It has been a few years since the world’s most prominent social network for business professionals was acquired by technology giant Microsoft. In the beginning, there were mixed feelings about this acquisition because Microsoft’s moves in the social media space had been largely tentative. Not many people remember So.Cl, a social network primarily geared towards younger students. The Yammer social network for business professionals and work teams never quite took off as desired, and other side projects such as Garage seemed experimental.
Critics of Microsoft were concerned that LinkedIn would suffer the fate of Nokia Lumia and the Windows Phone mobile operating system, which were abandoned by Microsoft despite having experienced relative success. Thankfully, LinkedIn has not encountered such tragedies; in fact, the network has expanded and improved considerably over the years, and it has also benefited from the parallel growth of Office 365.
The bottom line of LinkedIn in 2020 is that it remains the most important social media platform for business, even more so than Twitter. Microsoft is still interested in the social networking space; this can be safely gleaned from the company’s interest in acquiring a stake in TikTok, the video sharing network for teens that prompted concerns about mass surveillance by Chinese intelligence agencies, and which appears to be headed for American ownership and control through a forced sale to technology companies based in the United States.
Some elements of networks such as TikTok and Facebook have been teased within LinkedIn in recent months. A couple of years ago, Microsoft executives were paying close attention to Snapchat, a mobile social network that became wildly popular with teenagers before TikTok arrived. This interest in Snapchat appears to have inspired the new LinkedIn Stories feature, which essentially allows users to post short video logs that are ephemeral. Facebook and Instagram had already introduced such features, which in the latter network proved to be very well-received.
Here’s something else that LinkedIn directors and analysts have noticed: Users are spending more time on forums, chats, and discussions about topics that may not necessarily be related to looking for work or recruiting job candidates. The tone is still professional, but it has become more diversified. In essence, LinkedIn is forming online communities, and this should not be surprising because it happens in many other social networks.
At offices around the world, the water cooler effect is a tradition that some managers do not particularly care for, but it is something that they cannot consciously stop. This effect has been growing stronger within LinkedIn, and network executives see this as an excellent opportunity to work on what they are calling a rebirth. A massive water cooler effect happening across LinkedIn communities is exactly what directors have in mind, and LinkedIn Stories is a great step in this direction, particularly at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has kept many employees at home and working from personal computing devices. Some users may be rightfully concerned about seeing a shift towards baby photos and videos of their cats chasing each other at home, but this is not going to happen very often.
There have been times when minor LinkedIn scandals have sparked discussion about the type of content and discussions posted on the network. It is safe to say that more than 95% of LinkedIn content is related to business and career development. The remaining 5% is a hodgepodge of trash-talking about professional sports, dating, politics, religion, and celebrity gossip. In other words, LinkedIn is a digital version of the office water cooler, and this suits the network just fine.
We can expect to see some cosmetic changes to the LinkedIn user interface in the near future; the idea is to make it friendlier and more focused on allowing users to connect with each other. The business core of the network is not going to change. You can see this LinkedIn page as an example of how things are going to remain the same, and this means that business owners should continue to put some effort into making their companies stand out in the network.
Users of Microsoft Teams, a messaging and collaboration platform similar to Slack, will find that LinkedIn now has a tab that will initiate meetings and collaborative sessions. The premium version of LinkedIn, which costs about $30 per month, will likely be improved to entice more members to subscribe; one of the improvements being considered include classes and tutorials for business professionals, but there may also be some content that non-subscribers will not be able to access.