I joined LinkedIn back in 2003, just a couple of weeks after it launched (I was user #1,160 – my Virtual Handshake coauthor, David Teten, who invited me, was #366). I immediately saw the potential for LinkedIn’s unique take on online business networking (what we now call “social media”). I was fortunate to work closely with their founding VP of Marketing, Konstantin Guericke, and co-developed LinkedIn’s first training webinars with them.
There were a few of us in those early days who became strong champions of LinkedIn – Des Walsh, Bill Vick, Liz Ryan, Mike O’Neil, Vincent Wright, Jason Alba, Shally Steckerl, Thomas Power, et al. I had a vision of creating an ecosystem around LinkedIn of independent professionals – trainers, consultants, profile writers, photographers, etc. – and power users. LinkedIn seemed highly aligned with that idea – it’s generally considered an essential growth strategy for technology platforms. So in 2005 I launched Linked Intelligence with the blessing and encouragement of LinkedIn (LinkedIn didn’t even launch their own blog until a year later). Shortly thereafter, I was invited to bring Linked Intelligence into b3media, a new blog network, and it grew even more.
But Konstantin moved on to other projects, and LinkedIn took a different angle on things. Instead of supporting and featuring people who had used LinkedIn to build authority and become prominent online in their field, they chose instead to find business celebrities who were using LinkedIn and get testimonials from them. They decided to offer their own training and professional services, and began to look on the independent professionals not as essential advocates for their platform, but as competition. They prohibited people from using “LinkedIn” in their titles, business names, or group names. They had their attorneys send cease-and-desist letters to people who had “linkedin” anywhere in their domain name.
I became disenchanted with LinkedIn – not the application itself, but the company. I decided I didn’t want to put the effort into a relationship with a company that really didn’t want that relationship. So I let Linked Intelligence stagnate.
But it kept pulling at me. I still found LinkedIn by far the most useful social media tool for business. I still had great friends and colleagues who dedicated themselves to mastering LinkedIn and sharing what they learned with others. And still, no one else had done what I was trying to do. Sure, every author/trainer/consultant had their own website, but not an independent site where we could all collectively develop this ecosystem of LinkedIn professionals and power users. A rising tide raises all ships.
Even though I had the interest, I’ve also had a full-time job the past several years, so I didn’t have the time to devote to it. But Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn spurred me on, expecting that there would be some significant changes, and I had a renewed hope for the future of LinkedIn.
So I was thrilled when I started talking with Clint Evans about my vision and he bought into it, as well. Over the past few months, we’ve been rebuilding the site, freshening the content, and putting the infrastructure in place to execute on that vision. To relaunch the site, we’ve partnered with 20 top LinkedIn experts for the Linked Intelligence Online Summit, which is going on for free this coming week. And we’re rebranding the Linking Business Professionals group on LinkedIn as the Linked Intelligence Mastermind, inviting the attendees of the Summit to join us for Q&A around the sessions.
I hope you’ll take advantage of the free Summit and join us for some lively and informative conversation about LinkedIn this week, and going forward.