The Rise and Resurrection of LinkedIn

Thoughts on the Microsoft-LinkedIn acquisition

Last week the world was surprised with Microsoft’s announcement that it would acquire the company for a price well above its recent share price.  This was met with a mix of reactions and articles proclaiming to know the future plans of Microsoft for the social network. 

I admittedly was very excited, for two reasons:

  1. Microsoft is cool again!  It has been on a spree buying some incredible technology products and retaining those brands in its portfolio (for the most part).

  2. LinkedIn has a tremendous number of assets, but I think it was starting to suffer in financial performance because had lost site of its own north star. 

live-or-dead
 

Is it live, or is it dead?

LinkedIn is dead, or dying. At least that’s what many of my friends and colleagues were saying over the last 12 months.  Now we know that’s an exaggeration, of course, but they were basing their opinion on some very visible actions the company has been taking.

If you’ve been a power user of LinkedIn for some time, you will have taken note of one or more of these:

  1. The diversion of power user features from the core service into paid plans like Sales Navigator and Job Seeker.

  2. The creation of very different, CRM-style experiences of the premium services.

  3. An increasingly non-transparent set of paid advertising options.

  4. Corralling an impressive set of content marketing resources (read: Pulse, Slideshare and Lynda.com) but failing to promote any joined up vision for how they co-exist.

My long-standing love affair with LinkedIn

I started early. I think that I was really intrigued with the idea of having a place for professional networking that was inherently social.  I initially earned quite a bit of harassment from my colleagues who didn’t seem to understand the value in those early years.  They eventually came around, seeing the power that an extended network could bring to sales, marketing and recruiting efforts. 

Even when I was on and off with my Twitter use, and restricting my Facebook visibility to close friends, my LinkedIn profile was always a place that I shared things of interest to me professionally.  My network has become a massive asset for recruiting new team members, for job searches and for business deals. We use it for persona research, testing and amplifying content.  It’s become an essential part of business life.

That said, perhaps that’s why the acquisition makes so much sense.  Microsoft’s products are by and large synonymous with and (for some) essential parts of business. 

Exciting opportunities all around

Depending upon where you sit, you are bound to see lots of very interesting potential opportunities coming out of the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal.  A few folks were quick to point out that Microsoft products take a few of the top 10 Lynda.com course slots.

The Return of Author Rank

Google’s introduction of Author Rank in its search engine was a pretty big deal and many website owners were miffed when it went away. That said, LinkedIn, via Pulse, does provide a great way to attribute and “score” authority without relying on an obscure social network profile. Because it will be Microsoft owned, this presents an opportunity for Bing to have a very unique point of differentiation from Google search.

Data Enrichment 

Within the B2B technology space, there are a large number of data providers that provide data enrichment services for businesses to augment their customer and recruiting databases.  LinkedIn now has the most well groomed data set of company, industry and individual contact information (including job history) on the planet.   This could be a Dun and Bradstreet sized opportunity.

Ads  Everywhere 

Let’s not forget, LinkedIn has a wide range of established ad products that include display, retargeting, email and more.  Granted their high price points and complex sales model have made them slower in growth than their Google and Facebook counterparts, however, Microsoft has an opportunity to change all of that. The web enabled Windows desktop is now potentially the most coveted destination for B2B buyers to buy their ad impressions. 

Experts on Demand

Just having a little fun, let’s suppose that Microsoft really started to look at how to combine its new services in exciting new ways.  What about asking Cortana, Microsoft’s voice enabled personal assistant, to find you an expert on content marketing strategies in the life sciences space, having LinkedIn locate the expert, book the meeting in your calendar and Skype ring them up for a video conference when its time to chat.

Now that’s the future of work. It would also seem to be a fun time to work at LinkedIn and Microsoft.

Looking forward to see what happens. 


Note:  This post was a play on the title of a book by the late, great Ed Yourdon, “The Rise and Resurrection of the American Programmer“. I was a big fan of his books, most of which were on my Dad’s bookshelf, when I started my I/T career. Ed became a pretty great photographer in his later years and sadly passed away in January of this year.

 

The Future of Podcasting Is You

 The future of podcasting is looking bright. I think it might be the next major wave of personal publishing.  It could become the darling of advertisers who will see it as a way to reach legions of new buyers. I’m going to explain how we got here, and what you can do to ride that wave with your business. 

When Did Podcasting Start, Anyway?

I became a fan of podcasting before it was such a thing. Initially, it was mp3 audio recordings of my favorite late night radio show, Idiot’s Delight with Vin Scelsa.  Pretty soon, some folks that were smarter than me, like Dave Winer, changed things. They released a set of open technologies to publish and share audio just like other blog articles.  Thus podcasting was born.
 
What’s interesting is that it never slowed down.  Podcasting has grown more modestly than other media formats, but grown nonetheless.   If you were an NPR listener, you most definitely hooked up with some of their podcasts over the years.   Certain author and Tech communities loved them as well.  Even @ev, created a podcast oriented company called Odeo on the heels of Blogger. He and his team got the idea for Twitter during that time and moved on with its development instead.  That said, podcasting had lots of great mind power, but no huge breakout hits.
 
Percent of Americans (12+) listening to podcasts monthly
Source: Digiday, The Second Coming of Podcasts http://digiday.com/platforms/podcasts-5-chars/
 
Over the last couple of years, podcasting has returned to popular conversation. It seems like someone is always talking about a new podcast they are listening to or coming up with an idea for a new one.  It feels like there is a new swell in podcast activity.  Not to mention resources for podcast creators and brand advertisers.
 
As it turns out, the swell had been building over the last decade. The audiences are now starting to become large enough for advertisers to care. All it took was a couple of hit shows, like Serial to inspire a new generation of content creators. Consider the content marketing boom, and it is the perfect storm for a medium like podcasting.
 

Why Are Podcasts So Successful?

1. Podcasts fans love to collect podcasts 

Collecting, you say?  Like baseball cards?  Sort of. More like having a favorite band or author.  Once you fall in love with one of their works, you want to hear their whole discography.  You then graduate to listening to the bands that inspired them. Podcast listeners are no different. They like to set their pod catchers to download a mix of regular favorites and new finds.
 

2. Episodic Content

Podcasts are sticky. The short storylines allow for quick immersion into a new topic without being comprehensive.  A regular publishing cadence keeps listeners returning; much like our favorite television shows.
 

3. They are tribal

Podcasts provide a way to bond with fans of your respective niche. A familiar host is an old friend that you get to spend time with.  New ideas are available on demand. No more waiting months until your favorite conference comes to town.
 

Will Podcasts Lead to A New Wave of Personal Publishing?

I think so. Increased mobility has positioned smartphones as the control panel of our lives. They are becoming the center of entertainment and workplace interactions.  They provide the single thread that weaves these experiences together.

 

Beyond this, I see two benefits for people with something to say (content creators):

 

1. The Tools to Create Great Podcasts Are Plentiful and Often Free 

There is a high probability that if you are reading this, you own a smartphone. If you do, you likely have access to a high quality piece of recording software for audio.  Do you use Skype to talk to colleagues? Skype is helps produce many of your favorite podcasts today.  Need to edit those recordings?  Tools like Auphonic make it possible for a small fee.
 

2. Podcasting Has An Ecosystem of Democratic Distribution Tools

For some time, the main option for podcast distribution was iTunes. That not the case anymore.  SoundcloudStitcherPodbean and many more offer hosting for creators. Some provide tools for listeners to find your show via topic affinities.  Others like ACast, include rich analytics and monetization tools for creators.

 

What’s Next?

Individuals creating specialized content are a threat to big brand dominance of the airwaves.  Smart brands will try to create environments for content creators to build a platform.  Streaming leaders like Spotify and Amazon have the opportunity to take the lead here. They could also get overtaken by more focused upstarts like Acast.  Our new “radio” stations will be custom built and travel with us, in our pockets, on our wrists and in our cars.

With this in mind, what is stopping you from creating a podcast focused on your area of expertise? You could become the next star of my morning commute.

 


Notes:

Over the last two years or so, I’ve had a hankering to write this article.  The title of this article is also a nod to the great Chris Brogan, who included it on a list called “Top 100 Blog Topics I Hope You Write.”

Recommended Reads:

Have any favorite podcasts or thoughts on podcasting?  Share in the comments below or on Twitter.

Stay Gold, Twitter. Why the 140 Character Limit Must Remain.

In S.E. Hinton’s classic, The Outsiders, the dying Johnny Cade speaks the words, “Stay Gold” to his friend Ponyboy Curtis.  He’s trying to tell him to keep his special spark, his interest in literature and poetry, that separates him from everyone else they know.  In the larger scheme of things, its a reference to a Robert Frost poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”, that the two read together while hiding out.  The poem itself talks about the end of innocence and inevitable changes that happen with time.

Stay Gold, Ponyboy

This week, Recode reported that Twitter is considering expanding Tweets to handle major essay lengths (10,000 words).  Jack Dorsey of Twitter chimed in to the ongoing dialogue on the topic with a history of the character limit on the service, but basically affirming the experiment.

I’m here to ask Twitter to reconsider and here are my main reasons:

  1. The 140 character limit makes Twitter unique.  Do we really want to see Twitter conform to a Facebook standard? Heck no.
  2. We don’t need another blog engine.  10,000 words is white paper length. To me, this suggests that Twitter is trying to expand its scope to allow people to compose blogs and other long-form prose. This means competing with Medium, Facebook, WordPress and many more.  It’s already an overcrowded market.
  3. Twitter is about news and happenings in real-time.  The new moments feature works because it’s built on top of that notion.  The ad products work because they’re built on top of that concept as well.  Let’s look for ways to focus on that.

All of that said, I see tons of ways that Twitter can be improved by loosening the rules to make the 140 character rule far less encumbering.  I would recommend starting by seeing what other items in the Tweet payload could be removed from the actual 140-character message limit. For example, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Don’t include @usernames in the 140 character limit
  2. Don’t include hashtags
  3. Don’t include links
  4. Don’t include images
  5. Don’t include videos

I’ve had a long relationship with Twitter as an early user who took a while to fall in love with the service. Now that I have, it’s become an integral part of my business and personal life.  I’d like to see it forget following Facebook and staying true to its roots.

Stay gold, Twitter.

Stay Gold, Twitter
Stay Gold, Twitter

Thanks to the incredible David Meerman Scott for speaking out against this change quickly!

Facebook Notify is a Big Deal for the Future of Search

Today, Facebook finally launched a long-awaited stand-alone iOS application called Notify.  Contrary to much of the hype, the application is not a newsreader, rather, it’s a push notification manager for your iPhone.

If you’ve read the blog, you know that I am actively contemplating what the future of search looks like. I think this development could actually be a big one in Facebook’s ongoing quest to become your favorite search engine.

facebook-notify

If you think about it, unlike traditional push notifications for status updates, every notification will now be coming through with a link. Some of those links may live on Facebook, but most will not.  We know that earlier this year, Facebook started indexing public links inside of its index, and recently started surfacing them to users in search results.

So, in my opinion, the discovery is this:  what better way to build an index of search listings and rank criteria than by having all the links pass through your Facebook proxy? Every time you click on a result, it’s like an automatic scoring mechanism for Facebook to be able to understand how many publishers are really living up to their subscribers’ expectations.

 

I think that this data presents some commercial opportunities for Facebook in terms of working with advertisers and publishers. It also provides them with a tremendous resource in overall search and discovery.

I suppose that there is little from preventing Apple from using the same strategy for enriching its Spotlight search engine, however, I don’t think it gets the add-on benefits that Facebook does in terms of advertisers.

Under the hood of Notify, you’ll find a manager where you can basically control the updates you receive from participating publishers. I would imagine that as they ramp more publishers up, we might see some changes in how many publish to the news feed, but perhaps not. That’s definitely one of these things that I think we will only know as it starts playing out.

You’ll be able to learn more about Notify including publishers at the Notify website.

Looking forward to see how this technology evolves. Please share your experience and thoughts in the comments.

 

Slackers and Blabbers

slackers

Yesterday was one of those days where you get a sense for how fast our technology moves these days.  Since returning from sabbatical, I have become a member of four different Slack teams – three through my organization, and one that is a marketing interest group (Online Geniuses).  For those that are unfamiliar with Slack, it’s a messaging app for teams that allows you to set up your own team (think server or instance) which can then have different conversation topics within them.

Online Geniuses has started to riff on the popular “Ask Me Anything” (aka #AMA) model that was popularized on Reddit. Every day they are having one or more #AMA events with great guests from the world of online marketing. Yesterday featured Jonathan Hunt from Vox Media in some great discussion about how they run marketing inside a modern media house.  Today featured Stella Garber, the head of marketing at Trello.  The discussion basically happens inside the Slack “chat room” format, as a live feed (see below).

ama-online-geniuses

On the back of that session, I flipped over to blab.im where I had been invited to a short roundtable on Influencer Marketing. The discussion was real time, in live video and audio feeds.  If you’ve used Google Hangouts for your marketing or thought leadership events, you will immediately fall in love with this format.  I think my favorite aspects of it are:

  • Integration with Twitter for sign-in, contacts, and promotion during an event
  • When you complete a Blab, as the host you get sent the Audio file, Video file and embed codes for putting the event on your website.
  • A really compact interface for so much functionality
  • A great live schedule of scheduled and in-progress Blabs, so you can always find something to watch. Just now I popped in and found another Blab on the topic I was interested in (see below).

Blab_Beta_-_Warren_Whitlock__Influencer_Marketing_Revealed

While I still love Google Hangouts, I think Blab is going to be serious competition given how slick the interface is.  That will be a topic for another post though.

 

How do Slack and Blab compare when it comes to running events?

Both are fantastic for a fast moving live event. Slack is entirely text-based, so you need to consider that people need to be typing and actively monitoring the stream to watch for responses to their questions. That said, the interface of slack has been tailored to support Q&A events like AskMeAnything quite well.  It has the added benefit of making your audience work a little to participate, which I think can be a plus in this day and age.

Blab has the added benefit of being video and so it’s a bit easier to hang back and watch/listen, and if you’re so inclined you can join the ongoing tweet stream alongside the event.  Again, another really well done interface that allows a pretty seamless transition between the two.

All of that said, one thing is very clear to me: Slack and Blab provide new feature rich alternatives for marketers to the classic webinar.

Looking forward to trying both out for my own events soon. Eager to hear experiences that any of you have had.

 

Messaging Redux, Pinterest Wins, and Digital Newsrooms

 

Adam's Digital Marketing Industry Highlights

This week, I have a couple of interesting clusters of reads to share.

If you read my post on mobile messaging, you’ll know that I’ve been thinking quite heavily about the topic, and how messaging seems to be becoming a platform for lots of new capabilities.  Included this time around are a couple of interesting stories that should interest those following the messaging space.

Also today are a couple of pieces of interest to brand newsrooms, both from the standpoint of culture and technology.  As I discussed within Responsive Delivery, the lines between content, creative and software are really starting to blur in the digital-first organization.  I think that media just happens to be one of the industries that has taken on the brunt of this learning earlier than others.

Finally, a really cool story about the home improvement brand Lowes, who is succeeding with a couple of the more tricky social platforms around for businesses, Pinterest and Vine.

Look out for a new piece from me on ThoughtWorks Insights later this week!

-Adam


 

1. Messaging Redux

Social Media Today / TechCrunch

  • Facebook released a new guide for businesses that wish to provide a ‘live chat’ capability to their audiences via their Facebook page. The catch is that FB gets to put up a ‘responsiveness rating’ for your page!  Read more…
  • Slack has followed in Facebook’s footsteps by creating an “add to Slack” button for website owners.  Read more…

 

2. Lowe’s Gets Innovative With Pinterest and VineRead

Digiday

Home improvement giant Lowe’s delighted the market earlier this summer when they unveiled their 3D-Printing solutions in their stores.  Now they are wow-ing marketers with their innovative use of two of the more challenging social platforms to monetize: Pinterest and Vine.


 

3. Want to Create a More Digital Newsroom?  Find your inner startup.Read

Neiman Journalism Lab

A really well done piece that lays out a roadmap for the types of culture change that need to be made for newsrooms to go digital.  For marketing technologists and brand content wonks, much of this will be a delight to read. It really shows how much the worlds of marketing, technology and content coexist today.


 

4. Why Publishers Should Care About Article TaggingRead

The Media Briefing

You can’t work on a CMS without getting into debates about tagging and categorization models.  Well, according to this article, tagging is back with a vengeance.  Learn how a number of different media organizations are using tags to not only categorize content, but also provide lots of other context on areas such as formatting to drive better analytics.

 

Mobile Messaging: Platform, paradigm or both

Mobile messaging applications have become more than a paradigm for commercial success but a platform for new systems of innovation.

I can remember instant messaging as always being a core part of my internet experience. From the early chat rooms of Prodigy and Compuserve I learned to find connection and build friendships with remote strangers based on our affinity for comic books, Beatles albums and movies. As the web evolved, messaging was always still there in the background, as an important part of life, yet considered to be separate from the “web”. That reality has changed quickly.

 

messaging
Photo credit: Alone by Laura Finkel, https://www.flickr.com/photos/-followthemusic-/8128132886

 

Life in SLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile, that is)

In the 8 years of hyperspace that we’ve traveled since the smartphones hit the market its become increasingly more clear.  The traditional text message (SMS) fused with instant messaging technology to create a wave of social computing yet unheard of.  When you stop to think about the layers of functionality that have been introduced and integrated on the mobile platforms, it is really astounding:  photo, video, voice, live-streaming.

Applications that offer a personal experience using one or more of these capabilities are the new normal; they are the most popular and growing by the day.

 

internet-trends-mobile-applications
Slide 47 of KCPB Internet Trends 2015 by Mary Meeker

 

 

Further, some of these apps, including Whatsapp, Wechat, Slack and Voxer are bridging mediums and arguably becoming platforms for new types of innovation.  What’s the distinction of a platform, you might ask.

Platforms allow ecosystems to develop

If you work in a team environment, especially software, you’ve probably experienced Slack. Inspired by a 45 year-old technology but using 21st century tools, Slack provides a grass-roots platform for collaboration and informal communication within enterprises of all sizes.  But the thing that really has made it a smashing success is the ecosystem that surrounds it; there is a plug-in for just about developer tool on the market. These plug-ins allow developers to create their own best-of-breed project management system – something greater than any of the component parts.
The Slack ecosystem is pale in comparison to what’s happened in China with Wechat. This messaging based application leverages QRCodes and chat to provide a smartphone based platform of search, reviews, peer-to-peer payments and various other tools.  New businesses are spinning-up daily on the Wechat platform, and operating at a scale that gives Facebook’s mega-messaging applications, Messenger and Whatsapp, a run for their money.
Slide 53 of KCPB Internet Trends 2015 by Mary Meeker
Slide 53 of KCPB Internet Trends 2015 by Mary Meeker
These applications are not alone. It seems daily there are new entrants.  One of my personal favorites is Voxer, which provides ‘walkie-talkie’ style voice communication for groups and individuals (think Nextel phones in app form).  I became intrigued by this after watching my wife and her network marketing colleagues use it as an entire business platform for conference calls, offline training and 1:1 catch-ups with colleagues.  It breaks the mold that assumes messaging had to be typed on a keyboard.

The next frontier

I think that Benedict Evans had it right when he said we probably can’t predict where this will go.  I find some of the scenarios he describes regarding Facebook Messenger to be intriguing, especially when you think about technologies like Twilio and Intercom, which have revolutionized enterprise communication by providing a messaging and telephony backbone for web-applications.  Could they too be disrupted once Facebook wants to be the intermediary for web-apps, cars and couriers?  Time will tell.

Update, 30-Aug-2015:  

A couple of interesting stories in the news during the last week or two which should interest those following the messaging space:
  • Facebook released a new guide for businesses that wish to provide a ‘live chat’ capability to their audiences via their Facebook page. The catch is that FB gets to put up a ‘responsiveness rating’ for your page!  Read more…
  • Slack has followed in Facebook’s footsteps by creating an “add to Slack” button for website owners.  Read more…