Friday, July 22, 2011

LinkedOut?

BREAKING NEWS: CEO at over-valued social network attacks competitors social network.
Did anyone else see the comment made by LinkedIn CEO, Jeffrey Weiner earlier this week when asked about the potential of Google+? If you missed it, here was his answer:
"Nobody has any free time. Unlike social platforms and TV, which can coexist, you don't see people using Twitter while they're using Facebook, or using Facebook while they're using LinkedIn. Now you introduce Google+... where am I going to spend that next minute or hour of my discretionary time? I have no more time."
Wow. Sounds like someone struck a nerve! I'm guessing this is why...
Google+ is about to put a serious dent in LinkedIn's over-valued, under-used professional network.
LinkedIn has bet its future on eyeballs (i.e. selling ads). If impressions and engagement time per user on LinkedIn decline as a result of people becoming more interested in Google+ (regardless of whether that interest is social or business)... LinkedIn's ad revenues will decline... followed eventually by their overpriced stock. The potential stickiness of Google+ directly impacts LinkedIn's ad supported business model by becoming a one-stop-shop (which already includes business tools such as Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, Maps, Places, Picassa, etc...).
Now, in Weiner's defense what he did say is factually correct. People's discretionary time is becoming more and more limited when it comes to using social networks. Additionally, from a business perspective I personally believe that people are beginning to question the value of networks that over promise and under-deliver (How many of you have actually gotten results from using LinkedIn? What about Facebook Ads?). Bottom line, in the world of professional (social) networking... if you can't deliver tangible results, people will move on. LinkedIn in my opinion, has made the mistake of failing to add value to their platform for the average user.
I personally think Google+ has Facebook in its cross-hairs... but does anyone think that LinkedIn isn't in that scope as well? How long will it take for Google+ to add a simple resume feature, making LinkedIn all but irrelevant at some point. My guess is about 10 minutes of coding time. That's how long it took us. :)
Don't get me wrong, as the owner of a professional network myself, I understand where Weiner is coming from. The success of Google+ can also be seen as an indictment of Fast Pitch. However, I can honestly say I'm not nearly as insecure about the prospects of Google+ becoming a Fast Pitch killer. For one, I'm already battle tested. We've been fighting this 'discretionary time' fight with Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace for nearly five years now. And guess what... "I'm still standing, huh!" (in my best Tony Montana voice). Come to think of it, didn't we outlast Myspace?
Part of the reason I'm confident in Fast Pitch is that we've always positioned ourselves differently than other networks. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone... We're a tool that focuses on a niche market that compliments those other networks. For example:
1. People You Know vs. People You Don't Know
By tapping into their existing user base of 300M Gmail users, the majority of the connections being made on Google+ are with people you already know (people you've already communicated with inside of Gmail). This is a clear difference from the Fast Pitch approach where the focus is all about connecting you to people you do not already know. For small business owners who are interested in generating targeted, localized leads by connecting to other small business owners in specific industries, etc... Fast Pitch is the 'community' for doing this.
2. Creating Content vs. Sharing Content
Google+ does a nice job of allowing you to quickly share content from other sources. However, Google+ doesn't necessarily give you a platform for creating original content. One of the ways Fast Pitch will continue to attract users is with our intuitive press release feature - that allows you to create your own highly professional press release (for free) which can then be shared with other audiences on platforms like Google+!
3. Spam vs. Email Marketing
Have you ever tried to send more than 500 messages per day using Gmail? You can't. I'm guessing Google+ will be no different. Fast Pitch provides an alternative option (Fast Pitch MAIL) - a tool that allows our members to do large scale email marketing. Email Marketing is critical for small businesses. Google could care less.
4. One Size Fits All vs. Niche
Have you ever tried using LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook to search for other small business owners in your area who are interested in networking? It's not easy. Fast Pitch is a niche professional network designed by small business owners for small business owners. For most small business owners, one size doesn't fit all.
4. Professional SEO
We're very good at getting ALL of your professional content (profile, press, etc.) ranked high on Google... and we do it entirely in a business context. When people come across your press release, it links to your professional profile on Fast Pitch, which links to your blog, your other press, etc... People have no other choice than to form a more serious opinion about you. With Google+, my guess is that your public profile will be what it is... a combination of social vs. business. Which isn't always a good thing.
In short, LinkedIn's problem going forward is that they took their eye off the ball and stopped innovating around 2008. Beyond the functionality they offer for recruitment (who's hiring?), they've given the average user very little reason to spend significant time on their network. Particularly the amount of time it takes to convince major advertisers to spend the kind of dollars LinkedIn investors require for the stock price to continue to go up.
When you add it all up, Weiner has plenty of reason to be insecure. Or maybe he's just having a bad week because one of his underwriters just downgraded his stock.

Bill

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