THE BLOG
01/06/2015 11:33 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The LinkedIn of Things

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Without question, LinkedIn has forever altered the business landscape -- both digitally and in the physical world. Nowadays, so much of what we call business or career development is carried out regularly on this site. The LinkedIn of Things (LoT)* has given rise to a new process of professional engagement while redefining the nature of marketing outreach.

Although much has changed regarding the site, successful use of LinkedIn still hinges on representing well, connecting with the right people, and effectively pulling online conversations offline. Those who have embraced social networking in their businesses are aware of the good that LinkedIn can do when worked consistently. More and more users are activating every day.

Until I discovered LinkedIn, I would never have considered myself a visionary. (I have proven time and time again that I can't predict NFL games or handicap the ponies.) The assumptions that I made when I created my LinkedIn account at the tail end of 2006 have held true throughout the years, substantiated by experiential evidence. What I thought was going to happen actually happened. Some things took longer than others to materialize.

So how do we assess the potential of the LinkedIn of Things, this landmark technology, this changer of games?

I define a "thing" in the LinkedIn of Things as a route or mode through which information is conveyed within the network and harvested by users. A "thing" promotes communication (both internal and external to the system), facilitates decision making, and produces value. What are the things that identify us, connect us with others, and help us expand our reach?

How You Are Uniquely Identified On LinkedIn

Your LinkedIn profile is your unique identifier (UID) on the site. On this page, data on you is gathered by visitors. The goal is to create favorable impressions on impact. Through your manipulation (editing and updating) of the written and visual content your brand image emerges. By virtue of your LinkedIn profile, you become associated with a product, service, enterprise, or platform.

Unique and repeat visits to your LinkedIn profile can be tracked. The more exposure you gain through the LinkedIn system, the greater the ease with which you can be recalled. Increasing your activity on the site can direct more traffic to your page, enhance your connectivity, and better position you for business opportunities.

How You Assemble and Manage Your LinkedIn Network

The architecture of LinkedIn, although a "thing," is an entity comprised of people. It is a living and breathing system that defines the terms by which we connect and communicate with others. We set our own protocols on the site and select people with whom we wish to connect and develop a professional relationship. The typical rationale is that you connect with some mutual interest in mind.

Based on the data collected, and sequencing of events (both on and off of LinkedIn), certain people elevate within the system and become more visible to you. Those with whom you connect will be assigned status or value within your network that either escalates or dissipates over time. Some achieve a business goal with you; most remain ambiguous or unseen.

How You Leverage LinkedIn

On LinkedIn, people leverage the site in a manner conducive to developing business, advancing a career, securing new employment, or building brand awareness. Competitive advantage is achieved through communication. Be it through your profile, emails, updates, long-form posts, or endorsements of others, you are set up on LinkedIn to offer value to others. The LinkedIn of Things is specifically designed to drive peer-to-peer (P2P) interactions.

Your desired outcome notwithstanding, leveraging LinkedIn is dependent on the extent to which other users are also leveraging the site. Businesspeople operate on LinkedIn at various agility levels and with varying attention spans. Those that take to the technology and perform at a high level will reap the benefits. Whereas you can steadily improve your performance on LinkedIn, you are at the mercy of other people improving theirs. You need a reaction to your action. Such is the LinkedIn of Things.

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Moving Forward, What Will the LinkedIn of Things Provide?

What's next for the LinkedIn of Things? This is the question that I am most frequently asked by my clients, colleagues, and readers. Being the futurist that I am, I have my own intuitions, hunches, guesses at best. But one thing is for certain: LinkedIn is here to stay. The habits of our increasingly digitalized society are fully ingrained.

When you consider the rate at which the interconnection of business professionals is increasing, it is understandable that LinkedIn can be so overwhelming. The range of information provided, and the velocity with which it moves, certainly goes beyond the bandwidth of what even the most seasoned LinkedIn user can process.

Yet for many, there would seem to be no dividing line between the real and virtual worlds. They see LinkedIn clearly, understand its utility, and willfully integrate it into the fabric of their professional lives. For those who demonstrate integrity, are cognizant of the LinkedIn boundaries, appreciate the sanctity of the first-degree connection, and orchestrate every piece of correspondence as if their livelihoods depended on it, the LinkedIn of Things will create possibilities.

Parting Thoughts

♦ In business, it is safe to say that technology rules the day. The devices and applications are only going to get better. There will be more data to manage, new processes to master, and new strategies to design. Can the deployment keep pace?

♦ On LinkedIn, information is content and content fuels conversation. The community at large drives the flow of information. In an expanding system, new complexities will present, content will become more difficult to find and scale, and opportunities will become more difficult to capture.

♦ The ever-changing nature of the digital environment, coupled with the exquisite randomness of human interaction, makes it impossible to predict where the LinkedIn of Things is heading. In social business, there is no script. Improvisation will create the future.

[Kevin Ashton is a British technology pioneer who is credited for coining the term "the Internet of Things" to describe the complex system by which the Internet connects to the physical world. I extrapolate here and define the LinkedIn of Things as the system that governs the monitoring, management, application and deployment that occurs within LinkedIn's infrastructure, breaks the plane between the real and virtual worlds, and enables meaningful interaction.]