How did LinkedIn crush its competitors?

Could you imagine working without switching on a computer screen? Without checking your inbox? LinkedIn quickly positioned itself in the professional world to become something necessary. It revolutionised contact books. The idea of a network of contacts has been democratised.In France, when the social network Viadeo was ahead of the pack, LinkedIn quickly thrust itself into the thick of it and crushed its competitor. How did this happen?

“Innovation is an alliance between search, marketing, instinct, imagination, product and industrial spirit.” Antoine Riboud.

Wanting to be THE inter-company tool, LinkedIn turned a major corner to become a global reference interface for professionals. In order to achieve this, it relied on a user base that had built strong relationships. It has become an almost daily meeting point for people to find quality professional information.This is thanks to the development of its editing features, news on the home page, the integration of slideshare presentations, the strengthening of interaction groups and the recent creation of blogs on the Pulse platform.

The “private” sphere was Facebook’s unique selling point, but now the professional world is discovering and turning to LinkedIn to communicate and share.

The figures speak for themselves. Globally, a Google Trends analysis allows you to see that LinkedIn’s reputation has already crushed its competitors, Viadeo, Xing and Plaxo. At the French level, Google Trends shows that LinkedIn’s reputation has surpassed that of Viadeo since the end of 2012. LinkedIn also stood out with its 380 million users compared to the 65 million Viadeo.

In France, according to Médiamétrie, since November 2012 there is more traffic on LinkedIn than on Viadeo. A chasm has been growing between the two tools since 2012.

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges”. Isaac Newton.

How can we explain this leadership that LinkedIn has achieved? A few years ago, in France, it seemed that Viadeo was the undisputed leader and had successfully secured an investment of 24 million euros of equity. These funds must have helped the company with its international development (particularly in China) and strengthen its leadership in France. Nothing turned out as planned and China became a failure.

6 reasons that seem to explain LinkedIn’s progressive development and its penetration of the French market:

Firstly, with Viadeo you had to pay to have the functionalities to develop the first degree level of contacts. Between the two platforms the difference began to be obvious, one was free and the other you had to pay. On LinkedIn it only needed 2 clicks and a name to connect with another person. With Viadeo, the same functionality required an advanced profile. Would a user really be interested in paying for this database, especially if they are providing a database of contacts with news so that professionals can exploit it (HR Managers, headhunters, service companies, …)

The second reason is based on LinkedIn’s almost total monopoly of the English-speaking market: on the internet, which is becoming increasingly international and where physical borders have fallen, Viadeo suffered from its concentration in certain geographical areas (France, Asia, and part of America) Can a professional network be developed if the contact database is not broad enough, especially if the competitors is much broader? Within a Europe that increasingly strengthens the free trade of goods and movement of people, it seems inappropriate to be limited to only French-speaking countries (except China’s notable exception).

The third reason relates to the presence of LinkedIn on numerous professional websites via buttons that enable the sharing of news across major platforms. It’s noticeable too that Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are present too. Viadeo is almost non-existent on these websites. However, social networks are progressively becoming the first near real-time connections to professional information. For example, on the ‘Les Echos’ website Twitter and LinkedIn dominate.

The fourth reason comes from the use of news on LinkedIn and Viadeo. In the first, the interaction with news is simple to launch but in the second, it’s more complicated. This is how the new news vehicle has become diversified. The difference between the two is even more noticeable when sharing content and measuring its impact. For example, I’ve done tests with identical information published on my blog and boosted it on different platforms: the stream of readers coming from LinkedIn accounted for 10% of the connections (still far from the more than 50% achieved coming from Twitter), Video was less than 0.1%.

The fifth reason is related to the development of smartphones with Android and Windows 8.

In contact books the link with LinkedIn is native. The contact sheets are added and modified automatically. It’s a real advantage to not have to worry about having the phone number or email to contact a person! The interactive contact book finally exists.

The sixth reason is LinkedIn’s progressive transformation with Pulse. Initially, reserved for a few author pages and then extended to international influencers. Today, this platform allows any professional in the world to publish text in a very simple way, and multiply visibility.

Of course there are other reasons to explain the change that has taken place, these being more subjective and related to the interface itself. That’s why I would say that these six points alone seem to explain a good part of the chasm that has been created between LinkedIn and Viadeo.

“In order to invent, one must think aside”, Albert Einstein.

Every model is made to be reinvented. Yesterday’s leader can regain first place by differentiating and innovating. We are on the verge of a new use of professional social networks that are emerging with greater proximity to professional communities.

Social networks have demonstrated their strength and impact by re-socializing a virtual world and building lasting relationships among professionals. People love sharing and learning. With these tools we can re-build an ecosystem located on the internet.

Professional social networks attract people, and 2017 will surely be a year of new developments and growth in the world of business. Intranets will be progressively altered and will have to adapt or die.

Will new growth points emerge on LinkedIn? In order to continue developing, this professional social network will have to keep proposing new concepts for its users and companies.

Alban Jarry