Twitter and LinkedIn Battle for Eyeballs and Loyalty


On June 29, Twitter and LinkedIn decided to end a partnership that began in 2009. Before the 29th, tweets had the ability to flow seamlessly from Twitter to LinkedIn. That's no longer possible. Twitter has restricted its API to prevent tweets from posting to LinkedIn user profiles. LinkedIn users can still create updates to publish to Twitter - it is a matter of clicking a button and it happens.

More significantly, the separation is a story which illustrates the difference between how collaboration looks on paper and how it plays out in practical terms when collaborating companies mature and change and business models uncomfortably bump up against one another.

If you are a regular reader, you are likely an information provider. As an industry, publishers are familiar with business model conflict and the Twitter and LinkedIn the split is not surprising.

The pairing made sense for convenience reasons: compose once and publish twice. A seamless flow of tweets from Twitter to LinkedIn added aspects of community that LinkedIn, with its origins as a structured database, had lacked from its inception.

As a website for professional networking, LinkedIn succeeds in its ability to connect people. Once connections between people on LinkedIn are made, the ability to share information is limited. LinkedIn Groups have found wildly varying degrees of success. (InfoCommerce LinkedIn Group members: please check out my colleague Megan's question posted earlier this week regarding how helpful you find LinkedIn Groups and weigh in).

But is this loss of seamless "tweet flow" truly a big loss for LinkedIn? Arguably not.

Although the collaboration enabled sharing of information between LinkedIn connections, the pairing was not without its problems. Pacing and content between the sites were a less than ideal match. Overall, LinkedIn is much slower paced than Twitter. The Twitter partnership produced significant amounts of content for LinkedIn. Yet Twitter users who tweet often (say 15 or more times a day) tend to stand out and can crowd or eclipse LinkedIn generated updates displaying on the site. Perhaps this is the reason why hiding tweets on LinkedIn was an option.

Further, tweets aren't entirely consistent with that which should be shared on a professional networking site. Twitter content that doesn't play well to an audience of business connections could carry more significant consequences than just personal embarrassment. And even anodyne tweets, because of their economy of space, still offer ample room for miscommunication.

LinkedIn and similar sites using Twitter's API have created a range of value-added products from Twitter clients to analysis tools. These products have improved Twitter's value and reach. Even though LinkedIn was never really a destination to go to read tweets, LinkedIn and others using Twitter's API may have funneled some traffic away from Twitter which presents a challenge when money is in the mix. Twitter's revenue model relies on ad money (promoted tweets).  

As International Business Times' Valli Meenakshi Ramanathan notes: "Though the end of the partnership was nothing new in the social network landscape as search giant Google moved away from the microblogging sweetheart recently, leaving Twitter to spruce up its search function to stay on track, the changes did call for LinkedIn having to redefine its strategy and operations."

Bottom line, this is a battle of eyeballs, user loyalty and control of content. And while LinkedIn might look like the loser, it probably is time for LinkedIn to put more effort into enhancing its value proposition, rather than papering over the issue with a tidal wave of tweets.

-- Nancy Ciliberti

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