I always thought that social networking and professional networking are different. Although there are blurring boundaries between the two, and networks such as Facebook and Twitter being used for both, I believe that a network has an identity.
You do professional networking with that manager you heard speaking at a conference or that guy you met on a flight who recently launched a web start up. You do social networking with your cousin who went hiking last weekend and got cold after that, or that guy you met at the jamming session last month.
Ever thought about following companies? Why would you do that? LinkedIn launched a company follow feature that lets you peep into your companies you are interested in. Let’s take a look at what this will do. BTW, you can read about this on the LinkedIn blog also and Hubspot’s commentary on it.
Why would one follow a company on “largely professional networking” platform such as LinkedIn?
1) To seek information about new products/service launch (competitive intelligence)
2) To know who joined where at what designation (colleagues, friends, HR)
3) To know about new job openings (recruiters and job seekers, LinkedIn is already good at this)
4) To explore business opportunities (sales and marketing)
5) To also follow companies on LinkedIn (they may be already following companies using blogs, RSS, tweets etc.)
6) To catch the incubating “next big ideas” early
What should companies do with this feature?
1) Creating buzz around products? (Facebook, Twitter and many more)
2) Informing customers about new promotional schemes? (email marketing, Facebook, Twitter)
3) Directing tribes to remarkable content? (tiny URLs on Twitter, YouTube video channels, blogs)
4) Making competitors paranoid?
I think this feature is essential from a B2B marketing perspective and no so much from a B2C angle. It will be interesting to see how people and companies use this.
As with others, this feature will evolve with time. The question I would like to ask: Should LinkedIn restricts this feature to professional networking or lets it spill over into social networking? Should it launch the “Follow people” feature also? After all, on the web, the default is social.