Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Twitter's 1st evangelism comms guy, Linkedin's 2nd PR guy. These are my thoughts on tech, public relations, and life.

CEOs Good to Great: Who Makes the Cut and Why?

3 Lessons I Learned from Jeff Weiner at LinkedIn

My five years at LinkedIn 1 is the best experience of my career.

One of the biggest reasons: Jeff Weiner.

Here’s my thoughts on what made Jeff the best CEO I’ve ever worked with, as he transitioned his role a month ago to Ryan Roslansky after 11 years of one of the most successful runs as Chief Executive I’ve ever seen.

From L – R: Jeff’s first LinkedIn Hackday judging with Adam Nash hosting, to the picture on the right, arguably (correct me if I’m wrong) Jeff’s first LinkedIn All-Hands in 2009 as he was introduced as CEO by founder Reid Hoffman, and below: my peers in the marketing & comms team, circa 2008: Richard Chen & Krista Canfield

There are Good CEOs, and then there are Great CEOs. Besides, Jeff Weiner, Dan Nye and Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), I have worked on Jack Dorsey’s team (Twitter), Andrew Dudum (who now runs Hims) and worked closely with Adam Nash (CEO Wealthfront) during his time at LinkedIn — one of the best product minds I’ve ever seen. But, I can objectively say, Jeff Weiner is as good as it gets as a leader.

Here’s three reasons why and three lessons I learned:


Lesson 1: Compassion As Purpose

Jeff Weiner was always about the High-Order Bit. I talk about that in my post on grief. As Steve Jobs would often say, what is your high-order bit. And Jeff would always ask us to stack-rank prioritize our goals, and if I had to pick the highest-ranked legacy of Jeff’s — it’d have to be compassion.

Harvard Business Review wrote about the “Best Leaders being Great Teachers,” in which they relate a story shared by Mike Gamson 2, who I got to know in 2008 and who went on to lead LinkedIn’s Sales efforts:

Another example comes from Mike Gamson, a senior vice president at LinkedIn, who told Business Insider that his first meeting with the company’s new CEO, Jeff Weiner, involved a two-hour discussion of Buddhist principles. Gamson said he wanted to be a more empathetic leader, and Weiner asked why he wasn’t instead aiming to be more compassionate. The pair explored the difference between those concepts, with recourse to a religious parable.

I have a similar story, though I wish I had the chance to explore spirituality more with Jeff, than just this brief moment during my time at LinkedIn…

The Aha Moment: Breathe In, Breathe Out

Some of you may have read my recent post on how Meditation has become an incredibly important part of my life, helping deal with grief and cope with chaos.

Way before that post, there was this anecdote:

During my time at LinkedIn (since early 2007) I had the opportunity to work with the founding team, executive team, and Jeff during his first few years since his time as acting CEO.

Fast forward, to a particularly high-stakes conversation I was having with Jeff in the middle of a tumultuous period in my life, and (of course) I have a panic attack 3.

I don’t know how other CEOs might have handled it; maybe they’d asked me to collect myself and reschedule the meeting, but Jeff instead helped guide me through composing myself while he suggested breathing techniques that are common to those who meditate, and it helped calm me and got me on to the habit of meditation that I have finally put into consistent practice.

Sure, it felt strange sharing this here, but it’s the tiny moments in life that leave a mark. Of the five years I spent at LinkedIn, this experience is at the top of my list!

Compassion in the Workplace: A Feature, Not a Bug

CEOs also need to recognize that we are in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, stressors mounting by the minute 4, an epidemic of loneliness so desolate that compassion is more relevant now than ever in the history of the workplace.

A group of researchers from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Harvard Medical School released results from a survey they conducted in the second half of May, and 55% of people said they were more stressed than in January, before the virus was perceived to be a widespread threat.

We are living through unprecedented times, when over half of a country’s adults are under a once-in-a-century moment in history and this situation is only likely to continue.

As the workforce transitions into Gen-Z you recognize that unlike prior generations, they care most about personal well being and a work-life balance and more than ever, they crave a sense of purpose. 5. The two biggest takeaways post-pandemic (epidemic of loneliness and the WFH phenomenon) will demand that CEOs be more compassionate, wise and spiritual; the best among them setting an example worth emulating.

Jeff has also created a platform-for-compassion in The Compassion Project for elementary school students across the United States, inspired by the PBS Documentary “A Class Divided;” a classroom experiment in compassion that has its origins in a teacher’s efforts to calm her students and help them understand discrimination and divisiveness in the aftermath of the Martin Luther King assassination.

We’re in a time where people are increasingly being torn apart. People are looking to reinforce their own views by connecting with others that look like them and sound like them. Tribalism, as some would call it, is reinforced through both conventional and new media channels. – Jeff Weiner

Couldn’t agree more. It’s never been more important than in these days Black Lives Matter, where stoked by the fires of circumstance and polarization, we find our deepest insecurities bleed into an epidemic of anxiety.

These circumstances are seeing parents moonlight as teachers while going about their day jobs, a shocking increase abuse, both in homes and in the workplace, as we continue to isolate and expose ourselves to the searing heat of 2020. It is, now more than ever, for all of us (at work and home) to create a platform for compassion in every imaginable scenario.

Great leaders don’t just teach about work—they also proffer deeper wisdom. – Harvard Business Review

Lesson 2: Clarity, Consistency and Curiosity

The very first thing I recall Jeff define as CEO was a clear vision (“Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce”) and mission (“Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful”). Remember this was before the IPO, when LinkedIn has 30 million users (that under his leadership has scaled to 700 million users) 6, and the stack-ranked priority, the high-order bit for Jeff was identifying those core values, then sharing that with the leadership team, and as part of his Comms team our priority was disseminating that vision across our entire company.

One Vision, One Mission, Godspeed.

The Vision Jeff entrusted with his teams, and the Mission he demanded we create for ourselves were reiterated over and over again, until you could blurt it out were someone to wake you rudely in the middle of the night.

And everyone in the company knew that 7, as Reid continues:

Jeff says that you build trust through consistency over time. One of the things he said that stuck in my mind was that by the time that you’re getting bored of yourself saying a message, your organization is just beginning to hear it.

And Jeff hired for Mission Sync:

This showed up in how Jeff recruited people to LinkedIn. His pitch wasn’t, “Come work for me.” It was, “Come work together with me on this mission.”

Great Leaders Teach, But Also Relentlessly Learn

Star leaders also take a page from Socrates and teach by asking sharp, relevant questions, often in the course of furthering their own learning. According to a colleague at HCA, Frist “was always asking probing questions to find out what was happening.” He did it to “educate himself, not to make you feel like you were doing something appropriate or inappropriate. It was an educational venture.” 8

Jeff’s product curiosity was always spot-on. Not only was he one of the first few people at LinkedIn, who understood the true import of Twitter that I evangelized internally relentlessly, when everyone was wondering where does fit into the larger corporate storytelling paradigm. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, relates a similar story about Jeff when he first visited Jeff at Yahoo! Network critiquing the product with Jeff’s team 9

Jeff’s reaction was perfect and telling — he was intellectually curious rather than defensive. He showed an intensity of curiosity and learning, especially towards being what I call an infinite learner. And, he wanted his people to talk and interact more than he did, which reflects Jeff’s focus on leading the team, as well as being a part of the team. – Reid Hoffman on Jeff Weiner

Lesson 3: Culture & Community

Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs’ biographer, famously asked 10 Jobs during the last few months of his life, thus:

I once asked him what he thought was his most important creation, thinking he would answer the iPad or the Macintosh. Instead he said it was Apple the company. Making an enduring company, he said, was both far harder and more important than making a great product.

And I think Jeff understood that very well, since the day he started at LinkedIn.

Our All-Hands was a big deal. And with Jeff’s arrival, it became the heart-and-soul of LinkedIn’s culture. I briefly had the fortune of working with Jeff on crafting those until my good friend Armen Vartanian took over, and it was clear from Day One, Jeff was going to carry forward the vision and reiterate it in ways — both artful and purposeful — at these gatherings.

The All-Hands wasn’t just an excuse for us to gather, like the Pixar building that Steve Jobs built, but it was a reason to be a part of something bigger than yourself. It was the culture, given who LinkedIn is about connecting every single professional in the world — bigger than all of us professionals working at LinkedIn.

And it worked. And it shows.

How You Go from 100s to 16,000 Employees!

In another distinct way, Jeff’s actions pay homage to the lessons left by Steve Jobs, especially with the way he crafted his transition, to Ryan Roslansky, who came to LinkedIn from Yahoo!

Jobs maintained an excellent and relatively stable executive team during his second tenure at Apple. The more mature and confident he became, the more he surrounded himself with strong, opinionated executives who felt comfortable arguing with him. – There Is No “I” in Steve, Fast Company

Jeff came to LinkedIn that way. With a team in mind, a plan in place and this transition, as Reid suggests was always the best case outcome, and kudos for finding a stellar product leader to carry forward that vision:

Another great lesson I learned from Jeff was the importance of having multiple succession plans for every executive — one for an immediate emergency successor, one for a year down the road, and one for the long-term. Ryan was Jeff’s long-term succession plan. He was Jeff’s first hire after arriving at LinkedIn, and had worked for him at Yahoo for five years before that, so they have a very strong and lasting alliance. – Reid Hoffman

Jeff’s Biggest Legacy is the team he built and is leaving behind. Having briefly crossed paths with Ryan, it’s clear LinkedIn is in great hands.


In Summary; Thank You Jeff!

And, yes, these are all stellar examples of why was trending on LinkedIn a few weeks ago, given the outpouring of gratitude and employees, past and present, sharing their career high — working for Jeff.

Of course, in classic Jeff style, the All-Hands was a huge-send off with singing of Jeff’s favorite song, which did and would have brought tears to the eyes of anyone who had the pleasure of working at LinkedIn with Jeff during a glorious run. No wonder, the hashtag was trending for a while.

This is my story.

For showing me what real leadership is; #ThankYouJeff!

The Last LinkedIn Alumni Reunion Dinner I attended in 2019 with some of the early folks, hope to see Jeff in the future


  1. My alma-mater of over five years, and where I spent my most informative and insightful years as the second PR & Marketing Hire right through to our I.P.O. ↩︎
  2. A great Harvard Business Review by Sydney Finkelstein on what separates the best leaders – the ones that teach ↩︎
  3. Check out how meditation helps me cope with grief, while dealing with a relentless pandemic in 2020 here and how this episode might have been my first foray into meditation ↩︎
  4. Here’s the most recent study on July 1, 2020, that finds 55% of Americans are stressed with numbers shooting up if you’re past 50 years of age ↩︎
  5. Source: Dynamic Signal, “When Gen-Z’ers believe they are surrounded by like-minded people who feel their effort has a purpose, work is less like a job.” ↩︎
  6. Source: Statista and 400 employees (that Jeff scaled to 16,000 employees!), Growth of LinkedIn members from 2009 to 2016 ↩︎
  7. Here in Jeff’s own words that we heard reiterated during those formative years, how and why one should define their Vision, Mission and Values so clearly ↩︎
  8. Sydney Finkelstein, a professor at Tuck School, Dartmouth, writes “Best Leaders are Great Teachers” for the Harvard Business Review, calls out their Socratic approach as well as their compassion ↩︎
  9. I’d highly recommend you check out Reid Hoffman’s LinkedIn post on Learnings from Jeff ↩︎
  10. This Harvard Business Review piece by Walter Isaacson outlines The Real Leadership Lessons of Jobs, which include Focus, Simplify, and Taking Responsibility to the End ↩︎

 

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn in the News, Latest at LinkedIn, LinkedIn Colleagues, Thoughts, Public Relations, Public Speaking, Best-of, Jeff Weiner

Is Facebook’s Graph Search a Giant Killer?

Will Facebook’s “Graph Search” be a threat to Google, LinkedIn, Yelp, or Foursquare asks a question on Quora?

jack_the_giant_killer_version9-movie-poster

No, No, No and Definitely Not. Yet.

The key is expertise.

Beneath the obvious user delight, Facebook is betting a lot on Graph Search’s core ability to connect people with what they’re looking for accurately and immediately. And obviously as the middle man, they stand to gain. Fair enough.

But will Facebook’s imminent functionality be a threat to well established vertical searches like Google, Yelp, LinkedIn and Foursquare?

All of the four kinds of search you can do today: Photos, People, Places and Interests, bear commercial implication. But the most immediate remain People and Places, which as bloggers speculate may pose a threat to Yelp, Foursquare, Google (Places) and LinkedIn (People). So, let’s take simple examples and compare Facebook Search with the other four searches.

Facebook vs. Yelp

I started with a simple search for “bars,” something I presume will be a common search on any local product. Here’s what I got with Facebook. For starters, along with actual bars it also pulled up law and bar associations or offices which was a bit odd.

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Now try the same with Yelp and you see how right away, they try to segment that query into the different types of bars you’re potentially searching for.

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Once you get a set of results, Yelp then allows you (and this is the most useful feature on yelp currently) to convenience sort by “rating,” “proximity,” “price,” “open now,” or even better by neighborhoods.

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I’ve gotta tell you; if you go out often, this filter is magical. But again, the filter is by utilitarian ratings by foodies and not by friends around you. More on that in just a second.

But before we leave Yelp, the third most useful feature on Yelp is their surfacing key elements of the review. So you’re at a restaurant and you’re wondering what’s the best thing on the menu. In days past, you’d have had to ask the person serving you but now you can rely on “the wisdom of an expert crowd” what’s the best food here and it works. Like magic.

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Facebook vs. Foursquare

Back to the topic of friends which is Facebook’s biggest competitive advantage. If you do wanna take into account which restaurants your friends are frequenting (ignoring the fact that expertise is the key), then try Foursquare.

The first thing you’ll notice yet again is the structured data (categories like Bar, Sports Bar, Salon) right up front (similar to Yelp) that Foursquare now provides you; though not as in depth as Yelp, can still be a tad useful.

Screen Shot 2013-01-19 at 7.10.49 PM

Digging deeper through the results, you’re gonna find them sorted by Foursquare’s own proprietary “Zagat number” that they conjure based on multiple data points.

Foursquare comes up with its score by looking at tips left by users, likes, dislikes, popularity, check-ins and it also weights signals more heavily for local experts.

They also show you a self-selecting group of folks who you know. Chances are most of these folks are more prone to bar hop than your other friends. But still Yelp really nails it with their community that they have nurtured for many many years who continue to write meaningful reviews that makes a world of difference when it comes to local search.

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Facebook vs. Google Local

While on the topic of a Zagat number, Google recently bought restaurant ratings site Zagat which now powers their Google Local ratings.  Zagat which originally started off compiling restaurant ratings of the Zagat’s friends, does something very similar to Yelp and the model here is yet again – expertise.

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Facebook vs. LinkedIn

Shifting gears to people search, Facebook’s people search is three years after LinkedIn launched its faceted people search. I know because I helped launch it at TechCrunch Disrupt where product manager Esteban Kozak demoed it right before CEO Jeff Weiner went on stage. (Disclosure: I no longer work at LinkedIn and don’t own any stock either) My mind was blown when I first saw what we could do with faceted search on LinkedIn both from a user experience perspective and I’m sure recruiters have found even more value from it.

Take a look at this demo video we shot in 2009 that shows you the plethora of signals a site like LinkedIn uses to hone in on the right professionals in a search. Easier said than done, and much like with Yelp, these signals have been gathered over many many years and such a search isn’t something you can turn on willy-nilly.

In all four instances the quality of Facebook’s search is insipid today compared to the robust community based expertise that the four sites have either built or bought .

The key is expertise. 

Now granted there are many things Facebook could do to build or buy their way into each of these verticals but the key point is that strength in local search across People and Places is not “friend” related, but rather “expertise” dependent and it takes years to build that. And frankly, I’d go with the critical reviews from experts in these fields and that’s an area that Yelp, Foursquare, Google and LinkedIn have Facebook beat.

Filed under: Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, LinkedIn Features, Local Search, Location, , , , , ,

Quora’s Vision, Competition

Quora’s Adam D’Angelo penned an interesting year-end post where he articulates Quora’s mission better than they’ve ever done before. As a huge fan of the site, I’m glad to see Quora returning to its roots.

Quora’s mission is to share and grow the world’s knowledge.

LIBRARY-OF-ALEXANDRIA

Much of Adam’s thoughts reminded me of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s The American Scholar, which predicts the beauty of Quora and its goals many years ago.

I read with joy some of the auspicious signs of the coming days, as they glimmer already through poetry and art, through philosophy and science, through church and state.

Instead of the sublime and beautiful; the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized.

Give me insight into to-day, and you may have the antique and future worlds. What would we really know the meaning of? The meal in the firkin; the milk in the pan; the ballad in the street; the news of the boat; the glance of the eye; the form and the gait of the body; let me see every trifle bristling with the polarity that ranges it instantly on an eternal law; and the shop, the plough, and the leger, referred to the like cause by which light undulates and poets sing; — and the world lies no longer a dull miscellany and lumber-room, but has form and order; there is no trifle; there is no puzzle; but one design unites and animates the farthest pinnacle and the lowest trench.

That to me, was and is, Quora’s highest ambition: to educate, organize and share the world’s knowledge  from the sublime to the mundane (which is very different from Google’s “organize the world’s information.”) And, it was refreshing to read echoes of that in Adam’s recent post:

We hope to become an internet-scale Library of Alexandria, a place where hundreds of millions of people go to learn about anything and share everything they know.

Or as Emerson said from the users point-of-view:

The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of the time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future. He must be an university of knowledges.

Matthew Ingram over at GigaOm suggests this pits Quora with Wikipedia, while Owen Thomas is more like Google v. Quora. Frankly, it’s neither of them.

The battle lines are drawn. It’s knowledge platforms that Quora will find itself facing off.

1. Knowledge Platforms: The Old Guard

WordPress, Typepad, etc.

Frankly, any site or service that dabbles in knowledge dissemination is competition to Quora, the only difference here being Quora could be both the platform (like WordPress) and the connector (like Google). I’d have counted Answers sites in this mix but they’re either too niche (Stack Overflow) or dead (Yahoo! Answers and LinkedIn Answers).

So, blogs. There are close to 150 million blogs in the world with Google doing a pretty decent job of corralling that information, sometimes connecting the highest bidder with the rest of us with questions. But that’s not the market Quora is going after. It’s knowledge; a higher quality of information. And where do people share the knowledge they have – mostly on blogs and niche social networks. Think about this: the biggest drawback of most blogs is the ability to build an audience (the more influential, the better) but Quora is great at helping you find that audience and helps you connect with those who seek that knowledge (like Quora credits?)

But before they get there they need to scale their knowledge platform; hence, I’d guess, the push away from Q&A to everything that constitutes knowledge.

2. Knowledge Platforms: The New Wave

Svbtle, Medium & Branch.

Increasingly I’m seeing sites that aim to one-up the WordPresses of the world with “a curated collection of great people who have things to say, “a new way to talk to each other,” or “the sharing of ideas and experiences.”

Oddly enough, two of the above come from the House of Obvious Corp. (the brainchild of Twitter co-founders, Ev and Biz), both of whom “would rather build the next Wikipedia, than Zynga.” Guess who’s building the next Wikipedia – Quora.

While Branch forces us to take a second look at commenting systems, cryptic Medium seems to be aimed at publishers and media companies or something like that. Either way, all of the above are aimed at scaling the quality of knowledge that’s distributed on the internet. And by doing so they aim to become the Google at connecting knowledge with those who seek it.

You may notice I didn’t mention Tumblr because I feel they’ve carved out a unique niche for themselves far from either “quality” or “knowledge” by becoming a social entertainment platform with a specific audience (teenagers and time-wasters?), much like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post both of whom feed off of Tumblr.

3. Social Platforms: News and Blog Niche

LinkedIn Blogs, Facebook News

Much like Tumblr and Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have a distinct purpose that immunizes them against Quora. But increasingly, both of these social networking giants, especially LinkedIn seem to make subtle inroads into knowledge sharing. Heck, LinkedIn even recently launched a curated blogging platform. As LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, says in his recent post “It’s Not Just Who You Know, It’s What They Know.”

I’m also personally looking forward to posting on a number of subjects I’ve grown passionate about during the course of my career: how to scale a company; the most valuable management lessons I’ve learned; thoughts about the future of work; how to close the skills gap; and many others.

Topics that you can find answers to on Quora along with the more mundane questions that professionals across the various spectrum have asked questions on, but LinkedIn’s scale makes this an interesting one to follow.

Granted, this is but a hobby for LinkedIn; their very own “Apple TV” but as I see it, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of knowledge networks.

Filed under: Branch, Knowledge Networks, Linkedin, Medium, Quora, , , , , , , , ,

Do you view your career as a startup?

I first met Reid Hoffman, nearly six years ago (Thanks, Kay!) as I was being interviewed by the then executive team at LinkedIn for my role as social media guy. Since then, what has always struck me the most about Reid is his simplicity coupled with his enthusiasm in debating complex topics, whether it’s a philosophical discussion on social media to something as simple as the importance of adding commenting to our blog.

 One of my favorite pics from the old days – Reid Hoffman (center) with Jean-Luc Vaillant (left) and Allen Blue (right) at our old Palo Alto office

Working at LinkedIn during those early days was a great opportunity to watch, discuss and learn from him on a slew of topics and it’s great to see that Reid’s now shared many of his learnings into his recent book – “Startup of You“.

There are tons of valuable insights that Reid and co-author, Ben Casnocha, have assembled in the new book. Insights that are simple on the face of it, but you’d be surprised at how unheeded some of them are. Here are some:

  • How to establish close professional alliances who can help you and whom you can help in turn.
  • Why the most powerful networks include a mix of both allies and looser acquaintances.
  • Why you should set up an “interesting people” fund to guarantee that you spend time investing in your network.

The other parts of the book that I also found fascinating include the anecdotes, like this one:

I [Reid] first met Mark Pincus while at PayPal in 2002. I was giving him advice on a startup he was working on. From our first conversation, I felt inspired by Mark’s wild creativity and how he seems to bounce off the walls with energy. I’m more restrained, preferring to fit ideas into strategic frameworks instead of unleashing them fire-hose-style. But it’s our similar interests and vision that have made our collaborations so successful.

We invested in Friendster together in 2002. In 2003 the two of us bought the Six Degrees patent, which covers some of the foundational technology of social networking. Mark then started his own social network, Tribe; I started LinkedIn (LNKD). When Peter Thiel and I were set to put the first money into Facebook in 2004, I suggested that Mark take half of my investment allocation. I wanted to involve Mark in any opportunity that seemed intriguing, especially one that played to his social networking background. In 2007, Mark called me to talk about his idea for Zynga (ZNGA), the social gaming company he co-founded and now leads. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to invest and join the board, which I did.

An alliance is always an exchange, but not a transactional one.

Now, some folks may think that these alliances are an exception:

All of which prompts a question: in a winner-takes-all world, do the networks of the rich and powerful become self-reinforcing? For all Hoffman’s claims that the lives of successful Silicon Valley zillionaires are a useful model, one cannot escape the sense that he moves in a rarefied world in which a you-scratch-my-back chumminess excludes the less fortunate.

I beg to differ. These mutual alliances model is one that all successful professionals follow. These alliances can be found everywhere in our careers. And, we do it all the time.

Now, some professionals may have an old-school way of thinking where they stop looking at professional enrichment once at a job. Though this may have worked in the past, I couldn’t agree more that in today’s economy it’s imperative that we not only keep our skill sets updated constantly but more importantly, that we also actively nurture our relationships that matter so much. As Reid shared with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times last year:

The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone. No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach your career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.

I highly recommend this book if you believe the world of work is undergoing a dramatic change and if you’d like to learn some of the basic lessons to equip you to deal with those paradigm changes successfully. So, I wanted to share some reasons why I think it may be worth your while to take a read. Tweet me your reactions to the book.

I look forward to your stories.

Follow me @mariosundar

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn Colleagues, ,

Companies: Why your LinkedIn Page is now a really big deal

As we’ve hinted at in the recent past, LinkedIn just launched the ability for companies to update their LinkedIn Company page, like companies could have been able to do on their Twitter and Facebook pages. In the past, LinkedIn’s Company page was populated only with select auto-generated content like job changes for e.g. Now, things have changed.

Moving forward, all companies or small businesses with a LinkedIn Company Page can customize updates to their followers (whether it is a customer, job seeker or a prospective client). Here’s why it’s a pretty big deal.

What’s new?

With this new release, companies (with an assigned administrator and whose company page is set to “designated admins only”) will have the flexibility to share the latest on the company directly to all of their followers on their company page’s “Overview” tab.

Keep in mind your status updates can be up to 500 characters long and can support URLs with multimedia as well. Given that any LinkedIn member can comment, like or share your Company’s status update, this is a great way to build engagement with customers, potential employees and prospects alike. – Ryan Roslansky, who runs our Company Pages product (though Ryan manages the larger team, I found that my colleague Mike Grishaver runs the specific product itself. Hat tip to Karen Chin!)

Why should it matter to companies or small businesses

1. The confluence of company and brand 

So, why is this a big deal for companies? For starters, this is something companies had been clamoring for a long time and given the recent pace of adoption we’ve seen with millions of company pages and tens of millions of LinkedIn members following companies already, the scope and impact of Company Pages is only gonna grow.

What I find most exciting about this development is that, while Twitter and Facebook focus solely on the mainstream consumer brand experience and its accompanying follower base, a LinkedIn Company page is probably the only place that you can cater to both external (consumers) and internal (employees) audiences. That’s a rare combination, which while possible on Twitter / Facebook, is way more powerful on LinkedIn, given the professional scale. (Disclosure: As a reader, if you don’t know this yet — I work at LinkedIn)

2. It’s just before the tipping point 

Getting in sooner vs. later on social platforms not only lets you claim your ground, but also helps you build a larger following faster. So, building a huge follower base on Twitter these days is more difficult than during those early days. On LinkedIn, the number of company pages, the audience and timing feels like it’s just before the tipping point.

It’s large enough to be a happening place (over 120 million professionals) but it’s not big enough that its unwieldy (only 2 million companies have their profiles on yet), so it’s a great point in time to create one for your company or small business before you get lost in the ensuing land grab.

3. Find a targeted audience and measure yourself

This is probably the most important reason for the right company in the right space (B2B for e.g.) or small business to capitalize on the opportunities posed by LinkedIn. The people on LinkedIn are different from the folks on other social networking sites.

As a marketer, if your goal is to reach professionals there is no better place on the planet than to engage with them on LinkedIn. Let the facts speak for themselves, but I’m amazed at how huge Fortune 500 corporations like IBM or Microsoft are on LinkedIn compared to their equivalent on Twitter for e.g. Here’s a sample:

  1. IBM Company Page: ~450,000 followers, +10,000 employees
  2. Microsoft: ~330,000 followers, +10,000 employees
  3. Oracle: ~230,000 followers, +10,000 employees
  4. HP: ~350,000 followers, +10,000 employees
  5. Google: ~320,000 followers, +10,000 employees

And, I could go on. But, if you’re running social media teams at any of the millions of companies on LinkedIn and you’re not taking a more active role on your LinkedIn Company page, you should be fired.

And one more thing.

ROI. As someone who runs social media for a social media company, it’s my job to figure out measurement models on the key social networks that LinkedIn (the company) has a presence on. LinkedIn Company Pages comes with an analytics component that’s similar to the one you’d find on Facebook for e.g. More on that in another post.

In the coming weeks, I’ll delve into more Company Page details. Follow me here.

So, whether you work for a large company or a small business, you better be setting up a LinkedIn Company Page. And, if you have one already. Start talking, start sharing your updates now — to the people who matter most to your business: Your Employees. Your Customers. Your Prospects.

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn Features,

How to make Social Media work for Earnings

Does social media work well with earnings? It was my goal to find out a few weeks ago as we planned the social media component of LinkedIn’s first earnings announcement and the accompanying earnings call, which went out yesterday at 2pm Pacific time. For those of you who missed the action, here’s a recap.

But, I digress. My goal was to find out what are the key social media tools a company should leverage during an earnings call and I found there were two, in particular, that could come in handy. After the jump.

Step 1: Start with the Basics / 3 key social media channels

First off, figure out the key social media channels that’ll work best at disseminating information around the earnings to the right audiences (investors, customers, members of your service, etc.), in the right way (share friendly and compliant). This may seem simple, but planning every last detail whether it’s post, tweets or sequence of uploading content well in advance really helps.

Here are the three basic social media channels that we used for our first earnings call yesterday:

  1. The LinkedIn Blog – post from the CFO
  2. LinkedIn’s Company Page – will link to our twitter page @linkedin  (didn’t want too many tweets, cluttering our homepage there, so we decided to have select tweets that redirect to our Twitter page where I’d be live tweeting the call)
  3. LinkedIn’s Twitter Page (real–time updates during the earning call)

In addition, specific to the earnings call – I found the following two channels helpful. More on that in just a second.

  1. LinkedIn’s Slideshare Page
  2. LinkedIn’s StockTwits Page

This is of course, in concert, with your existing official channels that should kick-start the process (there are mandatory regulations that govern this process; so make sure you work with your legal team on figuring out that order). In our case, right after the press release crossed the wire, and the PDF slides were up on our IR site, the social media component went into play. So, time it well and stick to your schedule.

Trust me, it’s all a blur once the call starts and you start live tweeting – plus, there are so many moving parts that you’ve got to be careful you don’t mess up the ordering or accidentally upload stuff before the official news is out there. Also, don’t schedule stuff for auto-publishing, cos, you never know when things break.

Step 2: Make it easy to share / Slideshare 

I think the biggest advantage that social media brings to the table is the ability to let users – members, investors or other bloggers get a hold of content (like earnings deck slides) and make it easy for them to share. The earnings call (in our case) was an audio webcast and you had to register to listen in. You could also download a PDF deck of slides, but you’d have to email that and there’s no way to tweet that either.

Enter Slideshare.

Not only does Slideshare make it easy for you to upload your slides in private mode (premium feature) so you have it ready to go when the call starts, they also offer customization that lets you feature your earnings slide on your Slideshare homepage. And, of course, it makes sense to add your Twitter and StockTwits widget as well. More on that in a second.

Some examples of companies that use Slideshare around earnings: Dell, Amgen, and Pfizer. Here’s the brand new LinkedIn page.

Step 3: Get Compliant / Stocktwits

Finally, the biggest question that companies have about earnings call and social media is staying out of trouble and keeping your blog post/s and tweets compliant with regulations. First off, you wanna work closely with your legal team to nail the specifics around your Safe Harbor statement and Disclaimers, which we used on the blog post. But, what about tweets and 140 chars?

Enter Stocktwits.

If you’re live tweeting your earnings call — and I’d recommend you do that — ideally, you’d want to add a disclaimer to every tweet that contains financial information. Now, doing that manually is one heckuva problem and Stocktwits helped take care of that (premium feature we subscribed to).

They have a system which allows you to add a disclaimer to every tweet (it may be a simple tweet, link to other webpages, a slideshare page, etc.) That does reduce the # of characters for your tweet (from 140 to 117) but from my perspective the premium feature was worth the peace of mind. In addition, they allow you to send this out to your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

Here are some examples of companies that have used Stocktwits in a similar fashion: eBay, Dell, AEP.

And, here’s our Stocktwits LNKD page.

To summarize, the earnings call was like our other recent announcements on social media but the two new components that made the earnings call simpler, were Slideshare and Stocktwits. Here’s how I described it on their official blogs:

As a social media company, it was a no-brainer to use Slideshare to share our earnings call slides on our corporate blog. While Slideshare made it easy for our readers and followers to share this content virally, Stocktwits ensured that our status updates and tweets were compliant; both necessary components for an effective social IR strategy.

Work in social media for a company planning earnings? Got questions? Let me know.

Leave a comment or @mariosundar a question to me.

Filed under: Best-of, Business Blogging, HOW-TO Use Social Media, Linkedin, Slideshare, Social PR, Stocktwits, , , , ,

Looking for a Job? Here’s a LinkedIn Checklist.

In the past few months, two of my good friends started looking for a new gig and I shared with them a primer on using LinkedIn to find a job. As I’ve always maintained, be engaged on sites like LinkedIn before you need a job, but rest assured if you’re looking for a job you definitely want to add LinkedIn into the mix. So, I put together a basic checklist that’d come in handy for any job seeker.

Looking for a job? Try LinkedIn and Twitter.

  1. Your profile – Check if it’s got the basics covered. Besides the obvious, don’t forget to update websites (with any press articles or blog posts you’re mentioned in), summary & specialties (cos this really stands out when people stumble upon your profile), and your skills (btw, you can reorder these sections to be most effective).
  2. Your connections – Next, your specific LinkedIn universe is only as effective as the people you’re connected to on there. So, find your real friends, colleagues, peers and connect with them on LinkedIn. Two ways to do this: people you may know or find your friends on email (whatever mail client you’ve got web or desktop works).
  3. Search – Have a strategy / a plan / keywords before you try researching jobs, companies and people you know who could help you on LinkedIn. Try advanced search here (but before that come up with key areas, places you like to find a job at, etc. And, the best part is you can slice and dice these results through your past college and work history. So, find your friends from school or past colleagues who are connected to a hiring manager (for e.g.)
  4. Reach out to potentials – once you have your first set of search results. Figure out how you’re gonna reach them. There are two ways :
    1. Connect through a common connection. If you’ve a common connection ping them for an introduction. Always the best way. The only way in my opinion.
    2. Cold call. Not ideal but if time’s of the essence you could try InMail (requires subscription) that lets you reach out to folks who may help.

That’s just a primer. I realized since I was sharing these tips with friends who were looking for a job, I may as well just codify it here on the blog for those searching for similar tips.

But, don’t forget, you don’t want to start looking for a job in the last minute, so go into your LinkedIn profile today, do some spring cleaning today, edit work experience after every project completes, gather recommendations from folks you worked with right after the project ends, or easier still create a twitter profile and tweet out a simple recommendation to a friend (it’s easier than writing a lengthy one) and connect your Twitter account with your LinkedIn account — start establishing your reputation on the web, before you realize you need a job!

Wish you guys the very best!

Filed under: Linkedin

Previously on LinkedIn: Inspiration, Flipboard and Groups

Each week, as Sr. Social Media Manager at LinkedIn, I get to share breaking LinkedIn news with the rest of the world and fellow bloggers (many of them product related). This weekly series covers the LinkedIn stuff that you may have missed — with a little context into why it matters and to whom.

Ask me questions or @mariosundar me on Twitter

Here’s this past week’s news announcements that mattered most:

1. LinkedIn, meet Flipboard by Liz Reaves Walker



Who should care?
Any professional. Consider this a real-world water-cooler conversation with folks who are of mutual importance to your career (assuming you’re connected to them). And, if you’ve an iPad then this app is a no-brainer. I, so badly, want an iPad now. I know, a lot of people find it funny that I don’t have one yet. cc: @adamnash

BTW, if you’d like to see a video demo, I’d recommend the TechCrunch interview with Mike McCue.

2. Using LinkedIn Groups API to create an events water cooler by Madhu Gupta

Who should care? This is such a no-brainer for event organizers. Madhu also shares a recent implementation from Microsoft on their Partner event website. The integration is pretty slick. As you can see — you can flip through the top groups threads even without being signed in.

If you’d like to perform simple gestures (“Like” or “Follow” the conversation), you’d need to be signed in on the website where this is embedded.

And, if you’d like to actually participate in the group all you’ve to do is click through to the specific LinkedIn group page. And, you guys know how that works.

The group itself is a great way for conference attendees to introduce themselves, share questions they have that’s worth a separate group thread and say Hi to folks they didn’t get a chance to interact at the conference room floor or at the sessions. This was my experience on Social Media Examiner’s LinkedIn Group (private group – requires sign in), as I discovered when I spoke at their webcast recently.

I used the LinkedIn group to collate ideas and feedback on my presentation and was able to tailor it better to the audience’s needs. It’s also a great way to follow up with your audience once you’re done. Now imagine, the power of that conversation embedded on your website drawing more participation before and after the event. I just realized as I blog this, that this topic deserves a whole new post.

3. Finding inspiration and support at work by Jill Levine

Given that we spend much of lives at work, it’s important that we get to work not only with the brightest minds, but with genuinely nice folks. It’s a joy to work with such folks at LinkedIn (more on that here), but this week’s story on our blog was an inspirational one about our colleague from New York, Jill Levine.

I’ll let Jill share the story herself.


Speaking of great colleagues, just thought it was worth mentioning that Adam, Jim and I are currently on a #blogfitness program.

We’ve each taken up the challenge to blog, a post a day. You can read the specifics on Jim’s post here (click through just for the video of Jim doing burpees – priceless!). And, Adam, well he’s started off strong with a post on Quicken solution for OS X Lion. And, Adam’s famous T-shirts post just got picked up on TechCrunch yesterday. Nicely done.

Game on!

If you’d like to support or taunt us about missing a blog day, feel free to tweet us @mariosundar, @adamnash and @brikis98.

And, if you’re a blogger suffering from blogger’s block. You too can join us in our 30-day #blogfitness diet. Leave a comment.

Filed under: Latest at LinkedIn, Linkedin, LinkedIn Features, LinkedIn in the News, ,

The Professional Droid has landed…

Update: Storify auto-publish to WordPress was a giant FAIL. I’m doing a copy-paste from my original on Storify and I’ll probably not attempt syndicating from Storify again. If it worked, I’d have stuck with it since it makes the task of pulling from disparate social media streams effortless.

This is gonna be my first try at Storify, an effective and super-easy way to weave a cohesive story around different social media genres: blogs, tweets, flickr, youtube, etc.

As I’d said yesterday, this is a great way for me to share the social media moments on stuff that I work on, given how most of those involve articles, blog posts, tweets, etc.

This is of course, an experiment, since I’m not sure how well the auto-publish from Storify to WordPress works. I’ve also noticed that the drafting process on Storify is broken since it doesn’t auto-save well and you’re likely to lose portions of content if you choose not to publish it rightaway.

But, I digress… On to today’s launch: LinkedIn’s Android App.

The (Professional) Droid has landed…

Chad Whitney, my colleague at LinkedIn blogged about the launch of the LinkedIn’s Android app earlier today. This is the 2nd consecutive product launch from the House of Adam Nash, who blogged yesterday about the launch of our development platform.

Chad’s great at coming up with short, succinct posts that really get to the point and also gives the reader exactly what they’re looking for in terms of links, downloads, etc., without them having to read through reams of text.

So, here’s his post that announced the availability earlier this morning on the LinkedIn Blog.

Blog highlights: So you don’t have to read through them all

As I’d mentioned earlier, one of the perks of my job is sharing this news with the rest of the world. Here are reactions from key tech blogs:

1. Mashable / LinkedIn Now Available on Android Marketplace

LinkedIn for Android v1.0 is the complete experience, though. There has been incredible demand for a LinkedIn Android application for some time. And while it took the company a little too long to get this app to the Android Marketplace, the bottom line is that LinkedIn is now on the major smartphone platforms (iPhone, BlackBerry and Android), making it easy for its more than 100 million users to access the network on the go.

2. TechCrunch  / LinkedIn’s Android App exits Beta with Messaging, Sharing, “People You May Know” features

The app allows users to access the profiles of your connections, and you can send connections a message directly from the application. Messaging has been fully integrated in the app in the new version, and you can now send and receive messages from the app. Additionally, you can accept outstanding network invitations.

3. ReadWriteWeb / LinkedIn gets an Android app

While I don’t imagine I will be looking for connection suggestions on my phone, the ability to quickly look up user profiles before a meeting sounds like a great feature. Have a meeting and don’t know much about the person you’re meeting with? Check out LinkedIn and you can get a full background.

We’d love to see this integrated with recent LinkedIn acquisition CardMunch.

4. The Next Web / LinkedIn Android App sheds Beta tag officially launches on Android Market

The LinkedIn team have been busy. Following the launch of its Developer Platform, enabling users to embed sharing buttons and plugins, LinkedIn has announced the availability of its official Android application, launching today on the Android Market.

Of course, there were other mobile blogs that also that picked up on the above posts or did their own analysis of the app. Check them out from the related Techmeme thread here.

User reactions: From finally to oh yae…

And, finally, I thought it’d be great to pull some of the key reactions.

I find that Storify makes it super-easy to pull in relevant tweets. Tip: favorite the tweets you want to pull into your story and then find them on your twitter tab within storify. Again, super-easy and auto-formatted. I realize I can alternatively, just embed the tweets in WordPress like below.

And, at the end of the day, there’s tremendous value in the ability for professionals to be able to stay connected, when on the move.

This app really makes that a reality for Android users and as the above tweets indicate, this is the LinkedIn app they’ve all been waiting for.

Signing off… And, for those of you Android users. Download the app from the Android marketplace here.

/@mariosundar

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn Features,

Faster, More Furious: LinkedIn’s New Developer Platform

I’m sure Adam would have rather used this as the title for his LinkedIn blog post, something we debated yesterday evening as he finalized his post. Jus kidding. Check out Adam’s more recent blog post on his personal blog, where he talks about the easter egg from today’s launch.

But, I digress… So, earlier today, Adam Nash and our platform team launched a completely kick-ass developer platform, which is big news both for developers and companies.

What’s new:

  • For developers: Easier to implement. And, I mean EASIER TO IMPLEMENT!
  • More plugins: From member profiles to product recommendations
  • Faster under the hood

One of the areas I find interesting is the ability for publishers or bloggers to use LinkedIn plugins to make it even easier to engage with their readers. This could be either commenting on the blog post while some journalists may prefer the simpler member profile hovercard (something Flo helped us implement for the LinkedIn blog), which allows the reader to send a message to the post author, if they’re connected, and also shows your common connections.

Pretty slick!

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What else can users create? For starters, there have been some pretty nifty implementations in the past, given a much smaller dev toolset. I can’t imagine what companies, small businesses and publishers are now gonna build with the tools given to them today.

I’ll just leave you with a quote from Jack Dorsey on the magic unleashed by developers on any platform:

You can’t build an electricity grid and say, “You should go out and invent vacuum cleaners. Or keyboards or toaster overs.” You have to give the right tools and primitives to folks, so they can build what they want, and what they want to see in the world.

With today’s launch, developers have been given the right tools to build upon LinkedIn’s powerful professional platform, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Expect to see my favorite examples covered on my blog here.

What others are saying…

One of the perks of my job is the opportunity to share some of this interesting news to users as well as to folks who are most interested in this stuff.

Here are some reactions:

1. TechCrunch / LinkedIn unveils a more open developer platform, with lightweight customizable plugins:

The idea behind plugins is to give developers are more lightweight way to embed LinkedIn functionality and data on third-party sites. ALl of the plugins can be integrated onto websites with just a few lines of javascript and are customizable, says Adam Nash. For example, LinkedIn’s Member Profile plugins brings a snippet of user profiles to a third-party site and can show users who they know within an application in a professional context.

2. Mashable / LinkedIn launches revamped Developer Platform:

The new LinkedIn Developer Platform and website make these APIs available to anyone who wants to use them. LinkedIn also opens its new platform for plug-ins, including the “Sign in with LinkedIn” button and the LinkedIn Share buttons you see on Mashable’s business and marketing stories. There are also plug-ins for member profiles, company profiles and a Recommend button that lets users recommend your products through their LinkedIn network.

3. RWW / LinkedIn’s Answer to Facebook’s Open Graph:

The platform, though, isn’t just for developers. LinkedIn is offering an entire suite of plugins to bring all of this content to your website. Even better, it’s making it as easy as the click of a button and it could offer some serious competition to Facebook’s Open Graph on sites that cater to the career-minded.

4. Venture Beat / LinkedIn connects to the web with new plugins:

While developers can build applications that run on LinkedIn itself, perhaps the most promising part of the platform involves the ability to access LinkedIn data from beyond the LinkedIn site, on other sites and apps.

5. GigaOm / LinkedIn and Facebook: Personal and Professional in the identity wars:

But Facebook still seems to be a social playground for many users — a place they post photos and play games and share links to funny videos — while LinkedIn is like the office: it’s where users post their professional histories and connect with others in their field, search for jobs, and do other business-related things. So is there room for both to have a web-embracing plugin platform? Could LinkedIn appeal to older, more professional users who think Facebook is either too frivolous or too insecure and therefore don’t login or use its plugins?

6. The Next Web / LinkedIn launches developer platform social plugins:

LinkedIn will fill a crucial gap among credible OAuth providers — I’m always loathe to use my Facebook account to log into business-oriented apps and I imagine there are plenty of others out there who’d much rather log in with LinkedIn in those cases.

I could go on, but you get the picture. If you still want more, check out Techmeme for related stories.

So, once again: Kudos to Adam Nash and LinkedIn’s Platform team. And, here’s to the thousands of developers waiting to build these utilitarian apps for you.

/@mariosundar

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn Features, , ,