Recent LinkedIn announcements reveal it's interested in being much more than an online community platform. Between the acquisition of online marketing platform Bizo and its latest news on launching Lead Accelerator and the Network Display function, trends show LinkedIn is moving in a different direction. You could say this Borg-like movement (Star Trek reference - it's too good to pass up) means the platform is now a greater entity that is not looking out for you or your best community interests. The "value" is in the data - your data - not in the functionality of the platform. Do you care about your data, platform capabilities and feature enhancements? Then the SEO and inbound traffic from your community should be yours.
What was the last LinkedIn enhancement that was all about making your experience better?
According to a leaked document, LinkedIn's long-term ambition is to "build an integrated marketing and sales platform that provides a simple and effective way to reach audiences, nurture prospects and acquire customers." Similarly, the CEO of Bizo wrote a blog post about the acquisition and stated, "The combination of LinkedIn and Bizo greatly increases our ability to be the most effective platform for B2B marketers to reach their audiences, nurture prospects and acquire customers."
These latest innovations are all about marketing to your database, your audience. Twitter and Facebook are joining the charge with LinkedIn, as all three expand advertising to better target and track customers. This is great for LinkedIn, Bizo and marketers - but what will that mean for the community and connections you're spending time and resources building on LinkedIn?
I belong to several useful LinkedIn groups, and I value the platform for networking and recruiting purposes. But ultimately, a community platform should have you, its members, in mind. Rather than focus on networking and topic-area connections, LinkedIn is shifting to advertising and lead generation. Marketers are already strategizing how the acquisition will help them to better target and serve ads, both on LinkedIn and potentially off it, too. Not that there's anything wrong with marketing or advertising -- users of free social networking platforms are used to being marketed to, in exchange for free platforms.
But this enhanced targeting capability most likely means your competitors will be able to use your carefully cultivated groups to advertise their own products, services and events.
The way LinkedIn groups work now, group managers have the ability to control spam and advertising to a pretty decent extent. Display ads are out of their control, but job postings, self-promotional posts and the occasional 'spammy' posts are all things that moderators are able to flag and delete. They can disable the promotions and jobs tabs within the group as well, further cutting down on in-group marketing. However, it's clear now LinkedIn's goal is to expand its advertising options and marketing capabilities further in the future, straying more from its mission of helping people connect and steering more towards helping marketers connect with potential customers.
Not like there haven't already been plenty of reasons your community shouldn't live on LinkedIn, but the business shift sends a strong message: LinkedIn's goal is to become a b2b marketing platform. Is that the vision you have for your community? Is it the place your community members will want to invest time, energy and emotion connecting with peers around your organization's mission?