In the summer of 2002 Allen Blue joined a group of colleagues in legendary Reid Hoffman's apartment to hear his latest business ideas. "The one we like the best", says Blue, "was what became LinkedIn."
10 years later, LinkedIn is over 150 million users strong and growing by two new members a second! In 2011 its members have used the platform to conduct an astounding 4.2 billion searches to find work, do business and connect with others.
Co founder Allen Blue, LinkedIn's Vice President of production marketing, shares his view of LinkedIn's global impact, the company's positively bright future, historic beginning and the importance of serendipity.
Q: What influences have led to the making of Linkedin.
A: LinkedIn was based on direct observation of a successful, mutually beneficial, "pay-it-forward" style of working that is typical in Silicon Valley. Back in 2002, we put together a collection of lessons learned from the first years on the web, one of these was virality which allows interactive products to spread from person to person, rather than through advertising or sales so it's a virtually cost-free way to acquire customers. We knew that as people spread the product, they would become part of the network and it would become the tool that professionals would use to work, get referrals, meet new people, hire, and everything else.
From socialNet, Reid's previous company, we learnt powerful matching algorithm with our primary lessons being about how users represented themselves online. Importantly, By 2002 the idea of a profile, your permanent self representation on the internet was something that the internet was ready to provide to everyone.
Q: What do you perceive as LinkedIn's strengths ?
A: LinkedIn is transforming recruiting, sourcing and job seeking. The LinkedIn Profile has allowed professionals to establish their identities and their reputations not simply as resumes, but as a rich, permanent, searchable resource that attracts opportunities and attention 24/7/365. In this world, professional identity flows both ways, from company to individual and from individual to company.
LinkedIn Groups and LinkedIn Today allow professionals to get unique insights about their professional world, filtering the world of content through the wisdom of the network that surrounds them.
Q: What would be your advice for an individual or business wishing to increase business activity and improve clout
A: For individuals I would say upload your Outlook contacts or your Gmail address book and invite your trusted connections. You will get much more value out of LinkedIn when you are connected. Update your profile. Once it's done, your profile will get onto Google/Bing/Yahoo and will start working for you. Follow your industry on LinkedIn Today and join a couple groups, to listen in on the conversation and get the mobile app.
Companies should set up their company page and put the "Follow us on LinkedIn" button on the website. Send out company status updates periodically and make sure the info is up to date.
Q: As our Google activity is tracked, the search results tend to be narrower and in line with user's past activity. Are we at risk of losing the unexpected contacts? Ones that are not directly related to our business but can still give birth to new ideas and collaboration?
A: Serendipity is something we think a lot about. Every time we think about building relevance mechanisms, we think about ways to make sure that the unexpected and thought-provoking are not forgotten. As I said above, we want to help professionals be better decision-makers AND more innovative; and serendipity drives innovation.
Q: What does the future hold for Linkedin?
A: Webmail use is going down as social networks become the de facto form of communication. Entire classes of businesses are being forced to change; just look at marketing and advertising.
People are now close to each other in new ways. People you once saw once a month now see every day and the reverse is true too.
For professionals, the changes will be huge. Professionals will have many more options to direct their careers, because they can now use their reputations and relationships much more easily to find their way to jobs they love or be great in.
Colleagues will find it easier to work together, and to remain part of a single workplace culture, at a distance. Companies, now with better ways to understand their workforce, will be able to plan and execute more efficiently.
Individual professionals will be better informed, and will typically be able to make better, faster decisions everyday...information will be more broadly distributed, with more professionals taking advantage of it regularly. Professionals will regularly be inspired but maybe most to the point, they will be happier, doing things they want to do. I believe the new professional will be more innovative than generations before.
We like to say that LinkedIn's role is to help each professional find a job he/she loves, and be
great at it. Now imagine a world where people are doing what they love, not just what they have to. Where professionals understand that the work they do is one of the most significant ways in which they can contribute to their communities and the world. I think that world has a chance to be a better one.