LinkedIn should be bigger than Facebook
LinkedIn should be bigger than Facebook
Following a long and venerable Microsoft tradition of paying big bucks for promising startups and then crushing them under a single-minded corporate culture focused almost exclusively on Windows and Office, LinkedIn has languished in the shadow of big tech after that Microsoft acquired it for $26.2 billion in 2016. Just as it had nearly 20 years earlier in 1997, when Microsoft paid $500 million for Hotmail and then lost several years and millions of dollars trying to integrate it with Microsoft Office, failing to see Hotmail’s potential to become a whole new company, it has done little to improve LinkedIn as a standalone business and social media platform.
Had Microsoft chosen, they could easily have outspent Yahoo in the 1990s and made Hotmail the dominant free email platform by expanding it beyond email into a powerful social media platform. in line. However, they allowed Hotmail to fall behind Yahoo and later Gmail, losing its customer base, as it offered less storage memory and fewer features than its competitors.
Microsoft did it again in 2011 by buying the Internet telephone company Skype for the staggering sum of 8.5 billion dollars! Most observers incorrectly assumed that Microsoft planned to expand Skype’s 660 million users and offer them new services. However, Microsoft again squandered through mismanagement and underfunding a golden opportunity to make Skype the dominant global text messaging and video conferencing application. Instead, it allowed much smaller startups like WhatsApp and later Zoom to take over this consumer and business market. In fact, at the height of the pandemic in July 2020, when it should have been the video conferencing software of choice, Skype’s user base had plummeted by 85% to less than 100 million.
It’s hard to imagine how and why Microsoft’s corporate leadership is once again missing out on an opportunity to create an entirely new company out of the still-dormant social media gold mine LinkedIn? For one thing, even though its users make up about a third of Facebook’s nearly 3 billion users, their combined net worth is likely many times the combined net worth of Facebook’s users because, unlike Facebook, members of LinkedIn are largely educated adult professionals with salaried jobs, while a significant portion of Facebook members are either two young or two old to be employed.
Combined with Skype, LinkedIn could become the leading messaging, file transfer and video conferencing service on the market, ahead of Zoom and WhatsApp
More importantly, LinkedIn’s member database is exponentially richer in members’ personal details than any other database in the tech world. Be it Facebook, WhatsApp, Gmail or even Apple, none of them hold the resume of anyone who signs up for their services. These resumes reveal members’ life stories, including where they studied and worked, in addition to their social ties and personal interests. The potential this opens up for selling products and services specifically tailored to individual LinkedIn members is huge.
That then brings us to why LinkedIn hasn’t been able to reach its full financial potential as a global social media platform, which is a corporate mindset that views it solely as a professional networking tool, while offering very little value to the majority of its members. This explains why its paying users are mainly HR departments and executive headhunters, who probably make up less than 2% of its registered members.
To change this limited business model, LinkedIn must go beyond a free professional networking database and become a hybrid social media platform that incorporates aspects of Facebook, WhatsApp, ZoomInfo and even Twitter. That doesn’t mean it has to adopt the worst attributes of Facebook and Twitter to succeed, but it has to break out of its self-imposed restriction on services that would make it look more like a social media platform. These services could include the ability to create personal and business member groups, free storage space that can be used for websites, photos, and videos, and an easy-to-use internal payment system between members. All of these improvements and more will necessarily increase traffic to LinkedIn’s website and exponentially increase its advertising revenue.
Finally, two critical LinkedIn services that are woefully inadequate are its search engine and its nearly useless mobile app. The search engine is so weak that it cannot even be used to search for members using their names and educational or employment institutions. Perhaps adding Bing or even Google search to LinkedIn could solve this problem, since the current search engine returns many more names than if Google was used alone. As for the LinkedIn application, its combination with Skype could enable it to become the leading messaging, file transfer and videoconferencing service on the market, ahead of Zoom and WhatsApp.
• Nabil Alkhowaiter is a failed serial entrepreneur and writer based in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News