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What do eyeballs and friends have in common with each other? Except for the fact that your friends have eyeballs, not much. Or do they?

Let’s go back to the year 1999, the time the unshakeable belief that so long as you had “eyeballs” on your website, unstoppable riches awaited you. This was the age of web page “hits”, greedy (or gullible?) venture capitalists, and the 24-year-old vice-president. Sadly, it was not the age of business models, integrated marketing strategy, or prudent financial management. When the dot-com crash happened a year later, there shouldn’t have been a surprise.

I was there. I built my first company in 1994 and sold it in 2000. Like today, we were focused on helping traditional organizations with their Internet strategy and then implementing it. We did this for KPMG, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail’s Globefund and GlobeInvestor, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, what is now Workopolis, and many others. These venerable organizations are still around, and are highly reliant on Internet technology as a critical part of their real-world, revenue-focused business model. And as an advisor, we learned lessons along the way about building communities, discussion forums, relationships, and yes, transactions. Because our work was not rooted in “eyeballs”, but in real revenue and real expenses, we prospered along with our clients. Those agencies, consultants, investors, and companies who focused on eyeballs, crashed and burned.

Perhaps we’ve learned something over the last decade, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Instead of chasing eyeballs, people are now chasing Friends, Connections and Followers. We use terms like Twitterverse and Blogosphere, as if everyone truly understood what they meant. While it is true that the number of Friends may be a proxy for influence, unless there is a strong connection to the business model and bottom line, at best the chase is for a chimera.

And like the heyday of 2000, there is a sordid cast of characters who have become instant experts (Social Media Experts) who are whipping the gullible and the greedy into a frenzy. They used to be (and probably still are) experts in advertising, technology, selling information products, market research, and just about every other field. Some probably sold real estate, vacuum cleaners, and all manner of merchandise, before they too jumped on the bandwagon, started a blog, and are now the new gurus.

And what do we see when we look at the companies that are “successful”?  Twitter still doesn’t have a business model – yet they are able to raise millions of dollars without blinking. Groupon – which does have a business model, turned down a six billion dollar takeover bid several years ago.  Facebook, which does have a business model, is a public company with $350 billion valuation: incredible. And explain the 26 billion recently paid by Microsoft for LinkedIn?  (I did try in an earlier post.)  Beyond these players there are 500+ other Social Networking sites that are clamoring to be our Friends.  Its “eyeballs” all over again.

What does this mean? I may be proven wrong, but I believe we’re in line for another huge tech crash. Yes, there will be a number of big deals, but we can only have so many Friends. And investors will eventually wake up.

This week’s action plan:  Is your organization’s strategy dependent on any particular social site?  If you don’t have a plan to collect your relationships in an owned-by-you database, now would be a good time to start.

Action plan #2: It might also be a good idea to look at your stock portfolio.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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Viewpoint: Microsoft LinkedIn

by Randall Craig on June 24, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Strategy, Viewpoint

Tagged as: , ,

What do you do if you have a spare 26 billion hanging around? If you are Microsoft, you buy professional social networking site  What do you do if you are an avid LinkedIn user, or if LinkedIn is central to your organization’s engagement and marketing plans?   Be happy, but just maybe, also be careful.

Firstly, why would Microsoft make the purchase?  In many ways, Microsoft is like the Queen Mary: beautiful, but also big, bloated, and slow-to-turn. Its strength has always been on the desktop, with the one-two punch of the Windows operating system and the MS-Office suite.  Arguably, it has not been able to capitalize on most of the internet and social media revolution, ceding leadership to the likes of Google, YouTube (eg Google again), Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and many others. Slowly but surely, it has been adding cloud-based services, some built internally (Office 365, Azure cloud platform, and others), and some purchased (such as Skype).  So why LinkedIn?  Nine reasons…

  1. Microsoft can sell premium LinkedIn memberships as add-ons to other SAAS (Software as a service) offerings.  It can also tightly integrate it with Bing and its ad sales platform.
  2. Access to proprietary underlying data within LinkedIn can improve Microsoft’s ability to market and to sell.
  3. Integration with Outlook, Yammer, Dynamics CRM, Skype, Office 365, and other software-as-a-service offerings.  No longer need Microsoft’s products be differentiated based solely on technology, but possibly also by being powered by LinkedIn relationships.  (One example: a re-worked Dynamics CRM and LinkedIn Sales Navigator product/service.)
  4. They already own 1.5% of Facebook, but have been unable to parlay this ownership stake into any type of strategic advantage.  (It was an astute financial investment though.)
  5. The purchase will help transform Microsoft from a “pure” software company to a social media company, allowing a deeper integration into people’s lives.  This might mean using LinkedIn technology on their Xbox platform and their other consumer offerings.
  6. The build-vs-buy decision:  It is pretty much impossible to build a LinkedIn replacement – it is unique in the marketplace. Their only option was to buy.
  7. The purchase represents a defensive move against other potential acquirers, including Google, Apple, Salesforce, Facebook, and others.
  8. As part of the acquisition, Microsoft also got their hands on, arguably the world’s foremost training platform, an important potential advertising venue, and just perhaps, another lease on life for Bing.
  9. Finally, the very large Microsoft corporate sales organization now has another reason to knock on the corporate America’s doors.

It’s unlikely Microsoft will rush to immediately monetize their purchase. As some users may be spooked, Microsoft may wish to leave LinkedIn untouched for a period of time – much the same way they have done with Skype.

So what does this all mean?  On one hand, significant potential, particularly with the integration of LinkedIn data with Microsoft’s SAAS offerings. On the other hand, significant business risk:  Do you really want to be tenants in another business’ rental unit? We may think that we own our marketing destiny, but we don’t: if the machinery (or social venue) is owned by someone else, whether we pay with our credit cards or pay with our data, we are tenants.  And tenants are subject to the whims of the landlord.  (For those who follow, here is a very short list of Microsoft’s technologies that are no longer around:  Zune, Silverlight, Windows Live Spaces, KIN, various Windows mobile technologies, Microsoft Money, Windows RT tablets, Windows Media Center, and dozens more.)

This week’s action plan:  What would happen if Microsoft fundamentally changed the LinkedIn ground rules?  Perhaps by changing the economic model, or by limiting key-for-you functionality, or by using your data for their own purposes?  This week, look at these three scenarios, and find a way to limit your exposure.  (Hint:  one way is to migrate your relationships from LinkedIn into a CRM such as Salesforce.)

Management insight:  For a number of LinkedIn employees (and potential employees), the idea of working for the slo-mo Microsoft may be less interesting than working for an exciting new-economy success story.  Look for the inevitable exit of veterans, and a somewhat more difficult task of recruiting the best and the brightest.  While the acquisition price was $26 billion, much of the company’s  future value will be derived through what the current employees will be able to do.  The importance of employee retention plans can’t be overstated.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)




LinkedIn Connection Policy

by Randall Craig May 27, 2016

Do you accept every LinkedIn connection request that comes your way?  Or are you somewhat selective? More importantly, is there an overall approach that can help you make this decision in a somewhat more strategic manner? The case for an exclusive black book strategy: Relationships are all about depth, not breadth:  Accepting only your strongest […]

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Viewpoint: The End of Twitter?

by Randall Craig March 25, 2016

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Twitter is in its death throes. It won’t be around in just a few short years. And when this happens, there will be no shortage of pundits who: “saw it all coming”, or perhaps “Twitter is dead – long live Twitter!” It wouldn’t be the first Social Media death. Consider those who […]

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Identifying and reducing Facebook risks

by Randall Craig October 23, 2015

While many people enjoy Facebook for personal use (connections to family and friends, posting photos, playing games), does it really have a role in business? Whether the answer is yes or no, one thing is certain: Facebook represents a risk vector that must be considered.  In no particular order, here are five risks to consider – […]

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LinkedIn Connection Policies

by Randall Craig April 10, 2015

Must you be everyone’s friend?  Or perhaps from a practical perspective, must you accept everyone’s LinkedIn connection request?  The answer for most people, and for many reasons, is a resounding no. It is true that accepting a connection request yields numerous benefits, particularly around increased access and transparency: More of the data on your connection’s […]

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Social Media: Buy or Rent?

by Randall Craig September 5, 2014

What do houses, cars, and Social Media all have in common?  For one thing, they all share a primary question:  Buy or Rent.  Buy a house, or look for a rental?  Buy a car, or lease it?  And should we rent our Social Media, or build our own? Most leaders don’t even think about this […]

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LinkedIn Groups: to join or not?

by Randall Craig June 13, 2014

“You have been invited to be part of the LinkedIn group ABCDE.”  With millions of groups available and more created every day, it is tempting to join – but should you? There is nothing wrong with a gut decision to click the join button, but there is also nothing wrong with thinking a bit more […]

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Social Media Slimming Down: Costly or Gone

by Randall Craig April 25, 2014

There is no question that LinkedIn is one of the most powerful networking platforms around. It connects, credentializes, and recruits. It provides a glimpse into the professional lives of those we know, and those we don’t. But it has been providing less, and less, and less. Consider the following: LinkedIn answers – gone LinkedIn polls […]

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Four Steps from Social Strategy to Successful Sales

by Randall Craig October 18, 2013

With all of the focus on social media strategy, wouldn’t it be nice to actually use social media to grow sales? Not improve awareness, develop the brand, help with marketing, or “continue the conversation”. But actually sell. Here are four ways that social media can be use to sell services. (Stay tuned next week for […]

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LinkedIn Crowdsourcing

by Randall Craig November 16, 2012

Are you befuddled whenever a new “feature” gets added to your favorite Social Media site?  Or are you excited about the possibility that the new feature may unlock for you?  The Endorsement feature of LinkedIn holds fascinating possibilities, but unlike every other part of your profile, it is the one that is completely beyond your […]

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How great are you? Endorsements and Recommendations

by Randall Craig November 8, 2012

How good are you, really?  While we all may have our own (sometimes inflated) opinions of our greatness, the reality of our expertise – and our personal brand – is always defined by others.  Social Media, for the first time ever, gives us the opportunity to find this out directly. Here are some ideas on […]

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by Randall Craig July 20, 2012

How often have you run into a creative roadblock? Or you were stumped with a problem that you couldn’t figure out? When this happens, we are usually operating under a conventional wisdom that artificially closes the door to possibility. To break the block, one need only ask for help from ever-widening circles: colleagues, community, and […]

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LinkedInvestment: Eight ways to improve your Social ROI

by Randall Craig April 19, 2012

If you spend 10 minutes on LinkedIn each business day for the last two years, you’ve made an investment of 86 hours… or two weeks of vacation. Up that to 15 minutes, and you’ve gobbled three weeks over the year.  How satisfied are you with the return on your time investment?  If you’re like most, […]

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Can you ever have too many friends? (yes)

by Randall Craig March 29, 2012

Do you play the milestone game with your Social Media accounts? When you first sign up, you aim for ten connections.  Then 50, 100, 250, and finally the coveted 500 – you’ve arrived.  And then you aim for 1000.  How many is too many? As I look at my own LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, it […]

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Seven Social Media Job Search Steps

by Randall Craig March 8, 2012

Even from the most committed employees, one question comes up over and over again: how to use Social Media to find your next job.  It might be couched in different language (How do I develop professional profile/How do I take advantage of Social tools for support, etc), but the question remains.  How can you use […]

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Social Media Stop Sign

by Randall Craig September 13, 2011

How long ago did you (or your organization) start your Social Media “work”?  Likely, a few years ago.  First came LinkedIn: you filled out your profile, asked for (and responded to) connection requests.  Then you asked for (and responded to) recommendation requests, asked (and responded to) questions, and joined a number of groups.  Then you […]

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Location or Credibility?

by Randall Craig December 28, 2010

With so many Social Media sites out there, where should you spend your time? In the “olden days” of just a few short years ago, it was fairly simple: For business, spend time on LinkedIn. For personal, use Facebook (or in the “real” olden days, use MySpace). If you have videos, then go to YouTube. […]

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Network Strength

by Randall Craig November 10, 2010

How powerful is your network? Or rather, how do you make your network even more powerful than it already is? Try these four strategies: 1) Go Wide: Get more people onto your network list. This is often done at networking events. 2) Go for Quality: Get “better”, more relevant people onto your list. This is […]

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Personal Blog Branding

by Randall Craig October 6, 2010

“You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” This is the siren song of personal branding, and is what causes millions of people to think carefully about what they wear each day. Too bad though, that in today’s too-fast social media world, the first impression does not come from your clothing, but […]

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