$26 Billion: The World Needs A Better Business Networking Site

LinkedIn could be killer. But it isn’t. Let’s be honest…aside from being a hunting ground for entry level recruiters, the platform really doesn’t add the kind of value to its user base that it could. It’s as if they herded 400 million sheep into a gated patch of dirt, gave them nothing to eat, and are letting the wolves pay at the door to come in and hunt. Eventually, the sheep are going run. When was the last time you felt that your time spent on LinkedIn was providing you with superior business opportunities? Where’s the benefit? Businesspeople want to connect, make deals, hire new talent, build their personal brands, and grow their businesses. Instead, when I log in to my LinkedIn page, I see entry level recruiters and motivational memes. Big. Deal. If a better business networking platform were to arise, I’d leave LinkedIn in a heartbeat. That’s a scary vulnerability for Microsoft that I’d take very seriously if I was an executive in this initiative. The world needs a better business networking site.

Microsoft has its work cut out, and I’m not convinced it’s up for the job. When was the last time you heard, “Microsoft” and thought innovation? LinkedIn needs to be remodeled, and if I were in the driver’s seat at Microsoft, here’s how I’d go about it.

Create a robust “connect” tool with a hyper focus on serving the user’s needs and shift away from catering to recruiters and salesmen. — If I were in charge of creating LinkedIn 2.0, this would be the foundation (and primary focus) to which everything else would rest upon. It would have to be organic and seamless. By organic I mean it has to be woven into the very fabric of the community with no paid options to artificially inflate one user over another in the marketplace. Right now LinkedIn has “ProFinder”, which is a curated list where LinkedIn takes the driver’s seat on providing you options on who to work with for your specific need. No bueno. It’s inauthentic and you can smell that from a mile away. How about this? In the user profile, create a “Looking for” update box. So for example, “Looking for a web designer to redesign my website.”. “Looking for an entry level administrator.” “Looking to publish my first book.” Then take that data and display it in the header of each user’s profile. After that, use it to create a default feed on the brand new “Connect” page, where any user can go to search for opportunities within their network (and their networks network through second-degree connections). The idea here is we’re creating a rich platform where everyone knows how they can best serve each other in their ventures. This will then organically connect professionals based on their needs and plant the seeds necessary for a thriving community to bloom. The better the community serves its users needs, the more they’ll come back and the more they’ll feel inclined to contribute. This is in stark contrast to the inauthentic, headhunting community you find on LinkedIn today. After that’s designed and that foundation is set, we would then be in a position to innovate and create tools to help fuel the fire in the right direction. High-quality search tools to find businesspeople who have specific needs, forums to interact, creative advertising platforms, video functionality (Why can’t we post video updates yet? How about video messaging?), etc. That’s a post for another day. Today is about the foundational strategy.

Once again, If I were the executive calling the shots, organically connecting users based on their business needs would absolutely be my primary focus. Everything else would stem from there. All meetings would start with the question, “How is this going to help our users better connect based on their needs?” All potential new hires would be asked, “How are you going to help better connect our users on the basis of their individual needs?” I’ll put fucking posters on the every wall in the office. I would nail that question down so far into the culture that it would become everything, the only thing.

That’s how I’d go about turning LinkedIn into the business networking site that the world needs.

orignally posted on www.paulsnieckus.com , where I post articles on business strategy and help small businesses grow.