I came across an interesting article today on CNNMoney.com titled "LinkedIn Says It Will Own Business Networking".
Basically, Dan Nye, the CEO of LinkedIn is saying that people will build one online profile of their personal life and one for their professional life. He could be right. He's probably smarter than I am (and Reid Hoffman, the founder, is definitely smarter than I am). But, I don't think it's necessary to concede this ground just yet. Often, the best defense ("we want to keep our professional customers" is a great offense.
I were chairman of the board, master of the universe and grand poo-bah at LinkedIn, here's what I'd do:
1. Create A Simple API: I cannot tell you how surprised I am that LinkedIn has not done this yet. It is a perfect platform to allow others to extend and create value for. The data model is relatively simple and the user-base is large and growing. If they need an example of a simple, well implemented API, they should just look at the new digg API.
2. Get Better At Groups: At the request of several members of the OnStartups community, I created the OnStartups LinkedIn group. First off, it was a pain in the neck to actually get this done (there's no automated way to do it). It took multiple attempts and several months. After all was said and done, I've got the group setup and it's grown (over 800 members now). But, it doesn't really do anything other than list people in the group. There are no social networking or group features like one would expect. Digg is not the perfect example here, but it's a start.
3. Get On Board With RSS: I'm an RSS fiend. I don't read emails anymore (especially not automated ones that update me regularly on things). That's why god created RSS, so my inbox can be clogged with a combination of SPAM and real emails of carbon-based life forms. LinkedIn should have at least one master RSS feed that told me when new people came into my network, when others have accessed my profile, when folks have joined my group, etc. It's not that hard to do. Digg supports RSS in a whole bunch of places -- and especially where it counts.
That's it. These three things alone might not win them the battle -- but it sure would help. If nothing else, they'd have at least one (paying) customer that was happy. What do you think? Any more ideas of how LinkedIn could improve it's service and fend off the powerhouse that is Facebook? Also, If you're in an early-stage startup and building out a community or platform at least two of the above items are probably good advice.
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