Why Social Business Networks Fail to be Relevant: LinkedIn, XING and Yammer are not about Your Business
All business in the end is about buying and selling. Yet with the exception of “Premium” Memberships there is not much you can buy on “social” business networks!
O.k., you can buy the feeling of being relevant, well networked, interesting or catching attention by putting your profile there (which comes for free, for you are being sold as part of a relevant target group to third parties). But business, buying, selling, presenting, rating all happens on Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba, Etsy, GitHub (which is probably the best place for coders to show-off and get hired or to influence the “world of code”) and alike.
Yes, I know the stats and have seen the infographics about business generated through networks like LinkedIn or XING (market leader for Germany, Switzerland, Austria). But the fact that they both started “content strategies” should tell you that they do not trust those numbers in the long run and that they are not really about facilitating or conducting your business.
The Business of LinkedIn and XING is not their Customer’s
Customer’s of both LinkedIn and XING firstly serve the business needs of the networks, not their own ones.
While you can search and read all profiles on XING for free, you got to pay on LinkedIn for even the smallest thing beyond adding content to their platform in your profile or in forums. That hardly makes for business processes outside those of the platforms who need content to look attractive and to appear in Google results.
Both LinkedIn and XING have bought other companies, but none of those was a platform through which two business people (who connected on them) could conduct a business project! The world is full of platforms and Apps which offer everything from time tracking and billing of work (i.e. Flapps) to work collaboration (i.e. Trello) to project management in the cloud (i.e. Wrike). Yet once you met on LinkedIn or XING you got to leave those “social business networks” to actually conduct business?
Instead of incorporating relevant functions to grow into collaboration platforms, the customers of both are left with little more than oversized electronic business cards (XING was originally named OpenBC as its character was that of a business card open to anybody on the web).
Apart from recruiting and headhunting processes there is not much business activity that gets facilitated by an electonic business card. It is a dead-end road and content is not the way out!
Business is Business Processes
To be relevant for business any platform must cater to business processes.
For buying and selling processes there is not much one can do on LinkedIn or XING. One can not hold conferences or presentations there, there is no live broadcasting of vids or audio, not even podcast channels, much less functions to buy and sell directly within either LinkedIn or XING or to run a project.
When Microsoft bought Yammer (I still do not get the intention behind it) hopes were high on my side that interlocking Yammer, Skype, MS Project and the MS Office suite along with cloud storage would create a really powerful business solution turning Yammer into the must-join social business network!
While this may sound idealistic, because business processes in the end differ massivley from sector to sector, it would have blessed everybody looking to meet and generate and conduct business online with a platform, one which seamlessly caters to the needs of business from the beginning to the end not just exchanging business cards with some content attributed to it (last time I was on Yammer it had few more features than a content-management-system based intranet wiki).
In any case all these three platforms are far from being relevant for business! They may be relevant in terms of Google and people actually being found but that is only because Google itself did not venture into creating a platform for business conduct via the web! But with the huge set of single solutions from Gmail to Calendar, Docs, Drive, Hangouts and the badly bashed G+ user accounts, it theoretically has the basics which, if cleverly interlinked, would offer more to any business than LinkedIn, XING or Yammer do right now.
The Spreading of Business Process Platforms
Processes are Center Stage, not Content.
The rise of LinkedIn or XING was followed by the rise of Business Process Platforms like SalesForce or ZOHO. Slack, Wrike, Asana try to ease project management and online collaboration and offer real value for business as they strictly cater to business processes and their requirements. They all do so without content but would profit from companies being able to seek out and hire skills (freelancers, teams, corporations) to perform tasks within the processes they have running on them — in an easy scaling according to needs.
So beyond simply using social sign-in and building standard mini-profiles of people based on data access, the next best step for such platforms looks like either starting with hosting personal business profiles along with those of corporations or to merge and aquire.
And I am almost willing to bet that advisors and lawyers specialised in Mergers and Aquisition are already lobbying behind the scenes for merging what natureally belongs together in business but is being kept seperate by the Valley-folks for whatever reason: Meeting and Conducting Business!
It is Time to Leave the 20th Century Mindest in Online Business Networks
Currently there is no real value for business behind what people with profiles on LinkedIn or XING or Yammer are getting for their money!
If business is really moving into the cloud, if processes are really moving there, if seamless scaling of business activity is supposed to be facilitated by doing so, then keeping the “Meet and Greet” strictly seperated from the “Buying and Selling” and the “Hardcore Workperformance” is in no way making sense!
But will SalesForce buy LinkedIn or LinkedIn buy SalesForce? Or does the latter maybe do better by adding the non-content functions of LinkedIn or XING to it? Or maybe there is a chance for a platform based on totally open APIs to provide profile data of users to Online Business Processes?
If both LinkedIn or XING remain in the 20th century by sitting on their users and do not try to provide the most service to them, by spreading word about them to where the real business is being done, then definately both will fall victim to a start-up from scratch — one that will not be about monetizing based on using customers but based on monetizing through serving its customers to the business processes of each other and around them!
Some articles on MEDIUM suggest that the minimal viable product for “anything coded” (including the above) can be done in eight weeks.
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