B&T: Is Elon Musk’s Proposed XHiring About To See LinkedIn Get Laid Off?

This article first appeared in B&T.

By Robert Francazio, General Manager – Growth, Revium

With his audacious dreams and remarkable propensity to disrupt, Elon Musk has repeatedly proven that when he sets his sights on something, change – good or bad – is imminent. From reshaping the automotive industry with Tesla to pioneering space travel with SpaceX and then the controversy surrounding Twitter, he’s never been one to play it safe. Now LinkedIn is in his sights via proposed competitor XHiring, one can’t help but wonder: Is LinkedIn’s long-standing reign in danger?

Let's not mince words. LinkedIn, for all its ubiquity, has its flaws. Many of us have slogged through the platform, rolling our eyes at exaggerated job titles, cringing at humblebrags, and navigating its clunky interface. This is probably why Musk's succinct descriptor of it as "cringeworthy" struck a chord with many. Despite its dominance, LinkedIn can feel like a platform resting on its laurels and in need of a dose of innovation.

X's recent unveiling of the XHiring platform is not just a declaration of intent; it's the first shot across the bow.

For us marketers – or anyone in the digital industry – this could be both an exhilarating and unnerving development. XHiring, albeit a novel platform, could deliver organic engagement levels we've not seen in years and a more genuine, streamlined networking experience. But it could also mean starting from scratch, deciphering new algorithms, and adapting to a new world of strategies and metrics. On top of all that it will no doubt evoke a response from LinkedIn to get its house and user offering in order. Although that then begs the question, has LinkedIn ignored its audience’s feedback for too long and will it be able to deliver enough of a response in time to kill off a potential new competitor before it can gain any traction?

Before we get lost on notions of a seamless and brilliant new platform (let’s face it, ther’s every chance it could be uglier than the Cybertruck) we need to address the elephant in the room: XHiring’s staggering price tag. If Musk is genuinely keen on making this platform accessible and dominant, such elitist pricing strategies might need rethinking. Or perhaps this is Musk's genius at play, creating an aura of exclusivity and then gradually democratising access – something he did successfully with Tesla but perhaps fell a little short with the infamous paid blue tick on Twitter.

While the billionaire mogul has made bold claims in the past, not all of them have materialised, did someone say cage fight? Yet, even when Musk's promises walk the tightrope between audacity and whimsy, they always manage to shift paradigms, spark debates, or drive competitive innovation. Scepticism is warranted, but so is anticipation.

But make no mistake: if LinkedIn’s fall does come at the hands of XHiring, it won’t be the result of a billionaire’s visionary genius or bold claims, it will be because Elon listened to the very public sentiment toward LinkedIn’s tired offering and saw an opportunity. That information has long been available for LinkedIn to observe and act on, but they instead opted to sit on their hands for years in the absence of competition, making themselves a sitting duck in the process. 

If XHiring’s professional networking feature delivers even half of what it hints at, LinkedIn should be very worried. For digital marketers, brands, and professionals across the globe, it's an opportunity to consider being an early adopter that could pay dividends, but it’s also an important lesson: competition is powerful for innovation, but what’s even more powerful? Listening to your audience and innovating before the competition even gets a look in.