LinkedIn & Twitter Get Some Much Needed Distance; My Analysis:

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Last week, LinkedIn announced that it would no longer be able to have tweets appear as LinkedIn status updates. Twitter explained it a bit differently.

What follows is my analysis of this move and what it might indicate for both the platforms themselves and for the users.

I’m all in for collaboration and open sharing. Anyone who has heard me speak knows this and that I try really hard to make meaningful connections in all of the various platforms I use. That being said, I am also a fan of certain kinds of automation. “Whenever possible make the machines do the work” you might have heard me say. This is not to be inordinately cruel to machines (note to future AI overlords) but in order to free people up to do what machines can’t do yet. Humans can participate in shared construction of meaning through emotional connection and story; machines share, people relate.

For this reason I was an advocate for connecting your Twitter feed to your LinkedIn profile – judiciously, mind you. I had made it a part of my practice to allow only tweets tagged with the #in hashtag to be pushed as LinkedIn status updates. (See Reid Hoffman and Biz Stone talk about this via YouTube.) I was not a fan of indiscriminately sending all tweets, and recommend still that folks who use automated posting services like the now ubiquitous Hootsuite need to budget time every week to visit the platforms in a native environment even if just via mobile in order to be more like a human (to relate) and less like a machine (just to share.)

So I was actually glad to see Twitter taking steps that make the autopost to LinkedIn more difficult. I think that, in a bigger picture POV, it allows for some much needed distance between the platforms.

In the beginning, darkness was on the surface of the deep and making your social data portable to many platforms was the first light that shone. But soon the platform wars began and eyeballs on advertising outweighed the value of cross platform cooperation as the social media landscape hurtled toward mutual destruction.

Ok so that description overflows with hyperbole and is a bit melodramatic, but…

Twitter and LinkedIn as brands may not seem so different and their natural synergy often serves to mask what makes them distinctive. There are some who read this move by Twitter as indicative of a drawing of battle lines and to a certain extent they are correct. In fact, it would not surprise me to see similar moves from Facebook in the way posts appear on their platform. Certainly some partner relationships will remain strong – Spotify for example – and more Borg-like acquisitions are coming (though perhaps not at the dollar value of Instagram.)

Twitter as well will need to develop similar partnerships for content that keep eyes on their properties. Making tweets no longer count as status updates in LinkedIn is part of that process. After all, why should Twitter add value to LinkedIn shareholder stock and not retain that traffic on pages that generate money for Twitter? Twitter should want you to engage with tweets on Twitter, not on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Personally, it made more sense to me to send my tweets directly to LinkedIn as updates than it does for me to use my tweets as Facebook status updates. Part of this comes from the way I use Twitter as an advanced business networking tool with a less formal edge and Facebook as a way to stay in touch with Family. I’m sure not everyone does the same but they could. Another reason Twitter and LinkedIn (and Google+ for that matter) retained synergy was their use of classifying technologies for metadata (like #hashtags) which is probably another discussion for another day. But users on Facebook and LinkedIn probably do not have the tolerance for the hashtag language, I know I’ve heard some complaints.

Either way, it was becoming difficult to distinguish what were conversations on LinkedIn and what were interactions on Twitter. Suddenly, a user of both platforms had to think strategically about whether to tweet a reply or interaction or just have it on LinkedIn. In a business use case sense, this could mean the difference between a B2B relationship advancing faster or slower depending on how frequently your user was actually on LinkedIn to see that a comment was left on a tweet posted there.

That is why I see all this, in part, as a healthy gaining of distance between the two platforms. I predict that synergy between the two platforms, from a users point of view, will remain despite a predicted drop in traffic for LinkedIn. Certainly one can still sort of use LinkedIn as a Twitter posting client. Why, however, one would not use superior services like http://bufferapp.com or Hootsuite is yet to be determined, and if you are looking for a solution to streamline the auto-posting of posts into LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, I highly recommend Buffer.

Final analysis? Look to see LinkedIn make some moves into the real-time space more significantly via their mobile apps in the not too distant future, I predict. Twitter will continue to grow in the width and breadth of content offered (growing beyond the 140 character limit while preserving the “headline” restriction as a design simplicity and nostalgia.)

One last thing: this may be a bit of a “teachable moment” for some about what makes certain social networks different from others; so permit me to put on my mortarboard for a moment and wax academic…

One of the key differences between LinkedIn and Twitter is in the nature of the network. LinkedIn, like Facebook and many other social networks, belongs to a category of social networks I call “additive networks.” This is opposed to a platform like Twitter which I classify as a “reductive network.”

What does that look like? Well imagine your first day as a LinkedIn user. You have no connections, so your life on the network is very dull and there is not much to see. You have to add others to your network. The same is true for Facebook – you are adding people to your network by accepting or sending “friend” requests.

With Twitter, because the vast majority of posts and interactions are all totally public, the moment you join Twitter, you have every other Twitter user in your network and you can send them a message as long as you can find their username by searching. If Twitter chose, they could show all new users “the fire hose” or each and every living tweet that happens in real time. That would be overwhelming for most folks. As a result, instead, they immediately begin having you reduce the number of tweets you see by restricting your view to certain folks you “follow,” hence it is a reductive network.

For more information about the differences between the various types of social networks (and further what distinguishes a social network from a social MEDIA) leave me a note on Twitter or LinkedIn and I can schedule a time for us to meet and talk more.

UPDATE: as of this writing, hashtags are still clickable links in LinkedIn updates but lead users to a page in LinkedIn Signal instead of directing traffic to Twitter servers.

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