LinkedIn's next target: Yammer, Salesforce Chatter?

Yammer and Salesforce, beware. Chief Executive Jeff Weiner said the professional network is cooking up private, collaborative tools for a corporate clientele.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
2 min read

LinkedIn is chewing over a product that would help facilitate private communication for enterprises and allow staffers to better benefit from their rolodex on the professional network.

The vast majority of sharing on LinkedIn happens in public, Chief Executive Jeff Weiner said Monday during an appearance at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, & Telecom Conference. So, to create value for enterprises, the one area where the healthy company is admittedly lacking, LinkedIn needs to think about creating private-sharing tools that work behind the firewall, he said.

LinkedIn is doing a lot more than thinking -- it's eating. Weiner used the phrase "eat at our own restaurant" -- to stand in for the term "dogfooding" used by other companies -- to explain that the social network for professionals is currently internally testing a private-sharing option that works behind the corporate firewall and helps enterprises share privately.

What these enterprise, private-sharing tools look like or do exactly is still very much a mystery, but it certainly seems as if LinkedIn hopes to turn enterprise employee rolodexes, accumulated from years of activity on the site, into more active recruiting and lead-qualifying assets. Weiner also suggested that his company could help enterprises with search, and help people inside a company gain and share access to additional information on members, data not available to others.

Sounds like the beginnings of a customer relationship management system or private corporate social network, doesn't it? Yammer and Salesforce, beware.

LinkedIn has hinted at CRM and in-enterprise social-networking interests before. The company acquired a social CRM product called Connected in late 2011, and then picked up the social intelligence plugin Rapportive last year. Both tools help people automatically glean more information about their contacts.

Weiner has also talked openly on the site's desire to court enterprises.

"We're focused on creating value by helping [enterprises] transform the way they hire, market, and sell," he said on LinkedIn's fourth-quarter earnings call, where he stressed that the sales piece was of particular interest. "The core value proposition there is enabling companies to eliminate cold calls in favor of warm prospects."

To that end, LinkedIn has already introduced a premium product called Sales Navigator that integrates with other CMS systems. But clearly, there's more to be done -- or eat, rather -- on the enterprise front, particularly as Weiner said the segment represents a "multibillion dollar" pie.