If I had to rank social platforms from most to least important, LinkedIn would be my #1. For the rest of them, I’m honestly not on them. I already forgot my passwords, and outside of the messaging apps, I’m not on any other social network. I have no idea if I’m even logged in on these other apps.
LinkedIn was founded in 2004, and I’ve yet to see a competitor come even close to competing with it. But I believe a real competitor will be coming soon, and it won’t look at all like Linkedin. There will be a huge influx of new social media apps coming from startups all over the globe.
And based on what we’ve seen from the failed/mediocre launch of Quibi, it won’t come from a big and splashy launch. It will be an organic grassroots launch, in which the product itself has growth built into it. It will be strategically designed to solve a problem, and it will make it easy for people to share and add others into the new social network.
We will 100% see a new LinkedIn competitor. But, in order for that to happen, this new product needs to address some of the gaps that exist in LinkedIn that will likely never be fixed because of its general appeal and large audience.
Current Issues With LinkedIn
- It started as a social network to connect professionals who’ve interacted in real life. Now it’s just a media company where users are encouraged to share their own content via blog posts, status posts, and videos. So my feed is full of content I might not necessarily care about.
- I’ve never even met a big percentage of my connections. A big opportunity here.
- Unsolicited sales messages can be ineffectual depending on the end user’s engagement level.
Current Benefits Of LinkedIn
- It owns the professional contacts space. I can reach any professional around the world in seconds (with a paid account). The chances of a professional being on LinkedIn is high. In fact, if they’re not on it, it speaks volumes for what that person cares about.
- Keeps me updated with what’s happening with my contacts. Again, I wish it was just updates with people I know well, but it’s my fault for adding connections I haven’t met before.
- It’s professional. I’ve seen some of the conversations on Twitter, and they seem to be a little hostile in an “I’m right, and you’re wrong” way. I don’t see that often on LinkedIn.
The next big hit professional social network will own a new habit.
Take a look at Clubhouse, which is an invite-only social networking app. It’s based on audio conversations where anyone can jump in. TechCrunch has a great explanation of how it works.
The most buzzy of these startups is Clubhouse, an audio-based social network where people can spontaneously jump into voice chat rooms together. You see the unlabeled rooms of all the people you follow, and you can join to talk or just listen along, milling around to find what interests you. High-energy rooms attract crowds while slower ones see participants slip out to join other chat circles.
I think we’re past the “do you want to be friends/colleagues” stage of the next big social network app. It won’t be a “it’s like LinkedIn, except it does X OR Y.” It will be a brand new experience that hooks people.
The need to connect with friends and network with professional contacts will never die. If I had to take a guess, it would be a combination of exclusive social networks.
- It will be “addicting.”
- Just like we are wired to check our email and social media notifications, users of the platform will feel the urge to engage the platform.
- It will grow organically through a strong “network growth hook.”
- A new LinkedIn will still need the network effect to be successful. It will have a strong reason why every user should add their professional contacts or friends to the network.
- It will be obvious within the first week of launch if it’s needed or not.
- The stock image site Unsplash was created in three hours. On launch day, it had 30k subscribers, and 300k a few months later.
- There will be more creators and contributors, and fewer “lurkers.”
- There is an informal 1% rule pertaining to participation in an internet community, stating that only 1% of the users of a website add content, while the other 99% of the participants only lurk. A new LinkedIn will need to increase that 1% to maybe 20%. Without it, you won’t see growth. It will look like the 90-9-1 rule, which states that there will be 90% lurkers, 9% contributors, and 1% creators.
- It will be frictionless and easy.
- If you have to explain to a friend how it works, and it takes longer than 30 seconds, you’ve lost.
- It will put the “social” back in “social network.”
- It won’t allow unsolicited sales messages or conversations that always lead to fighting and “subtweeting.”
- It will drive real human conversations with real people.
The next big hit professional network will look nothing like LinkedIn.
I don’t see a world where any company, big or small, creates something that de-platforms LinkedIn. Facebook has already tried to enter the space, but it failed mainly because there wasn’t any reason to do professional networking on Facebook, and it lacked differentiators.
Here’s how I think it will look.
- There won’t be a single “LinkedIn killer” app, but many companies owning certain sections of LinkedIn.
- This could mean an app for just recruiting, and another unrelated app for professional networking, and another app for sales outreach.
- It’s kind of like Airbnb owning the “for rent” section from Craigslist. LinkedIn will be pulled apart from every major category.
- It will heavily utilize audio or video.
- Honestly, Clubhouse can be the app that turns into the “next LinkedIn.”
- It will have 5% of the functionality of LinkedIn.
- More does not equal better. There are worlds within LinkedIn that I haven’t touched nor ever will.
How to create the next LinkedIn.
If I had to summarize how the next LinkedIn product will be created, it will come down to these three points.
- Experiment, test, and learn vs. an all-in, big launch
- Basically, you don’t want to be Quibi. More celebrities does not mean more daily engagement and users.
- Solve a big problem, simply
- Simple, simple, simple. Take out all friction.
- Growth will not come from marketing
- It will come from growth built into the product.
I love LinkedIn, but I think there are product and growth creators out there who will make a good run at it.