Posts Tagged ‘linkedin’

The Apex of the Social Media Mountain

Two months after we looked at LinkedIn’s initial public offers, an increasing number of social media and Web companies are contemplating whether to do their own IPOs.

If you take a step back and consider how far social media have come in recent years, the wave of IPOs is not that surprising. Some people believe we could be in the midst of another bubble that will eventually burst, but the more astute observer will notice this is simply the zeitgeist and we haven’t reached the apex yet.

LinkedIn is an interesting example because they actually undervalued their value when reaching out to potential investors. Pundits and experts believe LinkedIn entered the market at such a low price, that they left $130 million dollars on the table.

This is in stark contrast to  the late ‘90s when Web companies were going public with surprisingly high-valued IPOs, and then feeling the negative fallout. LinkedIn opened at $45 per share and settled at over $120 on its first day of trading almost two months ago.

The dot-com bubble burst a decade ago for several reasons, including the fact share prices soared to sky-high heights that were impossible to support. It should be noted that during the first bubble the Web was new for public consumption, and people weren’t sure what to do with it. The initial response was to throw money at it and hope it stuck.

Today, we understand the Web much better and it is far more ingrained into our personal and professional lives. A growing number of people, brands and organizations are using social media effectively and efficiently, and brands especially require an understanding of social media and an online presence to succeed.

The current landscape coupled with the consistent positive evolution of social media should allow the current version of the climb up the mountain to be much more successful.

Are We Addicted to Social Media?

Are we growing addicted to social media? Think about how much time you spend on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn and YouTube. And then think about whether the time spent has been growing.

According to comScore, the average online user in the U.S. spends 16% of their time on social media – a 25% increase from last year and a 100% jump from 2007.

The question is whether the growing amount of time is just a matter of social media becoming more popular and an integral part of our lives, or whether we’re becoming addicted to social media.

It is probably a combination of both factors. There is no doubt that over the past three or four years social media has become more popular. Facebook has gone mainstream with more than 660 million users, Twitter has more than 200 million users, and LinkedIn has more than 100 million users.

At the same time, people are consuming more service media. Facebook users spend nearly six hours a month on the service, and nearly six hours watching online videos. Many young people now check Facebook before they get out of bed in the morning.

The use of social media is being exacerbated/encouraged by the growing use of smartphones and high-speed wireless networks, which has made it easier to use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and watch videos. It means we have access to social media anytime and anywhere.

The question is have we become addicted to social media? Think about often you check your Facebook status or what’s happening on Twitter. Think about the last time you went a day without using social media.

There is no doubt social media has become as ubiquitous as traditional media in an astounding short period of time. But has it become too much of a good thing?

In other words, are we addicted to social media? And is this a good or bad thing?

For more thoughts on whether we’re addicted to social media, check out Steve Olenski’s blog post.

LinkedIn’s IPO and the Future of Social Media

LinkedIn’s spectacular debut as a publicly-traded company last week also delivered a lot of other food for thought, including whether the IPO market is ready to come back to life after being dormant for a long time.

Another interesting topic is the impact LinkedIn’s IPO could have on the social media landscape. For the past few years, the story has been the strong growth in the number of users, while revenue generated by social media players has taken a back seat.

Part of this focus has to do with the fact these companies are privately-owned, which means their financial results are not disclosed. In the absence of this information, the spotlight has been on the number of users as a metric for success.

But LinkedIn’s IPO is going to change things. With LinkedIn disclosing its sales and profits, investors will have a way of establishing valuations of other social media companies that offer details of their sales. Suddenly, the valuations of many companies will be measurable, at least on paper.

For social media companies that have any kind of revenue, there will be a growing temptation to either do an IPO or sell because LinkedIn investors have established valuations that can be benchmarked against. Do not be surprised to see a growing number of IPOs, aside from usual suspects: Facebook, Twitter and GroupOn.

The other major issue that will likely emerge as a result of LinkedIn’s IPO is how companies with revenue can demand high valuations. It could encourage social media companies to drive more revenue growth as opposed to focusing on attracting more users. The more revenue a company has generate, the higher its valuation.

For consumers, this might mean the buffet of free services might start to disappear as social media players start to focus on revenue.

For the past few years, consumers have enjoyed an amazing social media “party” with no lack of choice. LinkedIn’s IPO, however, could signal a major shift in the market’s dynamic as valuations and revenue move into the spotlight.

Can Social Media Reach C-Suite Executives?

Despite the inroads made by social media and the growing number people embracing services as a daily part of their personal and professional lives, there is a one group social media has yet to really penetrate: C-suite executives.

We’re talking about the people who run companies – chief executive officers, chief operating officers, chief financial officers and chief technology officers. These are the key decision-makers who determine a company’s strategic and tactical directions.

The reality is as social media permeates the corporate landscape, many C-suite executives remain above or away from the fray. It may be they simply don’t have the time to immerse themselves in social media given the demands of the job.

Or it could be a demographic issue given many C-suite executives are older and, as a result, may not be Web savvy beyond surfing the Web and dealing with e-mail. This is probably a massive generalization but you get the idea.

In any event, social media is likely not alive and well within the senior executive offices even though it’s bubbling up from the bottom of the organization as younger employees use it personally and professionally.

It raises the question whether social media can be used to influence or reach C-suite executives. Is there a way to get to them using social media as opposed to traditional tools such as mainstream media, advertising and direct mail?

At this point, the most user-friendly social platform is LinkedIn because it’s seen as the place where professionals can establish a foothold that is “safe” and more business-friendly than Twitter or Facebook. A senior executive, for example, may not have issues about creating a LinkedIn profile but would balk at going on Facebook.

If LinkedIn is the only place to discover C-suite executives on socia media, how do you get to them? An interesting tactic may be going after the people who influence C-suite executives – the vice-president of marketing or the vice-president, communications.

These are people who are probably more social media savvy and engaged given the nature of their jobs. In some way, shape or form, they are using social media personally or managing programs that include social media services. As a result, they have access or insight than a C-suite executive may not have.

It means that if you want to target a C-suite executive, a good place to start is people just underneath on the corporate hierarchy who can the ability to influence their bosses.

Finally, A Reason to Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a strange beast. A growing number of people have joined LinkedIn but the majority have little how or why to use it other than accepting connection requests.

That’s probably an exaggeration but the truth is most people don’t engage that much with LinkedIn. Maybe we will do a search to learn more about someone and see their connections. And there are people who will check out groups.

But if you ask someone whether LinkedIn was a service they used on a regular basis, the answer would probably be a resounding “no”.

This lack of engagement, however, could change with the launch of LinkedIn Today, which displays news based on the interests and reading activities of people within someone’s network.

In many respects, LinkedIn is like Paper.li, which creates a news page based on the activity of their Twitter followers.

LinkedIn Today is a major tactical initiative for LinkedIn because it makes the service stickier and gives users a reason to visit on a daily basis. It could also make LinkedIn more relevant by delivering news that reflects a user’s connection. In this way, LinkedIn is jumping on the aggregation and content curation arena.

For people who are LinkedIn members but have little reason to visit other than approving a new connection, LinkedIn Today may be a habit changer.

Is There Life Beyond the Social Media “Big Five”?

For all the companies operating in the social media marketplace, there are really only five options for companies looking to establish a strong presence: blogs (WordPress), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

This is where the biggest “parties” are happening so it makes complete sense to focus your efforts on them. The “Big Five” sport the biggest audiences and, in theory, offer the biggest bang for the buck.

Their emergence as the dominant players reflects the natural evolution of any market in which there is a small group of large companies and a large pack of smaller companies with lots of aspiration but little market share.

One of the key questions, however, is whether there’s any value for companies to consider activity beyond the “Big Five”? Does it make sense to explore the use of MySpace, Foursquare, Flickr, Tumblr, Friendster or Orkut? And what about Gowalla, Posterous, Digg, del.icio.us and StumbleUpon?

While it is easy to just focus on the “Big Five”, there are plenty of interesting opportunities to leverage other social media services to serve different interests, audiences and geographies.

For example, MySpace, still had 64 million unique U.S. visitors last month, and has maintained its status as the social network for musicians and music fans. The company recently unveiled a new, cleaner home page that looks a lot like Facebook’s.

For companies looking to attract audiences in Brazil and Asia, Friendster is worth considering, while Google’s Orkut is a strong presence in India and Brazil.

Flickr doesn’t get much attention these days as Yahoo struggles to find its way but it had 23 million unique U.S. visitors last month. Tumblr is gaining a lot of traction as a user-friendly alternative to WordPress, while Digg is showing signs of life after badly sagging.

And then there’s new, emerging markets such as location-based services in which Foursquare and Gowalla are battling to establish strong footholds. Although still unproven, companies such as Ann Taylor and Starbucks are experimenting to see whether they have potential as new social media channels.

The challenge for many companies is trying to sift their way through the multitude of social media choices. In many cases, it is easier to simply stick to the “Big Five” because there’s less risk or guessing involved. It’s like the old adage that “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”.

That said, there are alternatives definitely worth exploring to take advantage of niche, emerging and geographic opportunities.

For some companies, using social media services off the beaten track could be a way to differentiate themselves in a marketplace in which everyone is using many of the same tools.

The Rise of the Vertical Social Network

Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace dominate the social networking landscape but there are many people looking for a more relevant place to digitally network.

Facebook, for example, is the “Starbucks” of social networking but there are lots of consumers happily patronizing smaller chains or independents because they meet their needs differently or better.

As John Jantsch wrote in a recent blog post, many people are looking to connect with people within social networks that cater to specific professions (e.g. real estate, law) or interests (e.g. baseball, karaoke).

These networks don’t get a lot of attention but they do exist, and maybe now is the time for them to gain more traction as Facebook and LinkedIn become exceedingly mainstream.

In other words, if everyone’s partying at the same place, there may be opportunities for other places to establish themselves as the new, cool place.

The biggest challenge facing these niche or vertical network is selling people on the idea that size doesn’t matter. These networks are more about the quality of connections rather than quantity. They are places where like-minded individuals can connect with each other with far less noise.

Just for fun, here are some of the more odd vertical social networks – StachePassions (moustaches), Vampire Freaks (vampires) and Zii Trend (clairvoyants).

Life Beyond the Four Social Media Giants

As a growing number of companies embrace social media, a key strategic and tactical decision is selecting what social media services to use.

This process depends on determining the best fit for a particular business and its customers, as well as the social media services being used by the people that a company is trying to reach and engage.

Not surprisingly, the default choices are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube because they are the most popular.

While these solid choices that no one is going to question, they’re just a small part of the massive social media “menu” in which there are thousands of choices that cater to different markets and interests.

In a recent blog post, Jay Baer made an excellent point that there is life beyond the “Big Four” but that “in the rush to “do” social media, companies are forgetting that the communities that are most social (and thus carry the most potential) are those that are topically focused.”

If you’re in the sports business, it’s a no-brainer to consider sports-specific social networks such as RootZoo, FanNation, ArmchairGM and BallHype.

If you’re in the food business, the non-Big Four options include FoodBuzz and Group Recipes.

In other words, there is a vibrant social media ecosystem beyond Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

It may take some time to find the right opportunities and establish a foothold within these communities but it’s worth the investment if these social networks meet your social media goals and objectives.

At the end of the day, you may discover that social media networks off the beaten track could be as valuable as the Big Four.

Are Social Media Federations a Good Thing?

We live in an increasingly connected world, driven by the growth of Internet connectivity (be it wired or wireless).
Within social media, one of the more fascinating trends that has emerged recently is how social networks are being connected – something transforming social networks from isolated pillars into loose federations.

The most recent social connection was announced earlier this week when LinkedIn and Twitter unveiled an agreement that will lets users update their LinkedIn status from Twitter, and their Twitter status from LinkedIn – an agreement that Twitter co-founder Biz Stone described as “bringing peanut butter and the chocolate together to make the perfect combination.”

There is also tight integration between Facebook and Twitter, as well as services such as Ping.fm that let you update multiple social networking services using a single message.

A question that needs to be asked is whether the connections between different social networks is a positive development that gives users social synergies, convenience and better and easier ways to connect digitally.

Or is this inter-connectivity digital overkill that will create an endless loop of social updates and conversations based on the idea that everything that everyone is saying gets propagated on multiple networks.

At this point, the enthusiasm about being able to cross-update seems to be ruling the day but it will be interesting to see whether it leads to social networking overlap and overload.