Facebook knows who you are. LinkedIn knows where you work. It's increasingly difficult though to tell the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook with both sites offering many of the same functions. This is a problem for LinkedIn in particular as it alienates its core user group of professionals and undermines the site's value.When it entered the social space nearly 15 years ago, LinkedIn identified itself as a business-oriented social networking service. But over the years, the company has tried to keep up with B2C social networks by adding likes, commenting, news publishing, and other features. Although it's understandable that LinkedIn wants to expand its offerings and attract a wider audience, many of these new functionalities "have turned off once loyal LinkedIn B2B fans and members," maintains Jasmine Sandler, a digital marketing strategist.
"The move to be more like Facebook, as an example, has moved LinkedIn from a place where B2B professionals and executives can connect with like-minded professionals to do business," Sandler notes, "to a place where there is too much chatter and less privacy, less the feeling of it being a real private B2B network."
Imitation also goes both ways. Earlier this week, The Verge reported Facebook is testing a new feature that's very similar to LinkedIn's profile tags. Facebook users could potentially tag words or phrases that describe them on their profile. It's unclear whether this feature will be rolled out to users but it would mean LinkedIn has one less distinctive feature.
And compared to Facebook, LinkedIn can't afford to lose any ground to other social networks. LinkedIn reported mixed results in Q1 and its shares took a large hit when the company gave a weak outlook for the second quarter. Additionally, even though LinkedIn's revenue has grown nearly every quarter, it's at a slowing pace.
So what should LinkedIn do next? The company needs to get back to basics, according to Sandler. "What LinkedIn needs to do at this point to maintain a solid identity is pay attention to its strongest customers," she says. "LinkedIn needs to understand that it is THE place where business professionals go to prospect, find jobs, build their careers, hire people. LinkedIn needs to stick to its original brand promise."