When LinkedIn started publishing content via its LinkedIn Influencers program, it moved the social network for business professionals in a completely different direction. For many business leaders, this was a great, simple and powerful way to share business philosophy and insight. It was blogging without needing to have or create a blog. And because each item was automatically shared with your LinkedIn connections, there was no extra work required to distribute your writing.
But there was a problem. It was a closed system, and only a select group were granted access.
Taking a leaf out of the book of every digital business launch from Google+ to the now defunct Plurk, LinkedIn relentlessly kept tight control over their publishing platform. The early focus was on high quality insight from big-name business leaders like Virgin’s Richard Branson and Ryan Holmes from Hootsuite. Take a look through their various posts and you’ll notice something interesting – a collapsing of the personal and professional. The most popular articles (and the most interesting) tend to blur the lines between an individual’s business experience and their personal decision making. And I have a feeling that this has set an agenda which will be important to watch.
Eventually, the invitations started to broaden and other voices began to be heard, with new articles and more content filling our LinkedIn streams. LinkedIn Pulse would aggregate and promote the most popular posts, channels and authors – effectively filtering business-related news for us. All we had to do was choose where to focus.
A couple of weeks ago, LinkedIn announced that they were extending their publishing platform to 25,000 more LinkedIn members. So now if you are quick, anyone with a LinkedIn profile can reach an audience – or at least, reach your own connections. For the moment, you have to apply, but no doubt, this system will be extended to others in the near future.
The thing that is most interesting to me is not that LinkedIn is moving in this direction, but that business professionals are flocking to it. Up until recently, convincing executives to engage with social media was almost impossible. Despite widespread adoption of social networks by consumers, many business leaders remain sceptical, unconvinced and unlikely to commit the time required to see the benefit in social media.
But LinkedIn may have solved the challenge by making social media simple and obvious. After all, we all like to be “influencers” – even if there are 25,000 of us.
This is, however, not just about professionals, reputation and publishing. In the mixing of these professional and personal profiles, there could be something greater at play. Is this a way for LinkedIn to stake a claim against Facebook’s social domination? Will we see more insight, personality and flavour in the lives of our business leaders? Will personal and professional brands start to collide in new and exciting ways? One can only hope.
And in the meantime, my first LinkedIn article has just been published. It’s a departure from the marketing and digital focus I have here on ServantOfChaos. Hope you like it.