How Facebook Could Destroy LinkedIn In a Year by @jimstroud

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Feb 26, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

[This article is a transcript from my latest podcast.]

Let me begin by saying that I am a big fan of LinkedIn. I’ve watched its evolution with keen interest, submitted several suggestions via blog posts, directly to employees and (in a previous life) I interviewed there. So, if anyone thinks this post has malicious intent, please think otherwise. 

I write this because of three reasons: 

a) Someone asked me (I think it was Irina Shamaeva – Hey Irina!) if there was an existing competitor that could topple LinkedIn’s dominance with recruiters and if not, was it likely that a new player would rise up and make things interesting (I paraphrase for dramatic effect) 

b) I have heard on several occasions from a variety of sources, a series of complaints surrounding LinkedIn’s pricing model (to which I say, hey, when you’re in high demand you can charge whatever you like) and the pernicious never ending spam that flows from its domain. 

c) I read an article on TechCrunch called, “LinkedIn Problems Run Deeper Than Valuation” which summed up a lot of what’s wrong with LinkedIn (and to be fair, a few things that are right.)

But I digress…

Facebook could easily (I think) take LinkedIn’s position in the hearts and minds of recruiters and candidates everywhere and in a relatively short period of time. I believe that they would want to for one simple reason – world dominance. As the #1 social network they have ownership (so to speak) of our personal lives. If they can duplicate their success with our professional lives – OMG! [insert dramatic music here] All that being said, should Facebook own our personal and professional online lives, a significant portion of their audience would leave due to privacy concerns. However, I don’t believe it would be so large an exodus that Facebook would lose its superiority over other social networks in general. 

Okay, I’ve babbled long enough. Here is my pitch… (right after a word from our sponsor) 

1) Facebook should tell their users that they are launching a professional network. They should advise their users that they will exporting key data from their “About” page and adding it to a separate entity. Said data being exported from Facebook would be: work and education; places you’ve lived; and details about you. Most importantly, they should give their users the options to opt out of this program with the caveat being that they can join later if they want to. Why move the data off Facebook? More often than not, the idea of recruiters sourcing from Facebook makes most people nervous of what might be found; something LinkedIn should be grateful for. Hmm… I feel a rant coming on. 

Facebook, when you create this competing professional network, add “powered by Facebook” somewhere in the fine print. However, the new site should not look or feel anything like Facebook. Why? You do not want your users on some subconscious level to feel skittish about using your site. Yet, you do want to be transparent about where you have received your data. 

2.) Make the user data private to recruiters searching your professional network. Should they want to contact someone on your professional network, they would have to make a formal request for their contact information. This action would endear the professional network to the candidates using the service.  And in this regard I have a few additional suggestions:

a) Give tips and examples on how users can protect their anonymity on their profiles. More often than not, people will simply cut and paste their resume into the system; thus making it easy for clever sourcers to quite possibly figure out who they are.

b) Give users the option to make their data public on your professional network as well. 

c) Give users the option to block people from certain companies from finding their information in a search. Towards that end, recruiters must login to the professional network with a corporate email address and not a personal one (i.e. gmail) and…

d) Give users the ability to turn “on” and “off” their profiles on the professional network, In this way, recruiters will not be able to find their profile in the first place. 

3.) Now here is where Facebook’s professional network would capture the hearts of recruiters; make your professional network free to search and free to contact public candidates (although the candidate can refuse contact at his or her discretion). Recruiters can send one message to a candidate via chat (i.e job description and/or a limited amount of text. Say… 200 characters). Should the candidate want to hear more, they can release their contact info to the recruiter who would pay to access it.  In this way, recruiters only pay to connect with passive candidates who have a genuine interest in moving forward. Alternately, the candidate can block people from ever approaching them again on the professional network. 

4.) Give the users the ability to post their dream job and salary expectations. Allow them to tag their profiles with keywords in order to make themselves more findable. (Is “findable” a word? I’ll have to use that next time I play ‘Words with Friends.’) 

So, as I write this,  I can easily imagine a certain entrepreneur saying to themselves, “Self, forget about Facebook! Jim Stroud just gave me the secret formula I need to compete with LinkedIn.” 

To which I reply, possibly… maybe… but, probably not. 

According to Facebook, more than one billion people are active on Facebook. The sheer size and reach of its users means a careful implementation of this strategy could reap long-term benefits for Facebook. Let us consider a few…

# Millennials job hop a lot. The ability to search for work anonymously and retain complete control of their information would be most appealing. For that matter, executives open to new adventures would find this intriguing as well. 

# Top talent that is constantly hounded by recruiters would appreciate having a button that can make them virtually invisible to recruiters as well; provided that they take measures to cloak themselves elsewhere.

# This could be a great PR move for Facebook, especially with recession rumors looming. And finally… 

#  Companies covet passive talent. This approach to a professional network makes them easier to find and contact. So to speak… (Might be stretching that last point a bit.) 

So, what do you think of my strategy? Is it the total game changer I think it could be?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts?

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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