Lately there have been some rumors about discontent at LinkedIn. Problems with meeting financial goals set by their investors, rumors of managers throwing each other under the bus, lack of how to make LinkedIn profitable, and a host of other concerns. Could a site with 30+ million users just disappear in the blink of an eye?
If LinkedIn were gone tomorrow, how would that impact you today? In the future? I would guess that for a majority of the users it would seem devastating at first, but slowly they would come to relize that while LinkedIn was “cool” and showed “promise”, they never really figured out how to use it. It would be business as usual in the world of face-to-face networking.
I’ve said it often, LinkedIn is simply a tool to use in your networking arsenal. By itself it’s nothing more than links on a web page with background information. The true value is determining how to monetize this collection of information. Unfortunately most people never moved to the monetization phase.
Fo me, LinkedIn has provided value in my networking, helping me to enhance and expand my network, it has provided new business through connections, and it has provided me with an idea that is still in the germination phase.
What is this idea? If I have to name it, it would be LinkedIn local with a dash of Plaxo and social networking. What I’ve done is taken a LinkedIn group to it’s own space to create a community of users locally, and then added some features that LinkedIn does not provide.
The work in progress can be found at www.NorthFultonBG.com. This is a free membership portal for folks that network in North Fulton county in Georgia, just north of Atlanta. The main rule of the site is that to be a member you have to live, network, or work in North Fulton. (so if you’re not in the area you’re welcome to visit but you can’t be a member).
The site provides features to the members to help them network locally, including:
1. The ability for every member to post educational articles about the area of expertise
2. An Events list and calendar
3. The ability to post classifieds, ads, and job listings
4. The ability to view other members information including contact information
5. A forum to discuss topics
6. The ability for member to connect or associate themselves with others
7. Members bio where members can include sontact information and background details
Over the next year I plan to tweak the features to provide more usability.
In the first six weeks of launch we are close to 80 members, with a goal of 1,000 members by the end of 2009. The interesting thing, and what I sometimes think LinkedIn forgets, is that the success of the site will rest more in the hands of the users than in my efforts. I am responsible for providing a good user experience and features. The users, though, will have the ultimate responsibility of creating value through interaction and involvement.
No one in this network will ever have 15,000 2nd degree connections and multi-million 3rd degree connections. but who cares. Have those millions of connections provided any value relative to there number? Instead, I believe that a network made up of a 1,000 or so local people will be of more value.
LinkedIn has it’s place at the head of the table and I personally have found value in their network. I wish them the best and hope they continue to succeed. I just think that each person has to find a way to take advantage of the opportunities that LinkedIn has created.
My suggestion is that you take control of your experience and create new ways to build value.
TIP: If you have not done so yet, I suggest that every week or each month you export your connections. You will find the link to do so at the bottom of the connections page.