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

Future Flux at SXSW 2012

Southby Interactive kicked off last Friday with unprecedented rain, traffic and long queues that took a couple of hours for attendees just to pick up their badges.  What do you do when you are in a long queue?  Two things, you can either pick up your smart phone or ipad and check emails, make calls and occasionally mumble about wondering if you were ever going to find the holy grail or you could start a conversation with the person next to you.

So I ended up talking to Katie in front of me who was a creative director of a boutique agency from New York and Pavan who hailed from the West Coast working for Cisco.  We spoke about why she co founded her own company and how business was booming for certain industries, why talent is always valued.  Suddenly the queue didn’t matter so much.  You also realize that while social channels enable faster communications and provide the ability to stay in touch, connections are essentially made by people reaching out.

I call SXSWi the woodstock for social geeks.  There were sessions on emerging technology,  Lean American and start ups were the domain of the Hilton, the keynotes and yoga were owned by the Austin Convention Center, Sheraton covered Journalism/Media, Hilton Garden covered New Business, Mariott provided food for thought on the Future of Work. I am sure I have missed out a few.  Book signings by known and unknown authors with business booming at the Barnes and Noble bookstore.  In addition, Screenburn at the Palmer Event Center was dedicated to gaming and a Tradeshow that opened on Monday where one could load up on some great swag.  There were sponsors with networking lounges.  Breakfast, lunch and evening parties.  No dearth of the good liquid and I am not talking water here.

SXSW depends on its volunteers who keep the this 9 day show combining Film, Music and Interactive and this year there were over 2000 volunteers at SXSWi.

What I learnt:

Big change is here.  It was a concurrent theme.  Use the technology to be the change.  Adapt or die.  I know, pretty drastic.  But like Kat Mandelstein’s presentation, Small is the new Big and Big is the new small.  Your business, whether you are a small business owner or a large enterprise, how well you leverage the tools that are there is going to make the difference on whether you are around for the next decade.  I had the opportunity to listen to Matt Barrie, CEO of and talk to him later about business models changing with companies and independents bidding for work done and delivered from any corner of the world.  The day of the agile worker is here. Fast company’s panel featuring Pete Cashmore, Baratunde Thurston, DJ Patil, Raina Kumra, Beth Comstock, Danah Boyd and Bob Greenberg on Generation Flux sums it up as chaos so be nimble, adaptable and unafraid.  Get ready for the four year career, with job tenure getting shorter and constantly updating your skill set, becoming the new normal.

Digital Engagement: For those who think the social layer is about Facebook and Twitter or even Pinterest, think again.  The social layer is affecting every part of business.  From the way products are being developed for consumers, to distribution, to pricing to promotion.  The end user is collaborating internally and externally in defining how industries adapt.  Companies, like Amazon which is now giving Walmart a run for its money, who understand the integrated ecosystem and digital experience will bring in the dollars.

Social Voice Opening keynote Baratunde Thurston talked about comedy and satire to bring about social change.  From Eygpt to Iran to America.  Comedy is not a laughing matter anymore.  There is a growing concern to shine the spotlight on corruption and greed.  The power of the internet and social media channels are allowing for individuals to come together to affect change on policies that even five years ago would not have been contemplated.  Think Susan B Komen.  Think Kony.  Think SOPA/PIPA.

Citizens not consumers. “We are the ones we have been waiting for” Stop complaining about the problem and be part of the solution.  Code for America founder, Jennifer Pahlka’s rallied passionately about American cities needing its people to step up and help.  Pahlka worked with Tim O’Reilly and Web 2.0 before starting this program which is helping cities across America by working with developers.  Pahlka showcased some good examples of the cities stepping up and stated that government does not equal politics and we should enable collective action through technology.  Her 7 ways that you can help included going into public service, joining the brigade, leveraging open data, living like citizens not consumers by helping the government and taking part in rewiring society.  Her speech ended up inspiring one person to actually tweet “Pahlka for President” 🙂

The Future is Magnificent if you prepare for it. I had heard Ray Kurzweil keynote at IBM’s Impact Conference two years ago and was looking forward to the keynote at SXSWi and he didn’t disappoint.  On Monday, Ray spoke to the audience first and was then interviewed by Lev Grossman, Time magazine and author of The Magician, Codex and others.  Ray spoke about technological singularity which is about a time when human beings and artificial intelligence will combine to accelerate innovation at unprecedented speed.  Calling out IBM’s Watson which could understand the subtlety of language, he predicted that search engines would be able to search conversations to predict human requirements.   These technologies will be at 1000 times more powerful in 1o years.  He also spoke about the promise vs the peril of biotechnology about the greater good vs its use for bio terrorism.  Every other aspect of biology is scaling exponentially.  We are walking around with updated software in our body.  Health and medicine is now information technology.  In twenty years, nanobots in your bloodstream will make you live longer.  Ray Kurzweil is essentially an optimist who believes that “we truly are what we think”.

Beam me up, Scotty.  Who knows what the future holds.

Pin this Many of us are into pinning and it was a treat to listen to Pinterest co founder Ben Silbermann talk to Chris Dixon. What I enjoyed was the honest, down to earth conversation where Ben speaks about the importance of relationships, getting thick skinned about your dream, seeing failure as one more option that is off the table, the importance of the team, staying in touch with the initial users whose feedback helped modify the platform and of course not taking too much advice.  Every company must cut its own path.  Chris Dixon did an excellent job asking the right questions.  We often underestimate the importance of the interviewer and that a good interview becomes a great conversation.

Gaming is not child’s play.  There were many sessions on gaming and SoLoMo.  The one I enjoyed most was designer of alternate reality games, Jane McGonigal’s talk about her game SuperBetter.  In 2009 after she suffered a mild traumatic brain injury that almost made her suicidal, Jane used gaming to bring her back from the edge. According to Jane, “SuperBetter helps you achieve your health goals — or recover from an illness or injury — by increasing your personal resilience. Resilience means staying curious, optimistic and motivated even in the face of the toughest challenges.” Jane keynotes at IBM Impact this May as well so I am looking forward to hearing her again.

Technology matters.  But art makes the merger magic.  Of course you can’t go to SXSW and not be touched by the immense creativity of its artists.  I had to listen to Joss Whedon as I am a huge Buffy fan.  The Slayer was created at a time when vampires weren’t fashionable.  The series covered groundbreaking topics in its story arc over 7 seasons.  Despite being shunted out of Fox and then landing at UPN, Whedon continued to blaze a trail.

Heard film maker Kirby Ferguson discuss with author Austin Kleon on how everything is a remix.  We constantly are influenced by others and derivative work and mashups are the new norm.

Lisa Kudrow joined a panel to discuss the success of web originals.  She jokes, very Phoebe like, about how people looked down on her when she started making Web Therapy which is in its fourth season.  The success of Web Therapy , Felicia Day’s Dragon Age and others, with the crossover of the web and TV, we are seeing shifts in entertainment, advertising and studio funding.

Daniel Burwen, Cognito Comics talked about taking comic book content on a game layer with interactive features to readers through the iPad.  Like Kindle disrupted the book, Cognito takes the digital pen to comics

Social Spirit

Heard Rainn “Dwight Shrute” Wilson go from extremely funny to spiritual with his Soul Pancake philosophy.  It was actually humanizing in many ways to see someone who is known for being thick skinned and boorish on TV talk to a huge audience about what really mattered to him.  “Soul pancake because spirit taco and metaphysical milkshake was taken”

Post Secret was started by Frank Warren as a blogspot project encouraging people to share their secrets about pain, fear, joy and ease their burden via anonymous postcards.  Based on the number of postcards they received about people with suicidal thoughts, the site put up a suicide watch on Facebook.  The site has more than a million fans.  At SXSW, the entire presentation was put to music by Blue Brain Music which released its location based music testing app.

Starting Up with Lean America I try to make time to see the start up accelerator which is a little like American Idol only the company gets about 15 mins to pitch in front of a panel of  judges and the audience gets to ask questions too.  These were the ones I heard.  If I had the time, I would have stayed the entire day to listen to these great ideas.  Last year, I heard Hipmunk and Storify present.  Both award winners. : Slovenian startup that provides an easy way to make free calls to other users from a landline, iphone or through the web.  Provides profile urls and disposable urls. : Austin based Facebook app that allows students to collaborate with classmates and teachers for study requirements and tutoring.

SceneTap: Another Austin based start up that utilizes facial recognition technology to track customer analytics in a venue or particular space.  Provides an admin tool for venue operators and a social network for consumers.  Politicians should worry about this app 🙂

Votifi : A mobile polling and analytics company that helps people explore issues.  Could be useful for governments to ascertain voter pulse.

Thirst: Mobile app that aggregates updates from Twitter, Facebook etc by topic so the user doesn’t miss key conversations.

Word! At the Bookstore

If you can say it, we’ll draw it. By ogilvynotes.  I still have their keynote infographics from last year and true to form, they commissioned artists to capture the essence of core sessions and provided copies for the attendees.  For those interested, go to to download these.

The company I keptThe highlight of any conference was, yes, you guessed it, the people I got to meet.  I got to match the voices to the faces of the many cool IBMers I work with mainly on our conference calls.  The IBM Social Lounge had a stream of visitors and marquee interviews.

I also enjoyed my own company.  When you head out on your own, there are places you will go and people you will meet whom you never thought you would meet.  Umm, yes that is me with a Glomper.

Shaku and the Glomper. Picture by Ryan Boyles