Social networks like Facebook and Google+ may have much larger membership bases than LinkedIn, but LinkedIn's steady run has proven why it beats them both in the business world. It's become a real battle among the three companies, and LinkedIn's success keeps the other two innovating and hustling.
The Importance of Niches
LinkedIn has successfully elevated its niche user base to the point where it has gained wide acceptance and relevance in the technology world. Not that 200 million members is a tiny number, but the fact LinkedIn is in fact a real money maker and Facebook isn't goes to show how much those numbers really mean.
Since LinkedIn established itself as a publicly traded company, it has grown and prospered beyond expectations, something Facebook cannot equally say. Facebook has been doing better recently, and we expect it to continue to stay on top, but the fact LinkedIn has done so well in the last two years should make Facebook even hungrier to do better.
Obviously, Facebook and Google+ are in more direct competition with each other, but LinkedIn has proven stable and popular without so many of the privacy issues and public disputes. In a way, LinkedIn is doing the type of business Facebook and Google+ could use as a blueprint, and that means success for all three.
What LinkedIn Can Teach Larger Social Networks
Even though it is a public company, LinkedIn just doesn't raise the ire of people the way Facebook, Google+ and even Twitter do. There's plenty of reasons for it, but one of them is simply having a pretty straightforward premiss. Yes it has recently branched out into things like YouTube marketing and advertising, but overall, it is widely seen as the professional network of choice.
LinkedIn's Flipboard integration is one of many over the last two years as the company has gained relevancy and popularity.
Google+ and Facebook, on the other hand, have all kinds of use cases being tried out, and not all of them make sense for huge swaths of their members. Specifically, we're thinking of Facebook's Graph Search. It's obvious why it will help marketers, but for most members, it just doesn't seem like it will be all that relevant.
This prediction could easily blow up in our face because Graph Search is just now being trickled out, but it's just one of many changes that has historically led to millions of Facebook members groaning in discomfort.
LinkedIn has mostly avoided this fate despite a recent refresh of the entire website layout. Whether Facebook wants to admit it or not, LinkedIn's steady growth and ability to win over investors must be a subject of debate within its great blue walls. It may not be a sore spot internally, but it must be a motivator for some inside Facebook's boardroom.
As Facebook continues to target mobile ads as a big money maker, 2013 could end up being its year, and LinkedIn's success would become a footnote. However Facebook's year turns out, LinkedIn will not easily be pushed aside in the social media conversation anymore.