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LinkedIn Tries to Break Their Own Mold

Today, a Wall Street Journal article reported that LinkedIn is going to start providing targeted advertising for its site. Just like Facebook, the ads will be shown according to users’ profile information. Unlike Facebook, who bases their targeting on likes, dislikes and location, LinkedIn’s ads are based on information about job, history, schooling, etc. Being in an industry where appealing to CEOs, Marketing Directors and Brand Managers is a daily challenge, this new application for profile ad targeting seems pretty interesting, yet a delineation from their strongest selling point.

As part of the LinkedIn mentality, there comes a strict policy that only insiders to the organization are allowed to make this type of contact with a profile. When searching for connections, send one too many requests who claim they don’t know you (that would be a total of two, in actuality), and you are put on strict probation. However, now, for a price, LinkedIn will allow you to speak directly to the CEO of Kraft foods. I’m sure that PPC will be through the roof. However, it begs to leave the question as to whether the CEO of a company wants to see advertisements for agencies, new software products or accounting firms.

While this new initiative seems contradictory, we have to ask ourselves if this isn’t the latest trend in all social networking platforms, whether professional or not. Just like those clamoring to get their message in front of a higher-up to provide an opportunity to make a buck, so is LinkedIn using the opportunity to get in on the cash flow. Twitter already allows you to target profiles and inundate streams with direct messages pimping a brand, and you can’t help but wonder if that isn’t the next step in Google’s master plan of social search—integration with AdWords.

Bottom line is that while it seems we can’t get any sense of privacy even from networks that pride themselves on their privacy policies, it does seem that the age-old marketing principles of supply and demand are still at work. If you can supply me with a way to make my life easier at a click of a button, then you can demand a price for it, and should—no matter what your original point of differentiation may, might, maybe, could have been. All I have to say to LinkedIn is, good luck with this one …

*Photo: http://www.hdicon.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/linked_in_icon.png

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