LinkedIn Is What It Is: Personal, Employer, Business

LinkedIn Page

I opened the new LinkedIn Android app the other day and saw an unexpected message, “The One Stop Shop to Manage Your Personal Brand.” Because of my own hang-ups about the term “personal brand” I was taken aback. But like it or not, LinkedIn has become the place to manage your professional reputation.

It has also become much more than that. LinkedIn offers brands an ideal platform for employee communications — future (e.g. recruitment), present, and past. The social networks also provides B2B brands a great place to market.

For those that are still stuck in the Twitter and Facebook for brands universe (and maybe, just maybe Instagram, too), please keep in mind how big LinkedIn has become. More than 400,000 million people are using the social network to talk about their professional life. Let’s take a quick look at each of these three forms of communication on LinkedIn; personal, employer and business.

Personal Marketing

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With most people looking for work online today, LinkedIn has become a nexus to build a personal profile and network. There are many ways to stand out on LinkedIn and strengthen your presence.

LinkedIn profiles serve as a place for potential employers to check out your history. In many ways, the profile has become the modern resume. In addition, potential contracts and speaking opportunities can come through LinkedIn.

Attracting people to and making your profile stand out are the primary means of personal marketing on LinkedIn. Here are a few methods:

This latter point may seem obvious, but don’t post your cute dog pic on LinkedIn. If social media made a level of uncouth personality acceptable on the Internet, then LinkedIn became the social media place where the old school mindset of act in a professional manner still reigns. Many people and brands are relieved about that, too. Save the personal posts for Instagram, and button it up on LinkedIn.

Employee Communications

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I remember when LinkedIn launched in the early 2000s. It was hyped as a place to network and find new jobs. After a period of time, employers started using LinkedIn for recruitment purposes.

Then LinkedIn built company profiles. Networking became smarter and you could identify past and present employees through search. The algorithms began sourcing news about company x, particularly when there was a clear tie between an employee and corporate page.

The reality for most brands is that employee communications should begin inside their physical and virtual walls and on their web site. It begins with culture in direct communications up and down the ladder. Another reality exists: Many conversations are occurring about brands out of those domains, and on social media sites like LinkedIn and GlassDoor.

With so many people talking about work and their future on LinkedIn, it can become the central hub of an HR and recruitment social media strategy. Here are some quick tactics to help facilitate that:

Market Your Corporate Brand

Adobe Marketing

Not only has LinkedIn made itself a great place to engage in employee communications, it has also become a fantastic marketing venue for B2B marketing. Conversations and content galore on professional topics ranging from IT security to digital marketing are everywhere.

Businesses that offer some sort of B2B offering — product or service — need to experiment with LinkedIn as a means to brand and generate initial content leads. Here are some ideas for your efforts:

  • Build an engaging corporate profile page that shows what the company does, and how it helps the industry and your customers). Use Showcase pages to highlight particular product areas and include calls-to-action to drive traffic to your site.
  • Use LinkedIn’s advertising platform (sponsored updates) to communicate with customers. This is a good way to extend the reach of your corporate profile.
  • Pulse Articles are also a great way for a brand to show thought leadership. Find spokespersons who are willing to use their profiles and publish articles, then promote them on your company profile page.
  • Consider LinkedIn sister brand SlideShare as a means to create content that engages prospective customers. You can integrate SlideShare into your page.
  • Manage a group to build subject matter expertise for your company

    . LinkedIn is in the midst of revamping its groups for better functionality and results.

What LinkedIn marketing tips would you add to these lists?

Flickr 4.0: PR Hype versus Reality

Flickr 4.0 launched 11 days to much hype and fanfare in the consumer tech media. Some pubs went so far as to say that Flickr was now relevant again, ironic for a photo sharing social network that consistently ranks in the top 10 networks.

The new interface certainly is beautiful. But as well hyped as the new Flickr 4.0 is, it suffers on a few levels. For starters, the new interface seems to stifle interaction. I have noticed a 25% decline in favorites and comments on my photos.

Perhaps I am in a slump. I have been posting fewer landscapes and cityscapes, which tend to perform better for my following. But at the same time, when I have posted decent landscapes — landscapes that perform well on 500 Pixels and Instagram — they still garner quite a few less favorites and comments on Flickr than in the past.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the slump began the day the new interface launched.

As a viewer, I find it harder to favorite and comment on Flickr 4.0, too. The mobile apps are clunky. If someone publishes a series of photos, to comment you have to tap on a photo twice.

The traditional web version suffers as well. It gets stuck and fails to show you past favorites. In some cases, the responsive design prevented me from even seeing the favorite and comment icons on photos like on this image from Jan de Corte.

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The new Uploadr has been wonky, timing out periodically. Flickr has acknowledged this new feature has issues and is working on repairing it.

Flickr 4.0 is not all bad. Some of the new features are great, like Camera Roll. Now I can view my photos chronologically, which is a pretty cool way to see how your work is progressing over time. It’s also a great way to get a timeline view of your life. This new feature also lets you organize your photos by type, e.g. landscape, portrait, etc.

Competitive Balance

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Flickr launched its new version to make it more competitive in the mobile era. In some ways, this makes Flickr more consumer-oriented, allowing people to store thousands of mobile photos automatically as they go.

In the context of Instagram versus Flickr, I really see Instagram as a more valuable consumer network. The land of selfies is fluid and dynamic, allowing for quick and easy feedback. Friends see how their lives are evolving in the moment. In comparison, Flickr 4.0 makes quick and easy feedback a bit harder.

As a photo storage site, it works (when the Uploadr is functioning). However, if people struggle to interact with your photos then you are publishing strictly to keep the images in the cloud.

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Similarly, 500 Pixels benefits from a strong critical group of professional and serious amateur photographers who only like the best images. While this can create homogenous photographer pool where certain images do better than others (think landscapes and pictures of models), 500 Pixels makes it very easy to like, love and comment on photos. Exploring popular images on 500 Pixels is also much easier, with segmentation by image type.

For a work-validation standpoint, I have been as reliant on Flickr as I have been on 500 Pixels to see what other photographers thought of my work. Now I am leaning towards 500 Pixels more often than not.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Flickr, always have, and won’t abandon the network. I just wonder if in its attempts to become a consumer photo network, Flickr shunned its existing power users.

In my mind, Flickr owned a niche as a photography site that catered to both pros and amateurs. The stream was good. It become a resource for many who searched for great images to fill out their stories. While adding mobility is a natural evolution, sacrificing interactivity and function to get there may become a long-term weakness compared to more specific-use oriented photo networks like Instagram and 500 Pixels.

What do you think of the new Flickr?

Why Yik Yak Makes Sense to Me and Snapchat Doesn’t

Yik Yak has received a lot of media attention as of late, most of it negative from fearful adults. One psychiatrist [on Fox News] called it the most dangerous form of social media.

Funny. Yik Yak offers the most obvious form of social media to me, much more so than other youth-driven apps like Snapchat. Yes, the critics are right. It allows people to be as mean as they want to be without repercussion, and that’s why everyone is afraid of it. But it also let’s people show their barest souls.

I’ve been on Yik Yak for less than a week, and I have seen some incredibly sad and beautiful and funny updates. It’s touching, a reminder of what Robert Scoble and Shel Israel called Naked Conversations during the blogging era (think 2006-7).

Oh, by the way, Yik Yak expressly states in its rules that people aren’t allowed to troll. Further, really nasty updates can get voted off the island. I noticed the fear mongering articles didn’t mention that.

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Conversations is what social media was supposed to be about. Not providing the optimal social marketing expertise, nor was social meida meant to create personal branding platforms to generate influence (which was a movement that arose in 2008). Social media was supposed to be about people interacting with others in a transparent authentic fashion.

And Then There Is SnapChat

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Yik Yak offers honesty where the more popular Snapchat network offers naughtiness and the potential for public spectacle. Snapchat’s value lies around the promise that you won’t be able to see content ever again, that it won’t exist. People love the thrill of the momentary content, some of which is wacky, weird, naughty and/or crazy.

Some brands are capitalizing on this platform, both individuals and corporate (Taco Bell pictured above). Yet, the opportunity is a fleeting one in my mind. Is Snapchat a zeitgeist, a reaction to the over-indexing of Twitter and Instagram by companies and data spiders? Or is it a network that will stand the test of time?

Personally, I find Snapchat to be absurd. I don’t understand why people would post content under their own name only to have it disappear. Maybe that’s the writer/photographer in me speaking.

Nevertheless… So you want to post something mischievous or naughty. People will still remember you posted it. And I hate breaking it to all the sexting youth of America on Snapchat, people can still make a record of those pics and updates.

So why not post it elsewhere where it is public and the content remains? I just don’t get it (cranky old man).

If I have to choose between entertainment or relating in my social media, I’m always going to lean towards the relatable. With its forced anonymity, Yik Yak offers both. But if you are going to opt for entertainment via spectacle, at least you can’t take credit for it or shame yourself for a few shout-outs.

Maybe anonymity makes Yik Yak a lot less exciting to marketers. But it sure makes for a better user experience.

What do you think of Yik Yak?

New Flickr Brings Questions about the Visual Media Era

Flickr
New Flickr Interface image via Geeky Gadgets

Flickr will unveil its much-needed new interface today, revamping one of the oldest and still prescient social networks. This significant change comes to a network that features more than 3.5 million photos uploaded everyday, and one of the most popular APIs on the Internet. Flickr’s new interface seeks to make the network relevant to smartphone and tablet users.

As a long term power user on Flickr with more than 4000 photos and 325,000 photo views on my photo blog, I welcome this change. It’s refreshing, and makes the most powerful network for sharing videos not only stronger, but more attractive, too.

For a long time, Flickr’s primary value to me was housing images in a very accessible Creative Commons library. This allowed widespread dissemination of images in a host of online journals, blogs, and in some cases traditional media. Now Flickr could become more than that, competing with personal photo network favorite Instagram for commenting and interacting with other photographers and visually oriented minds.

Invariably, those that don’t understand the difference between a content publishing-based social network and a bookmarking-based network will compare the new Flickr to Pinterest. Ironic, as Flickr just incorporated Pinterest’s opt-out code for photographers who don’t want their original content repinned without credit or payment. In reality, Instagram and Tumblr are much closer competitors because the users are primarily content creators.
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How Instagram Restored My Faith in Social Networking

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If you have not played with runaway hit mobile social network Instagram, you should. Yes, it’s become known as a utility for iPhone users to send pictures to Facebook and Twitter, but make no bones about it, Instagram is its own social network, and a very enjoyable one, too. In fact, it has restored my faith in the media form.

With more than 13 million people on Instagram, you can see some fantastic sharing. It is innately personal and wonderful.

Gone from the mix is the usual social media punditry and sword fighting. Instead you simply have real experiences throughout the average day. It’s just photos, sharing and comments, and nothing more.

Instagram exists on the mobile web, and is not tethered to the web. Rather it is on your iPhone or iPad via application (soon coming to Android). It only lives on the most personal and portable electronic devices. I think that in combination with its simplicity is what makes the network so special.

You see, on the go people can only be people. It’s not contrived, and thus sharing is unusually naked and revealing. People show each other how they see the world. Yes, you can share professional or well edited photos via your phone, but generally Instagram is a social phenomena of the moment. It feels safe, and unbelievably relational.

Sure, companies are trying to figure out how to tap into the incredible Instagram phenomena. And Instagram itself is another social network in search of a revenue model (advertising looks like the probable path). With an open API, people are exploring how to harness the photos, including search by city.

But for now, Instagram is very pure in its simple peer-to-peer interaction. And in that sense, it is a welcome relief in comparison to the over-commercialized Facebook, Twitter, and blogosphere.

Book Excerpt: The Death of Facebook

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The following is an excerpt from Welcome to the Fifth Estate, Chapter 7: Sustaining Your Community Over Time

Who in their right mind would predict the death of Facebook, given its ever-increasing dominance? But everyone always asks, “What’s next?”

One thing long-term Internet citizens have seen over the past 30 years: Communities and social networks get large, even as dominant as Facebook now is, and then they fade.

Some stay relevant as leaders in their niches — YouTube, for example — and others drop into a second tier, or worse. Friendster, MySpace and AOL exist in some form to this day, but none of them enjoys the leadership positions and mindshare of their heyday.

One of the secrets to Facebook’s longevity is its replication of the McDonald’s business model. McDonald’s offers a cheap menu of foods and beverages that contemporary society demands. If a customer wants a latte, they can go to McDonald’s. Ice cream? McDonald’s offers soft serve. Salad? No problem! And McDonald’s still offers the now classic Big Mac, just in case someone wants a burger.

Facebook does the same with its social network functionality. It literally watches competitors create new features, and then it incorporates those functionalities into its network, competing head-to-head in that functional space. Facebook relies on its incredibly large user base to accept and use the new features. We saw this with Facebook Places and the competition it offers Foursquare. Other examples include:

  • Facebook Pictures competes with Flickr
  • Facebook Video competes with YouTube (this feature does as well as a McRib sandwich on market share)
  • Facebook Chat competes with AOL’s AIM
  • Facebook Questions and Groups compete with LinkedIn Questions and Groups

One could argue that the strength of this business model is also Facebook’s weakness. As we have seen over time, Facebook constantly updates its interface to incorporate these changes. This is relatively easy because of its text-based, three-column layout. While text allows Facebook to offer all of these features, the user interface has become clunky and cumbersome. In essence, being the McDonald’s of social networks has forced it into an over-reliance on text.

If a competing technology arose that provided a new interface, an almost completely visual tactile (touch) input to a social application, then Facebook would be challenged to completely redesign its web site. Several new apps on iPad have shown a new way to interact. Early signs show these applications are becoming immensely popular.

One iPad application, Flipboard, allows users to create their own magazines based on preferences and socially recommended content. ABC’s popular iPad app features a visual globe of news stories. Both application interfaces rely heavily on pictures with very few words, and why shouldn’t they, given that a picture is worth a thousand words?

It’s only a question of time—maybe even within the next two years—before a primarily visual-interface-based social network launches. Processing time, software development and bandwidth inevitably will increase to enable it. How will Facebook upgrade its interface to compete with this kind of innovation?

It would take an almost complete gutting of its social networking code. Facebook’s system has become so clunky that Facebook CEO Marc Zuckerberg can’t make changes that he wants to in order to open the network.Plus Facebook’s original feature of private, closed social networking was its big differentiator. The privacy tension caused by the movement toward openness continues to haunt Facebook.

Such a network upgrade likely would force Facebook to abandon users who are still text-based. It would be very hard for McDonald’s to keep serving Big Macs while offering a tastier Filet Mignon sandwich that holds market share (Angus Wraps aside). If you think Facebook cannot unseated,or it will not be by a tactile-input-based network, what about a video- based network? Bandwidth and technology permitting, how about Third Life, a better version of Second Life’s would-be virtual-avatar-based world, where interaction would occur in a computer-generated 3-D environment? Or a video-based network like, but more nimble than, the original Seesmic?

Isn’t it just a question of time before Facebook meets a competitor with a better, next-generation interface that it can’t match? Yes given the context of Internet history and technology development.

If a better, easier choice becomes available, you can expect people to spend more time on it than on Facebook. The Fifth Estate moves with what’s hot, and without thinking about the historical value of today’s technology platform of choice.

Business leaders and strategists cannot afford to become too entrenched on a mega social network like Facebook or Twitter. If an organization cannot move with its community because of an over-investment in one network, it loses the opportunity to serve stakeholders effectively.

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The source material for this section of the Fifth Estate was originally published on this blog under the same title.