How LinkedIn Could Cross the Chasm

December 8, 2009Sparxoo

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By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

Though Twitter has captured much of the social media attention in the past year, LinkedIn continues to pick up steam. While the professional-focused social network recently reach the 50 million user mark, we set out to discover how the site could accelerate its growth. We used Quantcast to analyze LinkedIn and other top-tier social networks to identify the best practices to cross the chasm from early adopters to early majority. Through our analysis we have come to several strategies for LinkedIn to accelerate audience growth and expand their product offering.

First, let’s take a lesson from Facebook and MySpace. The lifestyle social networks have a very strong core user-base — of which 12-18% are addicts. LinkedIn has a mere 2% addicts. So how can LinkedIn increase their % addicts? If we look at Facebook and MySpace, users have a strong personal connection with each other. Both social networks focus on personal relationships (think photo sharing, comments). Though LinkedIn needs to maintain a professional environment, what about making the connection between personal and professional networks?

Integrate Facebook Connect into the LinkedIn social network to bridge the gap between personal and professional networks. Moreover, sixty-seven percent of Facebook users are under 34, while LinkedIn has 24%. By adding Facebook Connect, LinkedIn could cultivate younger audiences – thus increasing the opportunity tap into one of the largest online demographics.

Opening the doors to a broader demographic is what ultimately grew Facebook from a niche, college network, to the largest social network in the world. Since Facebook lifted the .edu restriction in 2006, the social network has grown exponentially — recently reaching 350 million users. While the percent of college students on Facebook in 2006 would have neared 100% (the site opened registration to large companies and high schools in 2005), only 42% of their audience is a college graduate today. If LinkedIn were to open their doors to the personal network, the company could experience similar growth while maintaining a professional environment.

LinkedIn could also capture a larger female audience. That said, while other social sites have a female majority, LinkedIn has a mere 45%. To grow its female audience, LinkedIn could take a page from the Twitter playbook and develop an API that could then be re-purposed on different platforms. Those sites that allow for self-expression have a larger female demographic (think MySpace, Facebook, Twitter). For example LinkedIn Pic could allow photographers to feature their work, or LinkedIn Market could be a think-tank for industry trends. Additionally an API allows users to engage with the brand on their terms, in the way they want. Twitter has the second largest female audience and if LinkedIn could develop an API to appeal to them, it could accelerate its audience growth.

For LinkedIn, partnering with Facebook could be a pivotal move in taking their user-base to the next level. As the lifestyle social network continues to surpass it’s monthly traffic records, LinkedIn could latch itself onto the rising star to capture a much larger audience and develop an API to appeal to more female users.

Image by Kristin Smith from Stock.Xchng