Why LinkedIn Should Have A Virtual Currency

The news of Facebook discussing plans for its virtual currency made me wonder about the social network where a virtual currency really makes sense: LinkedIn.

First, a quick recap of LinkedIn demographic data (see this TechCrunch presentation from last year, and this recent RWW post):

  • 50 million professionals worldwide (25 US, 11 EU)
  • Affluent (Average Income $89K, 24% have Portfolios of $250K+)
  • Highly Educated (95% College Educated, 37% Post-Grads)
  • Own more electronic gadgets than users of any other network
  • Decision Makers (Business, IT, Consulting, Marketing, Travel, etc.)
  • Interested in Gambling (12%, against average 7%)

LinkedIn_logo_1

If LinkedIn introduces a virtual currency model, it can allow Users to purchase or win “Credits”, while Businesses can make deals with LinkedIn to run surveys, campaigns, and quizzes (gasp!) to enable users to win credits. Here are some ways how it can be beneficial for LinkedIn, its users, and businesses:

  1. Get Product Roadmap Feedback: It has become a trend to gather user feedback to prioritize new features and help define the product roadmap. But seriously, how many times have you offered feedback for a product you don’t use in the first place? This strategy doesn’t help to increase your market share and attract users who don’t use your product.
    On LinkedIn, businesses can offer credits to users at a nominal cost for giving feedback on product feature set and roadmap.
  2. Increase LinkedIn Ad Revenue: LinkedIn users spend an average of 6 minutes on the site. LinkedIn launched its own advertising network last year, but it’s still not effective. Now imagine a LinkedIn with quizzes and polls where you earn credits in return.
    Credits will incentivize users to spend more time on LinkedIn, thus increasing the efficacy of its overall advertising.
  3. Direct Access to Crowd-Sourced Wisdom: Want to know Android market penetration in the US by mid next year? Windows 7 adoption in enterprises by Q2 2010? Today, you need to purchase expensive forecast reports by analysts that often contradict each other. If you ask LinkedIn users in a poll, you won’t need that analyst report, further accelerating the death of the middleman.
    Businesses get direct access to crowd-sourced wisdom if LinkedIn users are incentivized with credits.
  4. Know Your Users & Target Market: Whenever LinkedIn users opt to participate in a poll or survey, their profile information can be shared anonymously. Age, Sex, Professional Experience, Industry, etc. can be vital feedback to marketers for branding, positioning, and advertising.
    Marketing can get access to user and market demographics if LinkedIn users are incentivized with credits.
  5. Event and Conference Planning & Feedback: Through surveys and polls, users interested in attending a conference can vote on venues, agenda, content, etc. Quiz winners can win free tickets to the event. Feedback from conference attendees is usually minimal due to lack of incentive, another area where LinkedIn users can help improve the quality of the next event.
    You can have focused Events & better Conferences by availing LinkedIn user feedback.
  6. Value Added Features for Elite Users: Currently, LinkedIn offers paid accounts meant for businesses, staffing agencies, and search firms. The problem? Features like Profile Organizer remain largely underutilized even if they may be extremely useful for individual professionals not willing to shell out $25 or more for paid accounts.
    ”Elite Users” with sufficient credits can access premium features of the site, thereby increasing its value to users and further increasing engagement.
  7. Enhance LinkedIn Question & Answers: The LinkedIn Answers feature promotes you as an “Expert” if you provide best answers to questions. If users were incentivized with credits for becoming Experts, many more users will engage with this LinkedIn feature.
    If Experts are rewarded with credits, more users will answer questions, and the overall efficacy of the feature will improve.

These are just some of the examples of why it makes sense for LinkedIn to introduce a virtual currency. Share your thoughts in the comments!

This entry was posted in Social Web and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Curmudgeon

    I suspect this will fail BECAUSE the audience of linkedin is so much better educated. Presumably they learned some critical thinking skills in school.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Not sure I get your drift. This will fail because they learnt critical thinking?

    Needless to say, incentives should match the audience needs. Free copies to great business book, free tickets to conferences, discounts for travel, the possibilities for user benefits are endless.

  • Curt Sampson

    If LinkedIn users are relatively wealthy and can already afford to buy whatever they like, what's going to be the attraction of LinkedIn credits to them?

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Thanks for your comment, Curt.

    I think virtual currencies often work more for psychological reasons than financial ones. Wealthy folks still like to accumulate air miles, credit card reward points, and so on as long as they get something beneficial in exchange. Being able to afford something doesn't stop one from looking for bargains!

  • Curmudgeon

    I suppose my line of thinking is as follows: Most of the benefit in this situation is at the expense of the users (marketing data is more valuable than coupons, and most people are not excited about better targeted marketing). The critical thinking skills we learned provide the tools to realize this and as such most of my demographic is not excited by points and other currency substitutes in relation to tangible goods. Like subsequent posters have mentioned, the most successful virtual currencies are tied to games, but gaming doesn't seem like a good fit for LinkedIn's brand.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion, Curmudgeon. More food for thought…:)

  • louisemurphy

    I do agree that the draw for already available premium services wouldn't be much of an attraction to someone who can already easily afford it, but if there were services or options available that could ONLY be obtained by getting enough credits, and it seemed valuable enough to my business I would absolutely go for it. It could be for example a highest contributers page on the front page of linkedin which would increase your own exposure, or some other services. Being able to obtain market data back from other linkedin users sounds like a pretty great idea, one I would definitely want to use, maybe by participating in so many polls or feedback you could earn credit to hold your own. I think Curmudgeon is right in the sense that it has to be seen as something very valuable for the community on linkedin to spend more time doing this.

  • http://www.skepticgeek.com Mahendra

    Louisemurphy, thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion! Yes, the thrust of my post was to point to possibilities that can emerge via such a model, not to lay down the specific mechanics of how it can be achieved.

    Credits have to give benefit as perceived by LinkedIn users. And I think it is quite possible to devise such incentives.

  • http://www.daniellieberman.org/djlblog/ Daniel Lieberman

    That's an interesting idea. Being able to spend LinkedIn virtual currency on premium services seems like it would be a win for everybody. LinkedIn would get more content and more eyeballs, which would allow them to maximise advertising revenue, while the users who get credits would have access to more of the services without shelling out 'real' money. Nice.