LinkedIn, a popular online networking service recently purchased content management startup, Rapportive, for around a whopping $15M. It is unclear what LinkedIn plans to do with the new assets. The purchase is the latest move in a strategic string of investments. In addition to Rapportive, LinkedIn recently purchased Cardmunch and ConnectedHQ. There is some speculation in the blogosphere that the purchases may be related to a new service LinkedIn plans to roll out. The networking site could certainly use some new blood.
LinkedIn boasts that it's the largest professional network in the world, with more than 135 million members. There is no doubting the service's usefulness, as represented by the sheer number of subscribers. LinkedIn gives professionals a place to be seen by potential clients, employers and business partners. The casual nature of other social networking sites, like Facebook and Twitter has made it an awkward, if not reputation damaging, place to network professionally. It's simple enough to make private social networking accounts for friends and family, but lacking a professional online presence completely means missing out on potential income.
One of the main reasons for LinkedIn's success is how simple it is to use. Just like with most resources, you reap what you sow. The amount of effort put into creating and maintaining a LinkedIn profile is directly related to the potential connections and income available. Once the profile is established, however, it is pretty easy to forget about. This is one of the primary complaints surrounding the service. It's hard to see the direct benefits from keeping your profile on LinkedIn, besides the occasional suggested connections popping up in your inbox.
Fortunately, the recent acquisition of Rapportive may indicate that LinkedIn is trying to breath some life into their services. It's still too early to tell if, when, and how these purchases might affect LinkedIn's customers, but a peak at what Rapportive does gives us some food for thought. The service provided by Rapportive is called contact management. It claims to collect and display information about your email contacts. Instead of Googling a new contact, information about that person is displayed right in your email's inbox.
Rapportive collects information from online sources and displays photos, location, and employment information about contacts. At first glance, the service seems a bit invasive, considering the types of photos an information sometimes posted online. However, these features simply make it easier for contacts to gain access to information that is already available. The stated purpose is to help people establish rapport with business associates, clients and employers.
The features would make it easy to connect on other social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. The theory is that the better you understand someone, the more benefit each person can get from the relationship. There is still a place for boundaries, but why not share surface-level information, such as the town you live in, political views and hobbies. Not only can you more easily connect on shared interests, this information could also help avoid stepping in hot water in areas you disagree.