identity_insideHow did LinkedIn get its growth? By SEO optimizing your online resume. And to this day, LinkedIn remains the king of online professional identity. However, that may be changing as our use of online identity is evolving, thanks to services like About.me and Vizify. Our identity today is about telling a story of what we’ve done, not just stating it.

The new need for online identity

The line between professional and social is blurring. According to an InSites Consulting study, 24 percent of people used Facebook for both personal and professional reasons. I believe this is a product of people wanting to show who they are and what they’ve done, in a single cohesive identity. As of today, there’s no real way to truly showcase who I am on LinkedIn, nor is there a way to showcase what I’ve done visually or via a story.

That’s where services like About.me and Vizify come in — they’ve done a phenomenal job of enabling you to tell a story about who you are from both of those perspectives. On About.me, I’m able to both pick a picture and write about myself in free form text, which enables me to paint my own character portrait. Additionally, both Vizify and About.me help me aggregate content about what I’ve done from other places. Chances are, I probably have a couple awesome videos, or pictures, or articles showcasing what I’ve done, and I probably want those items published front and center in my profile.

Engagement is still the answer

However, where LinkedIn still succeeds is at engagement. Since the day they launched, LinkedIn understood that the key to engagement and retention lies in enabling users to discover one another and connect. Sure, I don’t go back to LinkedIn everyday, but I definitely will the day I need to find a PM at X company. LinkedIn understood that in order for people to come back and use their service, they had to give their users very targeted tools for discovery. Their advanced search function alone makes it so that LinkedIn has a use case beyond just setting up a profile and disappearing.

The key to services like Vizify, Flavors.me, and About.me, is giving me a reason to return, which neither has quite done yet. What’s interesting is that the blueprint to get me to engage has been spelled out for them: Give me the tools I need to precisely discover exactly who I’m looking for, and the reasons I should connect with them. Capture my intent, let me express what I’m looking for, and let people discover ways to connect with me.

The future of online identity

With better discovery tools, and a better forum for expressing online identity, services like About.me are likely to define a new space of universal people discovery: One that goes far beyond the limited niche of professional networking.

LinkedIn’s use case is extremely targeted and niche: sales, job seekers, recruiters, and the occasional networker. The use cases for services like About.me and Vizify are significantly broader: you could use About.me’s search to find people you want to start a cycling club with, just like you could find your next job. The magic of connecting with people around identity services like About.me and Vizify, is that they enable users to truly get an understanding of who they’re connecting with on a deeper more meaningful level. Expression leads to a stronger identity, which in turn will lead to a better way to meet people online.

Luckily for us, it seems that About.me has already dipped its toe in the water on this one, when it recently rolled out the low friction “Compliment” feature. The feature is pretty smart: It enables me to signal interest in either a social or professional way, without having to justify why I’m reaching out via an elaborate email. Vizify is still new, but I would imagine they will also be looking at connectivity between members of their service relatively soon, and that with the data they have on people, the connectivity will be relatively strong.

[Image courtesy Mrs Magic]