This Ain’t Your Daddy’s LinkedIn

Not that long ago, I used to say, “Unless you’re a sales person or a recruiter, LinkedIn sucks.” I doubt the powers-that-be were listening, but since going IPO, it sure seems like they were.

The first significant move away from being “your father’s LinkedIn” came in 2011 with the launch of LinkedIn Today, This offering “delivers the day’s top news, tailored to you based on what your connections and industry peers are reading and sharing.”

Fair enough. Aggregate some content based on shared articles within my network. It’ll be nice to finally weed through the grumpy cat memes and  LeBron shares on Facebook and get right to some meat-and-potato business content.

Then LinkedIn dropped Sir Richard Branson into your feed October of last year with the ability to follow thought leaders on the site.

News aggregation and original content? Check.

Early 2013, LinkedIn upgraded its company pages, complete with pretty photos, followers and tabs. (Yeah, I know this all sounds a lot like Facebook’s evolution, but stay with me.) HP hit 1 million followers in Feb. There’s even an infographic to celebrate.

Then, last week, LinkedIn acquired the popular news aggregation app Pulse.

Yep, with all this content, you gotta make sure it’s built for an ever-mobilized consumer. So, not to be outdone by Facebook’s Home announcement, LinkedIn announced this week its new mobile app.

According to the company release, it’s “completely revamped with the general professional and everyday use case in mind. … We’ve designed the new LinkedIn mobile phone app for every professional, with a richer and more engaging stream and more personalization features.”

Of course, there’s a video:

Therein lies the crux of LinkedIn’s future: It’s moving beyond the recruiting junkies and sales hounds. Though, oddly enough, it’s a great thing for this original core consumer.

Here’s why.

A few month’s ago, I attended a recruiting roundtable where a group of headhunters were complaining about the lack of software developers on LinkedIn. “I’d guess only 40 percent of the engineers in my area even have profiles on LinkedIn,” one said.

This reality has given rise to trolling sites like Github for talent. Dare I say Facebook, with its Graph Search, may even be a better place to source certain candidates, especially with its $1-per-message pricetag compared to LinkedIn’s $10-per-message fee structure?

At a recent Facebook event where CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the aspiration for Facebook to be the world’s best “personalized newspaper,” he said:

What we’re trying to do is give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper we can. We believe that the best personalized newspaper should have a broad diversity of content. It should have high-quality public content from world-renowned sources, and it should also have socially and locally relevant updates from family, friends, and the people around you. It should also enable you to drill into any topic that you want to discuss.

The future of the Web is a battle for time, as in who controls yours. Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and myriad others are vying for your most precious resource. Few things demand attention like good content, so it’s no surprise they’re all getting into that game.

Can a LinkedIn-meets-CNBC video channel be far behind?

If LinkedIn can carve out its niche for providing no-filler content for everyday professionals, I think they’ll be fine. Keep improving the employment offerings and keep empowering companies, and differentiation will stay intact. It’ll still be a get-a-job and network destination.

If they stray too much into Facebook and Twitter territory, I think an opportunity opens up for someone like Indeed, who I’m sure would love to fill the void as “professional hangout.”

While LinkedIn is noticeably doing its best to become Facebook, Indeed is quietly doing its best to become LinkedIn. Weird. But, that’s a separate post.