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30 Years of Macintosh, LinkedIn, and your association’s need to reinvent

by | Jan 31, 2014 | Industry News & Trends

Last week Apple’s Macintosh computer turned 30. It’s hard to imagine it has been that long since the venerable Mac debuted. It’s remarkable how little today’s Mac resembles the original product that came from the grand vision driven by the late Steve Jobs. I really liked my Mac I got in 1984 with its little nine-inch screen. Today, I need a 27-inch monitor to do my work. It seems that my eyes have changed a lot over the last 30 years, as well.

I was watching a newly released video of Steve Jobs speaking about the launch of the Macintosh at the 1984 Apple shareholders meeting, just after the broadcast of the 1984 Super Bowl commercial, still considered the most successful TV commercial ever – and it only played once on network TV.

During his presentation Jobs painted a picture that pitted Apple and the company’s vision for the future of personal computing against their primary adversary, IBM – no, it wasn’t Microsoft or Samsung then. There was some interesting foreshadowing in the speech as Jobs talked about IBM’s missed opportunities and miscalculations through the years which had allowed major competitors to be born and thrive simply because IBM didn’t take them seriously. Going back to 1958, Xerox, DEC, Microsoft, and Apple, were all given life through IBM’s lack of interest or indifference to changing technology. So many of the ideas that launched these tech giants IBM thought would never amount to anything in the business world. The valuable lesson to be learned from IBM is how a lack of awareness of the marketplace can ultimately cost you.

Apple soon had to learn that lesson as well, as Jobs was exiled and a dysfunctional Apple gave Microsoft a clear path to dominate the personal computing market. Apple would suffer greatly for 12 years, becoming virtually irrelevant until Jobs’ return act in 1997, taking control of Apple and basically reinventing the company he had started with Steve Wozniak in the 70’s. That reinvention meant Apple had to “think differently” and ultimately do things differently in order to survive. Apple did all of that and more, as we see today’s Apple is less about personal computing and more about a much bigger vision of what technology can and should do for people in their daily lives.

So how does this relate to associations today? Like Apple, changes in technology are pushing associations to reinvent themselves, requiring them to reexamine the programs and services they offer as the needs of their members change. Technology has taken away the exclusive hold associations traditionally enjoyed around content and services relative to their respective industries.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the new ominous threat that associations will need to face from none other than LinkedIn. We are talking about the social media giant’s strategy to become a disruptive force in the traditional job search market in 2014. LinkedIn is quickly positioning itself as “the place to go not only to find a new job, but become better at the job you are currently in.”

That mission creep should be of concern to all associations, because LinkedIn’s vision will soon involve not just job boards, but potentially continuing education and other content offerings traditionally provided by associations. And if your association has a strong presence on LinkedIn, the information your members submit and make available through your LinkedIn page will be directly feeding into LinkedIn’s strategy. How do I know this? Because I am constantly being marketed to by them. I receive weekly, unsolicited job opportunity alerts. All of these convenient services from LinkedIn and I haven’t paid them a dime. As I mentioned in my earlier piece, if your members are turning to LinkedIn for those services, then they are turning away from your organization.

I’m not suggesting that LinkedIn is the ominous “big brother” figure Apple portrayed IBM to be in their 1984 commercial, because, after all, it’s 2014 and they do provide a community for business professionals. But to the association world the products and services being offered by LinkedIn make them a little bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. LinkedIn has an aggressive goal that they are executing on, and the very people associations serve are their target demographic – especially millennials ready to enter the workforce.

But there are still great opportunities for associations in the job board space. According to US News and World Report, industry-specific job boards are more useful to employers than the larger job boards. In the article it stated, “smaller companies in particular often prefer using niche boards to find applicants because they tend to get responses from higher quality candidates, which means they have to sift through fewer applications to find the right hire.” That article was published in 2011 and it is still true today.

And while there are many niche job boards available to job seekers and employers, associations utilizing a career center offer a unique value that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. The level of commitment and domain expertise from association members is a valuable asset not to be overlooked by employers seeking the most qualified candidates for their open positions.

YourMembership recently held a webinar titled Social Networking, Mission Creep, and the 2014 Job Market: The Potential Risks and Rewards for Your Association that further expands on this topic. In the webinar we addressed why associations should be concerned about LinkedIn, especially if they do not have a strategy in place focused on job boards or career centers. We also outlined why it is important for associations to be recognized as the career resource for their members and industry, and provided information to help associations make the right decision for their organization moving forward.


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