As a result, more companies are experiencing better ROI from this network than others considered more popular and ‘fun,’ such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.”

Source: Social Shake-Up.
Source: Social Shake-Up.

LinkedIn has benefited from a native video feature that was launched last year and was recently extended to company pages.

LinkedIn’s last official member count was 546 million global professional profiles.

Microsoft Chairman John Thompson said that the LinkedIn acquisition has been “wildly successful” and that Microsoft would be “all in” on a similar deal.  Of particular interest are firms that would help connect users to the Microsoft cloud.

Thomson was critical of firms that share or sell user data.  “Many of them make money off ads and they have used that as kind of a leverage point,” Thomson told Bloomberg.  “At Microsoft, we don’t believe in that.”

While Facebook has taken a series of hits on its sharing of member data, LinkedIn has long protected member data (for example, Sales Navigator does not permit the uploading of member information to CRMs but makes it available for display).  What’s more, Microsoft has built GDPR compliance into its product line and set it as a global standard.

LinkedIn celebrated its 15th anniversary last month.  “15 years ago, we launched LinkedIn in Reid Hoffman’s living room with the tagline ‘relationships matter’,”  said VP of Product Strategy Allen Blue.  “I’m proud to say that this mantra still rings true today in both the halls of LinkedIn and on the platform. While the world of work has evolved immensely — be it the tools and products we use, the ways we communicate, and even the jobs themselves — our need to connect with one another to be productive in our careers remains at the core of all we do.”

Twitter Supports Verbosity! #HipHipHooray

Twitter had doubled its capacity to 280 character tweets noting that in countries where there is less character cramming (e.g., China, Japan, Korea), there are fewer full-length messages and a higher propensity to tweet.  “Twitter is about brevity,” blogged Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen and senior software engineer, Ikuhiro Ihara.  “It’s what makes it such a great way to see what’s happening. Tweets get right to the point with the information or thoughts that matter. That is something we will never change.”

“Historically, 9% of Tweets in English hit the character limit. This reflects the challenge of fitting a thought into a Tweet, often resulting in lots of time spent editing and even at times abandoning Tweets before sending. With the expanded character count, this problem was massively reduced – that number dropped to only 1% of Tweets running up against the limit.

  • Aliza Rosen, Twitter Product Manager

Twitter noted that during a test, the length of tweets quickly returned to its terse style, but with few tweeters bumping up against the limit.  “We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they Tweeted more easily and more often. But importantly, people Tweeted below 140 most of the time and the brevity of Twitter remained,” said Rosen.

So, I guess we’ll all be fine, but what does this mean for the Tweeter-in-Chief and posterity?  Will some future historian performing data analytics pick up on the change in length?

Will Trumpish remain its own special language?  Will Sad! become So Sad! And was cofeveve an acronym he can now spell out for us?

LinkedIn Product Announcements

LinkedIn Marketing Campaign Analytics assist with bid decisions.
LinkedIn Marketing Campaign Analytics assist with bid decisions.

LinkedIn recently began supporting video uploads which begin playing silently when they appear in members’ feeds.  Videos may run up to ten minutes, though LinkedIn recommends lengths of fewer than five minutes.  As with LinkedIn posts, members will also receive analytics on views, likes, shares, and top viewing markets.  The new feature provides B2B marketers with a business focused platform on which they can post corporate announcements, executive thought leadership pieces, and corporate event videos.

Business Insider found that LinkedIn is considered the most trustworthy of the social media platforms with people deeming it best at protecting privacy (55%), least likely to display deceptive content (55%), and safest network for posts and participation (43%).

LinkedIn will also be passing along viewer details such as employer and title for the top viewers.

“Analytics about where video viewers work and what they do present substantial opportunities for networking, recruiting, generating sales leads, and so on. For example, executives can announce a new product or service and then dive into their audience analytics to build up a list of prospects; opinion leaders discussing a pressing trend will have more tools for growing their followers; job-seekers can post videos with an eye on courting recruiters or a company’s attention, or vice versa. All these scenarios pave the way for LinkedIn to upgrade free members onto premium tiers, where more advanced customer relationship management (CRM) tools are available.”

  • Robert Elder, Business Insider, “LinkedIn Video Sharing Could Be a Revelation”

Video should help address user engagement issues.  As of Q3 2016 (their last public quarter), only 23% of users engaged with the platform each month, resulting in an average daily engagement of only two minutes.  Consumer platforms have much higher daily engagement rates with Snapchat at thirty minutes and Facebook at fifty.

In other news, LinkedIn released a Windows 10 live alerts app which displays new messages, trending stories, profile views, and other LinkedIn-related alerts.  The service supports 22 languages.

LinkedIn also released a set of enhancements to its Advertising platform including expanded demographic data, campaign recommendations, and additional metrics.  The Campaign Manager now displays LinkedIn accounts which responded to campaigns.  Website Demographics tracks website visitors via a lightweight JavaScript tag.  Brands can segment website visitors and create campaigns via job title, industry, job seniority, job function, company, company size, location, and country.

Thus, firms can identify unexpected visitor segments.  “With these insights, you can craft new marketing content designed to better resonate with that audience,” LinkedIn stated.

Campaign insights are also displayed as new hover cards which provide budget and performance data for other advertisers and recommends how to boost performance.

New metrics include Sponsored Content shared by members, details on social actions, and better file export and data options.

“The three new advertiser data tools optimize your use of LinkedIn ads, making sure you have maximized social ROI,” observed Francis Rey in SocialBarrel.   “Sponsored Content continues to drive most of the company’s ad revenue. With more than 500 million professional members on the platform, LinkedIn already filters a unique audience for your business. You only need to tap into it and take advantage.”

Rey also noted that “While Facebook is still beyond reach in social ads, the social network caters to all audiences. Meanwhile, LinkedIn focuses on professionals, with an entirely different purpose.”

LinkedIn Hits 500M Members

LinkedIn hit the half billion member mark, continuing its pace of adding 50 million members every nine months.  LinkedIn also supports ten million job listings and over nine million company profiles.  Members continue to post 100,000 articles per week.  However, the active monthly user rate remains around 25%.

In comparison, Facebook has 1.8 billion members and Twitter has 328 million.  The top five countries are the United States (138 million), India (42 million), China (31 million), Brazil (29 million), and United Kingdom (23 million).

LinkedIn published connection data by country and region for the first time with the top five most connected countries (i.e. average member connections) listed as the UAE, Netherlands, Singapore, UK, and Denmark.  UAE profiles average 211 connections.  By metro area, London leads in average connections with 307 per member followed by Amsterdam, San Francisco, Jakarta, and Milan.  Staffing and recruiting is LinkedIn’s most connected industry (unsurprisingly as the firm’s largest revenue source is their Talent Solutions products), and human relations its most connected job function.

LinkedIn connectivity rates by job function and level indicate a strong focus on staffing, consulting, and PE/VC roles.
LinkedIn connectivity rates by job function and level indicate a strong focus on staffing, consulting, and PE/VC roles.

LinkedIn connectivity rates by job function and level indicate a strong focus on staffing, consulting, and PE/VC roles.

The top five industries are all highly networked occupations including staffing and recruiting, VC/PE, human resources, management consulting, and online media.  With respect to job functions, product management was the number two most connected occupation after human resources.  It was surprising to see that sales reps did not even make the top five (outside of Business Development which is a senior level mix of partnership, licensing, and relationship management), but product managers had very high connectivity.  Of course, the sales function would span both junior and senior sales reps along with business and consumer sales, while product management consists of more mid and upper-level management.

“The impact of half a billion professionals connecting and communicating is very real, and very accessible to anyone who wants to take part today,” said Aatif Awan, LinkedIn’s VP of growth and international products.  “We’re excited to think about the potential of what a highly connected global community of professionals can do, and the value that is created for every member of the global workforce.”

LinkedIn, which is operated as an autonomous division within Microsoft, has over 10,000 employees.

LinkedIn StoryLines Launched

StoryLines are trending topics shown on the right side of the LinkedIn Desktop
StoryLines are trending topics shown on the right side of the LinkedIn Desktop

LinkedIn recently introduced their new Storylines feature parallel to the LinkedIn feed.  StoryLines are “curated interest-based feeds that surface developing stories to help you discover and discuss news, ideas, and diverse perspectives from the largest group of professionals, publishers and editorial voices ever assembled.”

Articles are based upon information LinkedIn has about each reader such as their industry.  StoryLines are intended to combine industry expertise with individual network commentary.  A unique hashtag makes “it easy for you to join the conversation and add your own take on the issue.”

LinkedIn emphasized that StoryLines promotes a diversity of opinions and sources.  “Each story includes multiple perspectives, ranging from news publishers and influencers, to people in your network, so that you can easily weigh up diverse opinions”

StoryLines are curated via a combination of editorial curation and algorithmic filters.  When stories break, an editor writes a summary and identifies diverse sources.  An algorithm then adds additional member commentary.  This approach ensures a multiplicity of views that pull members out of “filter bubbles” which would otherwise reinforce current views and biases.  Topics will be business related

“I don’t want just one point of view”

  • LinkedIn VP of Product Tomer Cohen

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn believes it can avoid the problems of “fake news.”  Inaccurate content that is intentionally deceptive, including fake news, is not acceptable on our site,” said VP of Product Tomer Cohen.  “Our combination of algorithms and editors creates an experience where trending news is validated by editorial to ensure that it is professional and comes from trusted sources.”

Cohen added, “The content members write and share on LinkedIn becomes part of their professional identity — it can be seen by their boss, colleagues, and potential business partners. Promoting fake news can damage your reputation, and there is no hiding behind anonymity on LinkedIn.”

Other features include related stories and follow options for topical experts.

The new feature is being rolled out to US members and then will expand internationally.

LinkedIn mobile also added feed personalization tools which will soon be available via desktop.  Amongst the filters are options to follow companies, industry leaders, and publications.  Users can also hide posts, and unfollow people and companies.  Unfollowing people allows users to retain connections without seeing the connections posts.

LinkedIn has struggled to customize their feed for users, but StoryLines sounds like a smart innovation.  By creating a curated trending topic category and placing it to the right of the feed, they can provide relevant content and discussions without it overwhelming the user feed.  Furthermore, by curating a set of diverse viewpoints, members are provided with a broader set of perspectives.

Since the beginning of the year, I have noticed an improvement in LinkedIn’s feed.  Gone are the eye candy stories from Business Insider covering bots and bikes.  Also, there are fewer viral stories about enterprising individuals overcoming hardship.  Instead, they have done a better job of surfacing posts from my connections and articles in my field.

The launch of Sales Navigator Enterprise (covered last week) was another indicator that they are focusing more on the Professional side of Professional Social Networking.

Sales Intelligence Vendors Still Don’t Get Social

For some reason, sales intelligence vendors have never properly understood social selling and how to integrate social media into their products.  This has long amazed me.  Instead of building an integrated social media viewing tool with sharing and feedback, they all seem to nibble around the edges. You’ll find social hyperlinks directly from company or contact profiles, but these simply window out to the social media site.  Also fairly common is the inclusion of corporate blogs into their news and sales trigger feeds, but fully integrated social media tools have yet to be offered by vendors.

The closest any of them have come is InsideView which added a Buzz Tab about five years ago to its InsideView for Sales product.  The Buzz Tab provides a consolidated view of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter feeds.  However, the social content remains segregated from their other discovery tools and the population of Facebook and Twitter feeds is limited.  Other social tools include a Who Knows Who “Six Degrees” tool and the inclusion of Personal Tweets from business executives in their alerts.

The InsideView buzz tab supports keyword searching and filtering for company blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.
The InsideView buzz tab supports keyword searching and filtering for company blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.

There are also a set of social selling tools that focus on social media, blogs, and news but which are light on company and contact information.  As these tools improve, one of the sales intelligence vendors is going to make a build vs. buy decision and either OEM the upcoming service or buy a social selling service outright.

What tools such as Artesian Software, Owler, Contify, and Trapit do isn’t revolutionary.  They basically provide a unified view of news and social content.  Users can filter the feeds and interact with the posts.  If a free service such as Owler can build such functionality, why can’t the sales intelligence vendors?  Core functionality could provide the following features:

  1. A deep set of direct links for companies and executives to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, G+, etc.
  2. A unified view of the corporate social media content across Twitter, Facebook, SlideShare, YouTube, Vimeo, corporate blogs, business blogs, etc.  This view would be easily filterable by source, date, keyword, etc.
  3. Social Media Metrics for a company charted over time.  If the company is also selling into the marketing department, then comparative metrics should be available.
  4. When filtering Twitter, allow the user to see both the Tweets from a company and mentions (these are separate options).
  5. Support basic widgets from the major social media vendors.  These are small applets that display key statistics along with a brief description and logo/headshot.
  6. Allow any news article, sales trigger, or social media post to be shared via social media, enterprise social (e.g. Chatter, Yammer), and email.
  7. Support expanded alerts that include targeted social media alongside sales triggers.  Thus, an alert could consist of the half dozen most important sales trigger topics, Twitter posts from the company, Blog headlines, and YouTube / Vimeo uploads.
  8. Executive alerts based upon social media posts and news mentions.

Who Know Who Six degree tools are also worth considering, but this functionality is so well locked up by LinkedIn that relationship discovery tools have remained a standalone category.  Amongst Sales Intelligence vendors, only InsideView and DueDil Connect have built relationship finder tools in competition with LinkedIn.

To be fair, the sales intelligence vendors all understood early on that they needed to work with LinkedIn.  Most of them adopted the LinkedIn widget or the LinkedIn API to provide relationship and executive intelligence into their service.  But then LinkedIn decided it was going to offer its own sales intelligence service called Sales Navigator and began blocking sales intelligence vendor access to LinkedIn.  Since then, with the exception of InsideView, the sales intelligence firms have done little to integrate social content into their services.  Hopefully, the vendors begin to see this gap in their offerings and begin to address it.