The rise of LinkedIn’s news feed (And how Twitter made a big dumb mistake)

Last week I was reading one of my industry news sources and an article caught my attention. I wanted to let my friends know about the piece so, as usual, I went to tweet about it. And that’s when I noticed this:

There were more people posting the article to LinkedIn than there were people tweeting about it.

And that’s when the sledgehammer hit me. Twitter has a huge new competitor with the potential to swamp them, particularly in one critical area. And, it is all of their own making.

Back in July Twitter announced that it was no longer going to allow users to post tweets automatically to LinkedIn. Twitter gave us the usual gumpf about wanting to “provide the core Twitter user experience through a consistent set of products and tools”. What Twitter really meant to say was, “We don’t want anyone reading tweets where we can’t put ads”.

(At this point I should ‘fess up. I was the developer of Tweetology, a curation tool built on the Twitter API. For two years Tweetology made it easy for brands and publishers to publish only the most relevant and brand-safe tweets. We ran foul of Twitter’s ever-changing rules and we shut down the service. Bitter? Yeah, I guess. Twitter has certainly done its best to screw the developer community. Nevertheless I can’t help myself. I’m the ugly guy dumped by the pretty girl. I still love you Twitter).

Back to the topic du jour…

By denying Linkedin users the ability to post tweets to LinkedIn, Twitter has forced users to make a choice. Do I post to LinkedIn (where I can also check a box to tweet)? Or do I do both? The choice is easy.

The forced change is more fundamental. Your audience on LinkedIn is made up of people you have met in your working life together with other industry people that might catch your post. Your audience on Twitter could be just about anyone and more than likely it is people you have not met.

It is therefore far more valuable for a user to post on LinkedIn as people that have a connection to them are much more likely to read their post.

Twitter also did LinkedIn another huge favor. By denying users the ability to post tweets it cleaned up the LinkedIn news feed. No more voluminous irrelevant tweets, hashtags and @symbols cluttering up LinkedIn news feeds. Feeds are now full of relevant engaging posts because LinkedIn user’s post stuff they think will be relevant to their audience – that is the personal connections they have as a result of belonging to an industry.

LinkedIn is going to overtake Twitter (and very quickly) in terms of importance and volume for users posting industry related news. Twitter may still dominate the ‘what I had for breakfast’, general and social news posts but the audience for industry news will move to LinkedIn. And guess which is more valuable to an advertiser?

On LinkedIn an advertiser can reach an audience who have real and extensive profiles and have like connections in the same industry. And they can even use a standard IAB display unit to get their message across. On Twitter it’s more spray and pray via ad units that do not easily lend themselves to brand messaging.

We will never know whether Twitter realized what they were unleashing by cutting LinkedIn off, or for that matter whether LinkedIn knew what a gift they were being handed.

It’s too late now. Twitter cannot put the genie back in the bottle. LinkedIn is going to steal away the most important segment of users: real identifiable people with loads of other like people connected to them. And advertisers love those people.

Cameron Yuill is a digital media and technology entrepreneur and investor based in Silicon Valley, CA. He is currently Founder & CEO of AdGent Digital, the company behind tablet advertising platform AdTouch and (before it was shut down) the curation system for Twitter, Tweetology.   

Top photo: Nan Palmero/Flickr


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