The Ladder

The story goes that
When you are young
You must search for the ladder

Your education is first geared
To find the bottom rung
When you graduate, cap and gown
Thrown asunder, clutching a piece of paper
That says you now hold the key
To take the first step

The first step is not the hardest here
You run towards it, a little afraid
But it feels like you have finally
Found a clue to what
Will keep you busy
For a long time in your life

Now you are part of the ladder
And as you start the climb
There are so many goals to reach
You now meet the others
The race begins

Who will climb the highest
Who will climb the fastest
Who was the youngest
Who was most promising
Who was the smartest

So many superlatives
So many opinions, perceptions
And marked preferences
Tagged, and you are it

Some will lose hope with the climb
Content to stay on the middle rung
Some will rise with each step up
As the atmosphere thins
The perks, first class
A corner office
A coveted parking spot

The ladder holds them in its thrall
And identity is found in a business card
But stories always have a twist
The harder you hold on
The longer you stay
The more you enjoy us vs them
The less time you have to
Contemplate your descent

Unless you found a way
And you understood
That a ladder is one way
Only when propped up
But placed flat on the ground
It shifts from Me to We
It encourages connection
It becomes a path
It becomes a bridge

— Shaku Selvakumar March 2013

Fish in the City
Fish in the City

LinkedIn and the 5 Cs of Success

Most folks who know me know that I have been bullish on LinkedIn for a long time and I recently tweeted that I was in their 1%.  It feels good to be in the 1% of anything even though that narrows me down to 1 in 2 million.

I joined LI in 2005 and at that time very few people I knew were on the platform.  Today, there is one rule of thumb in the business world.  If you have time for only one platform in your busy life, take to LinkedIn.

Customer Centric

Many make the mistake of valuing packaging over substance.  Yes I can’t emphasize enough the value of a great UI, the product features or the importance of design.  But these would be irrelevant if you did not understand your audience.  To rise above the social clutter and to become the preferred medium to a very demanding corporate audience, LI had to capture and conquer the essentials.

They had to become a strong networking site.  They had to provide their audience with the tools to showcase their talents.  They had to bring in the environment that could make it happen.  When I started getting inbox requests from headhunters, I knew their gamble had paid off.  Two key segments accelerated growth.  When the sales team and the C-Suite who are typically too busy to join fanpages on Facebook or tweet about the big event, signed up to connect with their clients and network, it signaled a shift from social plus to meeting a business need.


Initially not a strong player in content curation or creation, this changed when LI acquired Slideshare early 2012. It signaled the arrival of a robust content strategy with context setting.

Leena Rao writes in TechCrunch “LinkedIn has just acquired professional content sharing platform SlideShare for $119 million in cash and stock. SlideShare is a sharing platform for business documents, videos and presentations. SlideShare lets anyone share presentations and video and also serves as a social discovery platform for users to find relevant content and connect with other members who share similar interests. The company also has a huge enterprise following, and companies like IBM and others use the platform to curate content from all of their employees and partners on a branded page. SlideShare users have uploaded more than nine million presentations, and according to comScore, in March SlideShare had nearly 29 million unique visitors.

The acquisition makes a lot of sense from a product point of view. SlideShare recently deepened its integration with LinkedIn, and the two companies have compared their relationship to Chocolate and peanut butter for professionals.”


Connecting on LinkedIn in the past was about your virtual Rolodex.  It stayed dormant and apart from adding the reference tool, LI didn’t have much else to offer than using the site for your resume.  Today, the very ease of being able to endorse your connections for skills with relative ease has changed the nature of the game.   LI understands the essence of business, the power of networking and quid pro quo.  Giving and receiving is the basic currency of society.

According to Peter Rusev at LI, “In less than six months, 1 billion endorsements have been given out on LinkedIn representing thousands of skills, ranging from Visual C++ to Water Treatment and Creative Writing to Fitness.”

Credibility through Influence

I can follow Barack Obama, Tony Robbins or any other from the 220 and growing influencers on LinkedIn. When LI encouraged leaders and subject matter experts to share their knowledge, it embarked on an influencer engagement model that surpasses any other in the field.   In October 2012, LI launched the ability for members to follow an exclusive group of Influencers.  Itamar Orgard writes “Today, the list of influencers has grown to 220 leading professional voices, from the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic to the Chief Scientist at The topics have been equally wide-ranging: The head of a non-profit explaining how to take a sick day; a world-renowned venture capitalist detailing China’s problem with paid spammers (and how to fight back); a bond king asking what we can learn from nepotism in professional football; and an organizational psychologist on why we hate teams at work. Collectively, these influencers have already posted more than 2,300 original posts on LinkedIn.”


I use three social channels regularly for content sharing and context setting.  The others are used but need-dependent.

I said a couple of years ago, when I was speaking on a panel at Content Marketing World, that “Twitter is a bar.  Facebook is your living room and LinkedIn is your corporate happy hour.”  I will amend that.

Twitter is still a bar.  You walk in at 8 am and you may tweet and if nobody is around, your tweet drifts away.  You might have to repeat your order to the bartender a few times before it can get heard.  You will also have to scan the peeps for some are out to just market the bejeezus out of you.  For newcomers, Twitter is a lonely bar. They walk in and nobody knows their name unless they have VIP status.  Then they go straight up to the suite.

Facebook used to be a cozy living room where everyone was assured of a conversation that would stay within the four walls.  But today, Facebook is more like a big fat Indian wedding as the privacy laws have changed.  You know many of the folks there but it depends if you are from the bride or the bridegroom’s side.  There is a lot of eavesdropping.  Everyone is showing off their jewelery and their glittering saris.  You are never sure of the gossip that a single “comment” can evoke.

LinkedIn has stayed consistent to its game.  It used to be just a local office but now it has grown to become a global company.  Here you have more access to your colleagues, you can get a reference, you can convert your profile into a resume.  Then there are water cooler conversations within a group and if you need a private discussion, there is the inbox.  Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn has moved steadily up the ranks without taking sudden, edgy, arrogant “take it or leave it” steps.  Recently, it crossed 200 million users.  Those users have invested time on a platform and have included some personal details.  That is valuable data to possess.  Would I deactivate my account on LI to draw a line between business and personal?
I have business history here.

Consistency is the sister of credibility and trust.  We perceive consistency to be a drudge and the anti thesis of innovation.  That is not true.  Innovation that succeeds and sustains is very often rooted in and stays sane in the slow and steady race onwards.

No, I don’t work for LinkedIn or related to a family member or affiliated with any of their agencies.

Yes, I am bullish on LinkedIn and will stay that way as trust is a currency that doesn’t fluctuate.

Shaku Selvakumar on LinkedIn

1 Billion Endorsements
1 Billion Endorsements