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LinkedIn should position itself as the next Twitter, says this early tech evangelist

Guy Kawasaki thinks LinkedIn is blowing it.

LinkedIn should position itself as the next Twitter, says this early tech evangelist
[Source photo: Guy Kawasaki]

Author, podcaster, and internet marketing veteran Guy Kawasaki is watching people flee Twitter and wondering why everyone isn’t simply moving all of their Twitter interactions to LinkedIn.

“Why is everybody going to Mastodon? What am I missing? So you’re going to go to a place that has none of the people you know?” Kawasaki wonders

Kawasaki understands that LinkedIn might have good reason to stick with its tradition of not defining itself as a true social network. “But you know, if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck, it’s a duck,” he says. “I don’t care what your PR firm tells you.”

While talking to Fast Company for our recent oral history of LinkedIn, pegged to the 20th anniversary of the company’s founding, Kawasaki—an Apple veteran, serial tech entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and author of 15 books—explained how he’d rebrand LinkedIn as the new Twitter.

Fast Company: LinkedIn predates Twitter and Facebook and it’s still thriving in a way that those companies aren’t. As a longtime LinkedIn power user, how do you think that happened?

Guy Kawasaki: I like to say that LinkedIn was standing by the side of the river and a Peking duck flew in its mouth. All it has to do is chew. Because you have 800 million people, most of whom are who they say they are. Of course, there’s bots and fake [profiles]. But not like on anyplace else. And that means that most people tend to be more well-behaved. If they say, you know, “I work for Boeing.” Well, if you work for Boeing, you probably are not going to espouse pro-Nazi, QAnon, white nationalist theories. So, it has that natural, unique selling proposition that makes it a great social media platform.

I mean, maybe they figured out that they don’t want to be a social network. Maybe there’s no economic model. Maybe it’ll be too much trouble to quash the porn and conspiracy theories and all that. But if someday they woke up and decided to be a social network, with very little change, if any, I think they could dominate.

Why is everybody going to Mastodon? What am I missing? You’re going to go to a place that has none of the people you know? And you’re going to drag [people] with you and make them set up accounts? Let’s just pretend this fantasy works and everybody does go to Mastodon. What’s to prevent all the conspiracy people from going to Mastodon too? Because there’s no inherent reason on Mastodon, like there is on LinkedIn, to behave and be yourself.

When I say I think LinkedIn could be the next Twitter, I don’t mean it in a negative sense of conspiracy theories and all that stuff. I mean in the positive sense of Twitter, where it is a force for useful, valuable communication, socializing, and community groups, etc.

I follow the National Weather Service on Twitter. So when the National Weather Service says there’s a hurricane coming in my area, I immediately get a tweet. Well, I don’t understand why the National Weather Service can’t do that on LinkedIn. Maybe I’m just dumb, and there are very good reasons why they don’t want to be a social network. But as I say the Peking Duck is in your mouth, all you have to do is chew.

FC: What do you say about the people who want to remain anonymous on their social network? Or to separate their work life from their social network life? Is that even possible anymore?

GK: I understand the concept, but I think that is a very naive understanding of how social networks work. If you’re saying you’re LonelyBoy15 on Twitter, and you’re the CEO of [say], Procter & Gamble on LinkedIn, I’d be surprised if you could pull that off for very long.

FC: So how do you use LinkedIn?

GK: LinkedIn is my primary social media platform. I’m 68 years old. I’m not applying for any more jobs. I am not trying to network. So I can be freer and looser on LinkedIn.

I’m posting stuff that most people consider “not appropriate” for LinkedIn. I have chosen to use LinkedIn as I use Twitter. It’s social media. So I post my surfing videos, pictures of my sock drawer. I post strong political opinions.

One could say, “Guy, it’s because you don’t give a shit anymore.” But I’m trying to demonstrate to people that networking is not just, “Oh, you work for McKinsey, and I work for McKinsey. So we have something in common.” It’s just as effective to post a video of you surfing, and somebody who works at McKinsey who also loves surfing reaches out to you because of surfing, not McKinsey. If you want to network, you have to provide information for hooks.

FC: Do you get negative feedback when you post surfing pictures or a picture of your sock drawer on LinkedIn? Do people ever tell you that that’s not what they want to see on this platform?

GK: I used to, but I think they gave up trying to influence me. Let’s say I post something anti-Trump. Let’s just theoretically say I would do such a thing. People used to say, “This is no place to discuss politics. This is for professional job networking. Don’t turn this into a Facebook or a Twitter.”

For a while, I would counter those and say, “Is it because I’m anti-Trump, and you are pro-Trump, or is it because you think politics doesn’t belong here? Well, if they were honest with themselves, guess what the answer is.

If somebody raises an objection like that, I just block them. I don’t care. You’ll appreciate the story, you can verify [it] with LinkedIn. LinkedIn had a limit. You can block, I think it was, 1,000 people. And I had to appeal to the highest levels of LinkedIn [to say], “You’ve got to increase my limit. Because I need to be able to block many more people than 1,000.”

I think it never occurred to them. Why would you block someone on LinkedIn? You’re trying to make your network big so you can get more job offers. But what I’ve been trying to do lately with my feed is demonstrate that yes, on LinkedIn, you can discuss how to be a better leader. You can also discuss how to be a better surfer. And you can discuss, Oh, my god, I don’t know what to do with my mismatched socks.

FC: Did people on LinkedIn help you find out what to do with the mismatched socks?

No. There is no solution there. I think washing machines only take the left side of random socks. I have this one drawer, and I put all the mismatched socks in it.

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