Ellen Levy, the Vice President Corporate Development & Strategy at LinkedIn, spoke up on the Engineering campus yesterday. The attendees were diverse, ranging from profs and community members to undergrads and a few folks from the School of Information.
Ellen was an energetic, intense, and very polished speaker. She had a very good stage presence. I forgot to bring paper to take notes, so I’ll have to try to reconstruct a bit…she talked a bit about the evolution of social networking, and the unique ability for social networking sites to immediately give you access to not only your connections, but your connections’ connections. It also allows people to make inferences about strangers – ‘if he’s connected to 20 smart people I know, then I can assume he’s also smart.’
The average age on LinkedIn was something like 42 – I thought it was interesting that so many ‘mature’ folks are using a social networking site. It says something about the site’s usability and value that so many older folks are climbing aboard the LinkedIn Express.
Not surprisingly, Ellen has over 1,000 connections on LinkedIn. It makes me wonder if I even know 1,000 professional people.
Ellen made the interesting point that social networking is still in its infancy, and the term ‘social networking’ will eventually be too broad to describe the social networking websites of the future. Just like saying you work in ‘Internet’ is way too broad to actually describe what you do.
LinkedIn vs Facebook: Since the two have very different purposes, and people go to these sites for different reasons, she doesn’t see them as competitors. In our current professional climate, it is important to keep social activities away from professional sites like LinkedIn; you don’t want your boss to see pictures of you doing kegstands or dressing your dog up like a hooker. Apparently there is some debate about how this will play out in the future – will professional and social networking sites eventually merge into one big, all-encompassing site? There are arguments for and against, but Ellen’s view is that once people of our generation come into positions of power, the norms may allow for universal networking sites.
What’s next for LinkedIn? Apparently they already have an Amazon add-on that allows you to see what your connections are reading and get or make recommendations; perhaps in the future they’ll go as far as recommending ‘people you should hire.’ She shied away from talking too much about the last point, because of its implications for the headhunting business, but said things were moving in that direction.
So those are just a few nuggs on Ellen Levy and LinkedIn.