Over the years I have used many collaborative tools. I was also part of an external team of people supporting IBM Social Business platform Connections. Now that product although used extensively internally has never really made it into the mainstream. Its a shame, but it was very well integrated. Integration with other software is critical for long term adoption and use.
LinkedIn is one of those websites where many of us have a profile. Our CV or resume if you like. For many sectors, if you cannot be found on LinkedIn you reduce your job search possibilities considerably.
This is a long post, but please stick with me, having the backstory is important.
Dump and Go or Stick & Stay
Many people have been using LinkedIn as a “Dump and go” environment. That is they sign up for LinkedIn, update their profile and not visit the site until they need to find a new role. LinkedIn of course want a “Stick & Stay” culture of their users. That is in marketing terms they want sticky social media or environment.
Throughout its history LinkedIn has had several tools that help people stay around longer. These have included “LinkedIn Answers”, where people asked a question and the power of the crown provided answers. That product was retired several years ago. One tool that has stuck around and remained sticky for visitors is “Groups”. LinkedIn groups are communities of practice or networking groups. The diversity of these groups was huge. Several Million groups existed at one point. I am not going to get into the philosophical difference between online groups and communities in this piece!
In with both feet
A few years ago, LinkedIn decided that groups were not core to the LinkedIn experience. Partly due to many abandoned or mismanaged groups. LinkedIn separated groups and rewrote the code. From there things went downhill. Engagement declined. Many groups became spam ponds. Dozens of leading LinkedIn group leaders, representing millions of active users protested to LinkedIn. LinkedIn said they were listening. It was clear they were not.
Something has changed
It seems that someone inside LinkedIn (LI) has finally woke up to the fact that engagement on the platform must have dropped off (we don’t know for sure as LI turned of analytics several years ago). Not it seems that LI are seeking to reintegrate groups with the core LI product.
Good news or is it?
A new version of the LinkedIn groups experience is on the horizon
I am a member of a small group of “Group Owners” that appears to be engaging with LinkedIn product manager. This on the surface is good news. We have been told that behind the scenes the crippled Group platform is being re-written from the group up. This to many Group Owners could be good news as it shows they were right about the groups experience all along. The quest is of course what functions and features LI will build in. Whilst I have my views, this post is not about features, but strategy. I think from what I have heard that this strategy could be a big mistake by Microsoft. Yes Microsoft, if you did not know, LinkedIn is now owned by Microsoft.
A lesson from History?
One of the big problems of Microsoft offers is that they have always been standalone. This is changing with the recently launched Microsoft Teams. This is fully integrated with Office platforms, and a great app. Coming this year is full integration with MS Teams and Skype for business. Integration is the way forward. To date none of these has really shaken the world. Microsoft have a history of having platforms with potential but failing to maximise them.
Why, Why Why?
With Microsoft currently writing Teams from the group up, this product is built in office 365, but can be accessed by users that are not MS365 users. When the function of both Teams and LI Groups is potentially identical, why are Microsoft building 2 products that compete and will dilute usage of both.
For me if I were looking at this, I would have one platform for Teams and LI Groups. This will be powerful for Microsoft and its CRM. For Group Owners it will mean they can do business. This integration could be a game changer for all.
On the business front
Why would the shareholders of a company want money invested in 2 products that in effect do the same thing? Why have 2 groups of users chasing different functions and support tickets?
Missing the changing audience
The world of business is changing. I am not convinced that LinkedIn management or Microsoft, or many others for that matter, seem to understand that the world of work has changed and is changing. The reality is more and more people are working in small business or going freelance. One integrated platform will help to futureproof the offer.
In simple terms a small company could build a “Team” or Group of its customers, and another of prospects. CRM could meet “Social Business”. In light of GDPR this seems a no-brainer.