LinkedIn is a juggernaut. They built a really great product, and Microsoft just made it 20x better. Even with the poor UX design and the spammy inMails I sift through every other day, they have a chokehold on the professional services network market, not allowing its competitors much room to compete. I see something interesting happening with LinkedIn and the market in the next 5 years.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about LinkedIn and the intersection of the future of work, and if LinkedIn will adjust or not. What do they need to adjust to? The gig economy, and if they don’t, someone else will…And that’s an opening.
What is The Future Of Work?
Google “future of work”, and you’ll find studies from Deloitte, McKinsey, Forbes, and other top research/media organizations talking about qualities making up the future of work. They are usually split up into two camps: AI/job automation and freelance/gig economy. Most publications are expecting these two sides to be the primary forcing shifts in the future of work.
Is LinkedIn Paying Attention?
Since LinkedIn is a professional network, they are probably paying really close attention to the freelance shifts that are expected to happen. They are the professional network after all. But even still, I know more and more digital nomads ditching LinkedIn; They don’t need it.
They use other systems to find customers and they know they don’t need to have a good LinkedIn to impress a boss 3 years down the line. It’s losing popularity with freelancers and digital nomads, who are arguably the key players in the future of work.
As I said, I assume LinkedIn will pick up on the fact that freelance is on the rise and adapt their platform to it. But even if they do, there is a giant opening here. Work is changing and big companies don’t adapt to change easily. If a company started building a professional network for freelancers and digital nomads now, they could take the market early enough that LinkedIn MIGHT not be able to capture it back.
What Could Take Its Place?
As a millennial and someone who can potentially be perceived as a digital nomad, I see this very clearly. LinkedIn is cool to some of us, but not all. It’s good for sales, not good for many other things. One thing freelancers and especially digital nomads like to do is travel.
Nomadlist, an early digital nomad social network picked up on this. Is Nomadlist getting high engagement outside of their slack chat? I kinda doubt it, but they sure nailed many parts of what a platform for digital nomads looks like. Besides, I could be wrong and they are this new platform that replaces LinkedIn.
Also, many of us are watching what’s going on with Facebook and their daily struggles. I think the next big professional network could be predicated on meeting in real life, in addition to online. Big data companies are slowly becoming the bad guy, if the data is misused (or even if it isn’t). There’s only so much data that can be collected on meeting in-person for a freelancer meetup in Thailand…And people might dig that.
There Is An Opening Here…
The fact is, LinkedIn needs to act on impending changes coming to work. If they don’t, it’s a blue ocean. If they do, there are enough market shifts happening that a new player that highlights the key points I just outlined could take the market early, and be the professional network for freelancers in the next 5–8 years, positioning them very well to compete head-on with LinkedIn as the “new school” version of a professional network. Game on 👊