Twitter severs ties with LinkedIn; Why & what does it mean to you

2 Jul, 2012

In the wee hours of Saturday (3.30 am IST, to be precise) an e-mail message from LinkedIn (an excerpt from an announcement made by Ryan Roslansky, head of content products at LinkedIn) popped up in the inbox with the subject line reading: Sharing on LinkedIn and Twitter. Not something too thrilling that would urge you to read it without losing a moment. But curiosity got the better of logic and reading the mail proved even more jolting. The mail simply states: LinkedIn and Twitter have worked together since 2009 to enable you to share your professional conversations on both platforms. Twitter recently evolved its strategy and this will result in a change to the way Tweets appear in third-party applications. Starting today Tweets will no longer be displayed on LinkedIn. Any conversation you start on Twitter will no longer be automatically shared with your LinkedIn network, even if you synced your LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.

So the rift is out, to the dismay of social media denizens. The move has ended a partnership that started in 2009 and allowed users to sync their LinkedIn accounts with Twitter, so that all their tweets posted there (or just those tagged with the hashtag #in or #li) would be automatically published onto their LinkedIn profile pages.

Earlier, Michael Sippey, who heads the consumer product team at Twitter, posted a note about the ongoing changes and emphasised on "delivering a consistent Twitter experience." In his post, he talked about the company's desire to "build engaging experiences into Twitter" and added that they are "looking forward to adding new ways for developers to do this."

"We're building tools for publishers and investing more and more in our own apps to ensure that you have a great experience everywhere you experience Twitter, no matter what device you're using. You need to be able to see expanded Tweets and other features that make Twitter more engaging and easier to use. These are the features that bring people closer to the things they care about. These are the features that make Twitter Twitter. We're looking forward to working with you to make Twitter even better," the post added.

The message is clear enough. Twitter is all set to enhance user engagement as a comprehensive content brand and not as a mere information tool. It will be no longer available to third parties. As Forbes has so rightly pointed out – Twitter wants to be the story, not just the headline.

What's transforming Twitter?

Unlike LinkedIn, which is essentially a professional network, Twitter thrives on frequent and succinct updates about everything you are thinking and doing, and the only way to grow further is to enhance its content features and make the access selective (having the users back on the Twitter site is definitely a wise business strategy). Plus, it must have a well-defined strategy to improve corporate engagement as many companies find it immensely convenient to tweet updates from time to time.

In a bid to introduce a more visual content experience, Twitter has recently introduced Twitter Cards for content owners to enhance expanded tweets, similar to what OpenGraph (Meta) tags offers to third party website to classify and describe the content when shared on Facebook. Twitter Card is basically a thumbnail image that is attached when someone Tweets a link to some content on a web page. There are three types of Twitter Card – Summary (headlines, description, thumbnail image and Twitter account attribution), Photo (Twitter-sized photo card) and Player (Tweet-sized video/audio playing card). It is not difficult to understand how this latest addition will enhance user traction. Just take a look at Google. When it first featured images along with the links, the click simply skyrocketed. And the same thing happened when YouTube thumbnails were added to search queries. Google has now gone ahead to add author attribution and profile images to the content. As for Facebook acquiring Instagram for $1 billion (there are wild speculations that Pinterest might be its next target, but analysts feel that Amazon is a more likely buyer because of Pinterest's orientation as a shopping app), the logic is only too clear – it is all about enhancing visual content experience. And now, Twitter is following the same trend. It is getting transformed from 140-character micro-blogging to more appealing and more inclusive feeds featured by Foursquare, Tumblr, Google+ and Facebook.

Will it impact your LinkedIn experience?

But how would Twitter's all-new content engagement strategy affect users' LinkedIn experience? The impact may not be too overwhelming as a professional network like LinkedIn has little 'tweet' appeal (imagine an HR head or a promoter tweeting that he/she is in urgent need of a C-suite replacement and the JD being packed in 140 characters). LinkedIn is a serious career platform for many and information-sharing/updates on the site seem more 'formal' and 'structured' than spur-of-the-moment tweets.

Having said that, I don't intend to indicate that the social flavour or the personal element is missing there. Yet, LinkedIn is not even a BranchOut (let alone a Twitter) "the career/business networking application that you can access through your Facebook account. It is easier to build your network there, thanks to your Facebook friends. But in LinkedIn, you build your work profile and professional connections from scratch – it is definitely not an extension of a circle of friends helping you out professionally and vice-versa. So your creditworthiness on LinkedIn (in terms of connections, profile views and other parameters) is purely driven by your professional orientation and not by social connects. While some people are of the opinion that LinkedIn should acquire BranchOut before it becomes a serious competition (it has recently raised $25 million in new fundraising), it is easy to see that BranchOut is not a LinkedIn killer, as of now. Why? It is still reeking of social media flamboyance instead of courting a high-profile professional approach.

But parting ways with Twitter may still hurt LinkedIn, purely from the point of convenience.

So LinkedIn has left a way out for its users even though Twitter has distanced itself. The mail to LinkedIn users further states: We know that sharing updates from LinkedIn to Twitter is a valuable service for our members. Moving forward, you will still be able to share updates with your Twitter audience by posting them on LinkedIn.

So how can you continue to share updates on both LinkedIn and Twitter? According to the LinkedIn team, "Simply start your conversation on LinkedIn. Compose your update, check the box with the Twitter icon, and click 'Share.' This will automatically push your update to both your LinkedIn connections and your Twitter followers just as before."

Once again, the message is clear: Use LinkedIn as your primary networking platform, not Twitter.com, and use our method of content syncing. Which means Twitter may lose out on sponsored tweets and ad views. Which also means LinkedIn wants to push its ad views and user content away from Twitter. The battle lines are now drawn over networking supremacy and it may turn out to be as bitter as the recent Google-Apple fallout.