Any social network must deal with the tension between groups that use, maintain or run the service. Whether it’s Snapchat cutting off developer access to its API, or YouTube struggling with users over creator contracts, there always seems to be some discord. Now it seems the discord in LinkedIn’s business model is starting to impact the site as a whole.
LinkedIn began cutting off access to its API, preferring instead to set itself up as the sole provider of enterprise solutions on the network. While generally keeping all of the products in-house could be a good idea to improve control and focus, it seems that Linkedin hasn’t done enough to court enterprise customers.
According to TrapIt founder and CEO Hank Nothhaft Jr, instead of becoming more focused:
LinkedIn has become a jack of all trades and a master of none. It’s a mass-scale social network, an advertising platform, a recruiting technology solution provider, a sales-prospecting tool, an online training platform, and more.
The problem with this approach is that some of the most die-hard users of services are not only there for the core product, but for the peripheral services. Some enterprise users have seen large disruptions from LinkedIn’s decisions, and they’re not about to use LinkedIn’s inferior tools just because their contacts are on the site.
LinkedIn has been trying to also make the social aspect of the site more relevant. Their referrals program is an example of a change that has benefits for both users and to recruiters, but other initiatives like the CEO influencer program have been less effective. While not every product is a winner, LinkedIn needs to start having more hits and fewer misses.
The only way for a social network to achieve long term success is to meet the use cases for all that approach the service. Nothhaft suggests reopening the API, as enterprise providers are willing to pay for access because of the wealth of data LinkedIn has gathered. All LinkedIn needs to do from there is reap the rewards as the service becomes more useful to individual users and enterprise customers as well.
None of this is rocket science. It’s just good old capitalism at work. If vendors, customers, and partners are all aligned, they all reap the rewards of a healthy ecosystem.