LinkedIn founder: Employees should be treated as company "alumni"

LinkedIn and Evernote's founders also ponder whether or not LinkedIn is actually a social network.

SAN FRANCISCO—Some people might argue that customers are the best brand ambassadors.

In fact, it might be your current (and former) employees.

LinkedIn co-founder and chairman Reid Hoffman elaborated on this thesis while sitting down with Evernote CEO Phil Libin at the software maker's EC4 developer conference on Friday.

When you have people who come and do a "tour of duty" at your company, Hoffman explained, you will end up with a huge amount of alumni out in the world. 

If you managed the relationship well, he continued, then you have positive ambassadors — potentially around the world if not just the country — for your company.

Libin reflected on LinkedIn's branding, observing that people think of it as a social network — mainly because it came up around the same time as Friendster (and later Facebook). But Libin speculated that it's not really a social network anymore.

Whatever it might be, LinkedIn stands at more than 300 million users worldwide and counting. Evernote now counts more than 100 million users itself.

Hoffman replied that the platform does offer "a useful form of people search." Yet, he countered that in this "Work 2.0" era, that's only one puzzle piece in a much larger online hive of relevant information for careers and work. He included Evernote, for example, as another puzzle piece.

Libin followed up that Work 2.0 consists of a well-rounded network, not just tools and features, characterizing LinkedIn as the "first embodiment of that." Hoffman added that a network is not just "Internet" but people on and offline too, predicting we'll be in this "network age" for some time.

For an individual looking to make the most of this network age, Hoffman advised "to be where the central networks are," offering up information and access based on one's developer skills. 

This goes back to the concept of a corporate alumni network as Hoffman argued the company-employee relationship must be "a two-way street," insisting companies must remember "to do things for your employees."

Hoffman highlighted that LinkedIn itself hosts company alumni networking events, sometimes held on a more specific role-based basis.

He specified the idea is conveying that "We still care about you. We still have a relationship." to former employees, explaining this presents the opportunity to gather pieces of information to share about who is good at what skills and more.

Evernote and LinkedIn solidified their own connection through the debut of Context on Thursday. The new dashboard for Evernote Business is fueled by data from a number of sources, from the professional social media company to financial news hub Dow Jones.