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LinkedIn's Influencers Now Includes Bill Gates

Like several others (ie Medium, YouTube Channels), LinkedIn has made a strong bet on quality, unique content with their Influencer product. Today, this email arrived which is about as influential as it gets: Bill Gates sharing insights from his influencer, Warren Buffett. It's Bill Gates' first post and he already has 25,000 followers.

And that raises the interesting balance between private and public content and personas. There is now a public persona for Gates (you can follow him) and a private relationship with Gates (the traditional LinkedIn model). We have seen this balance on Facebook: friends vs. followers and now private content with public hashtags:

bill gates linkedin

LinkedIn Celebrates 100m Users with Great, Personalized Email Campaign

I have been spending a lot of time thinking and writing about email marketing. While social media (branding, communication and advertising) gets much of the attention - email is often overlooked and under-discussed... despite being the building block for great companies: - core to experience: Groupon, LivingSocial, ShoeDazzle, Gilt, Rue La La, etc

- conversions & engagement: Facebook, Redbox, etc

- merchandising: Amazon,, and other e-commerce providers

- communications: Zappos, Apple, etc.

Like other communication platforms, brands should treat email as a privilege. It is the rare communication that gets delivered, converts, and is trackable... and it is easy to unsubscribe from. As such, the frequency and the content need to be carefully thought out (and each of the above buckets are related - they might come from different parts of the organization - but they all arrive in the same inbox and represent the same brand!).

Here is a great email from LinkedIn (who sent a terrific engagement email to wrap up 2010):

- it is a statement of their success: 100 million users strong!

- it is targeted and rewarding: 'thanks for being one of the early users'

- it is personalized: I was member 314,285. I don't particularly care about the number - but it is a fun, nice touch that makes LinkedIn feel more personal to me.

- It is personal: 'signed' and sent from Reid (with his picture)

- While it is not actionable, but it is on brand and bolsters their relationship with me

Here is LinkedIn's 2010 Wrap Up email (see my thoughts here):

Update: TechCrunch just did a similar review. Looks like I missed out on the Innovator email - which was reserved for the first 100,000 users.

Polaris Insights Google Chrome Extension - Download Now!

What sites and apps do I use on a daily basis? Quora, LinkedIn, Crunchbase and a slew of Google Chrome extensions (which I've written about before). So why not put all of them together and create a Chrome Extension that reveals: - Funding and company history (from Crunchbase) - Employees and your connections (from LinkedIn) - Topics, questions and answers (from Quora)

... And that's what I did. Along with Matt Basta and Rob Abbott, we built the Polaris Insights Chrome Extension.

- Read more on TechCrunch: Quora + CrunchBase + LinkedIn = Best Extension Ever?

- Read more on ReadWriteWeb: Check Out My New Favorite Browser Plug-In, Built by a Venture Capital Firm

- Download Polaris Insights

LinkedIn's '2010 Wrap Up', Engagement Email

Your typical email from LinkedIn is text-based and includes some sort of notification about your network, messages, etc. They are straightforward, actionable and likely focus on conversions. A very different email arrived from LinkedIn this week though: The 2010-year-in-review email. I'd love to see the metrics as compared to their normal emails - I assume behavior is quite different... but so is LinkedIn's goal with a 'newsletter' like this. And that's why I like it: very different, very creative and yet still on-brand: - first, it's very different from what I'd expect. There is only one line of text and it is interesting (345 of my contacts started something new in 2010).

- It's highly visual and great looking. Tons of visuals and tons of familiar faces that catch my attention.

- It's clever. The targeted blue boxes draw attention to specific people and do so in a very unique, catchy way (See Paxton's new job!).

- And it's actionable... but in a very different way than the standard LinkedIn email. Simple but strong language.

Microsoft's "Office Social Connector" (aka Facebook Connect for Outlook) is Great

But tying together the web's most visited site (Facebook) with arguably the most important communication platform (email) is both natural and a long time coming. And with this week's announcement of Microsoft's 'Outlook Social Connector' , your social graph can now be connected to Outlook's email, contact and calendaring systems. The plugin is essentially Facebook Connect within Microsoft Outlook and it is a natural, powerful and simple integration. The Social Connector pulls in Facebook profile information from those email correspondents: Facebook icon, profile link, metadata and the ability to add them either as a Facebook friend and/or Outlook contact. More importantly, you can synchronize contacts with Outlook and enrich your already existing contacts.

In addition to providing data / actions around each contact, the Connector aggregates communication history for correspondent's. Its navigation pane allows you to toggle between: - aggregated / commingled communication history - meeting history - attachments - Facebook activity feeds

Lastly, Microsoft has opened the platform with "a public SDK allows anyone to build a connection to business or consumer social networks"... which means that this can become more than just Facebook (ie LinkedIn, Yelp, Crunchbase, etc). And although developers are currently enamored with Apple and Google, email - and specifically Outlook - represent significant usage, relatively light application competition, and therefore a beacon of opportunity. And despite being (supposedly) difficult to develop against, this should attract significant developer attention.

Key to Trust is Real Identity

The article "Can You Trust a Facebook Profile?" describes the "surprising truth" that "Overall people were remarkably honest in representing themselves":

People were honest—we don't read those words often enough.

In line with other findings, this study found that, when looking at a stranger's profile for the first time, some aspects of personality are more difficult to discern. Neuroticism in others is particularly difficult to gauge, whereas people find extraversion and openness to experience relatively easily to assess, even in strangers.

This study is another blow for that old stereotype that the web is some kind of scary hinterland, an untrustworthy place where anything goes and nothing is what it appears, peopled by adolescent boys pretending to be anything but adolescent boys.

More than the actual findings, I am intrigued by the surprise that the author had (PsyBlog) and that we clearly have in reading it (it is atop Techmeme and a Tweetmeme).

I have long thought that key to online honesty and general good behavior is tying activity to real identities. There is a major difference between what you are willing to do behind a handle (like a message board or chat name) and what you are willing to do on a site that is connected to your identity (ie Facebook, PayPal, etc). It is even more pronounced when the identity is fully public. For instance, I believe you are now less likely to misbehave of Facebook now that content is increasingly public, URLs are indexable and you have a personalized domain (ie

For years I have gotten the question about beRecruited (a college recruiting network that I founded in 2000 - now with 750,000+ athletes): "how do you police athlete's 'resumes' and results?"

My answer is simple: because athletes register with their actual name and personal information (school, coach, guidance counselor, etc), it self-regulates. Sure an athlete can falsify results - just as anyone can on their resume - but such actions have life-long implications and are easily disproved. For example, this is what keeps LinkedIn clean and makes it so effective.

"Still Think Social Media is a Fad?"

Erik Qualman of Socialnomics has put together a great video called "Social Media Revolution". Worth watching and then checking his datapoints and footnotes (a couple of which I included below): A couple interesting footnotes from Socialnomics:

#1. By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers….96% of them have joined a social network #10. % of companies using LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees….80% #13. 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices…people update anywhere, anytime…imagine what that means for bad customer experiences? #31. 25% of Americans in the past month said they watched a short video…on their phone #32. According to Jeff Bezos 35% of book sales on Amazon are for the Kindle when available

Facebook Vanity URLs = Big SEO Boost for Facebook

Facebook's vanity URL push (covered by TechCrunch) is a big deal for two reasons:- the direct business model opportunity - traffic via natural search

Let's leave the business model alone for the now as it is unclear whether Facebook plans to tie a business model to vanity URLs (whether or not they choose to do so - users would certainly be willing to pay subscriptions for the ability to brand themselves on the web's most popular social hub). Let's also assume that, regardless of whether Facebook implements a direct revenue model, there will be indirect benefits particularly from brands and advertisers who will continue to build their on-Facebook activity (branding, advertising, content, etc).

The most direct benefit of vanity URLs, however, is traffic via natural search. Facebook is the web's largest network and its most active social / content hub. In a people search, Facebook should by all accounts appear as either the first or second result (for most individuals). Yet they typically don't... Google "Ryan Spoon" and you get:

#1. (should be #1) #2. LinkedIn (good content, but static) #3. Twitter (my account ID is berecruited ... so the optimization isn't even there) #4. CrunchBase (wow... that is high) #5. (another personal site of mine) #6. Mobile Twitter (fascinating this is so high) #7. Facebook (other than - this is where I contribute most of my content) #8. Techmeme (an article of mine)


An optimized vanity URL should almost immediately move Facebook into the #2 result. As hot as Twitter is, Facebook is more than 10x in size and activity. Currently, Twitter sees about 10% of its visits arrive from Google. With some liberal math:

- 20m monthly visitors (Compete) - ~200m monthly visits (Quantcast) - 10% visits from Google (Compete) - 20m monthly visits from Google

Assume that 50% of those visits are derivatives of Twitter's brand name (generous) and you have 10m monthly visits from Google.

According to Quantcast, Facebook sees about four billion monthly visits - which is about 20x Twitter. This gives you a sense of what improvement in Google's rankings could mean for Facebook - which currently, according to Compete, sees 7.9% of its visits from Google. If Facebook reaches reaches the 10% mark, the above match would mean that Facebook would realize an incremental 84m visits from Google. Of course, it could be argued that Facebook could / should move beyond the 10% mark (particularly if they surpass Twitter and LinkedIn and others in SEO).... and those numbers get very big very quickly (15% would be ~275m incremental visits).

Whether the business model around vanity URLs is direct or indirect - the Facebook model is predicated on users and activity... both of which benefit significantly.

New Linked In iPhone App could be the Killer App... But Not Yet

I've written before that there are many great iPhone Apps... but nothing that is truly game-changing (yet).

I've also written about how the iPhone's contact management system needs serious improvement.

So when yesterday's LinkedIn App hit the iPhone - I got excited because it was a chance to merge your business contacts with your phone... and it's close, but not perfect. The app gives you full access to your LinkedIn directory and even gives you the ability to call contacts directly from the application. Search is easy and smooth - whether it's within your contacts or across the larger network. And you can build and manage your network from within the application.

But where the application fails to impress me: you cannot save contacts to your phone.

The ability to download vcards from is the feature that I find most useful and the reason I most log in to LinkedIn. I am not sure whether it's because the iPhone doesn't enable it or LinkedIn has made a conscious decision (realizing it would reduce the application's stickiness)... but merging contacts between the iPhone and LinkedIn immediately improves the phone's contact system and motivates me to actively grow and manage my LinkedIn network.

Until then... it's useful for a now-and-again search query.