In 2009, Ashton Kutcher's @aplusk account became the first Twitter account on the planet to reach a million followers. After a much-celebrated competition between him and Larry King representing CNN's Twitter account, this was a milestone, not only for Ashton, not only for Twitter, but for American culture.

In the past four years, Twitter has gone mainstream. The social media site continues to grow quickly in users and revenues and will soon become a publicly traded company. Hundreds of people and organizations now have more than one million followers.

Recently late-night talk-show host and comedian Conan O'Brien declared live on his show that he will conquer LinkedIn, becoming the most popular "LinkedIn Influencer" on the planet, ahead of the likes of Richard Branson, Bill Gates and President Barack Obama.

That was just two weeks ago. Since Conan posted his first article, he amassed more than 56,000 followers and is already in the top 25% of LinkedIn Influencers, an invitation-only program for accounts by thought leaders from a range of industries. (Disclosure: I write for LinkedIn as well). Even if his first post was more funny than serious or inspirational, or even professional, it did quickly become the top article of the week on the platform. Conan has arrived on LinkedIn.

The circumstances are different at first glance: LinkedIn is already a publicly traded company, with more than 10 years in business and 240 million users. As a social network, it is certainly flourishing more today than Twitter was four years ago.

But the state of the LinkedIn Influencers program is much more similar to the state of Twitter four years ago: It's just a little over one year old, has just four people with more than 1 million followers (Richard Branson, Jack Welch, Deepak Chopra and Arianna Huffington) and currently generates no revenue on its own.

The LinkedIn Influencers program is part of LinkedIn's strategy to go beyond a jobs-and-networking tool and to become a source of content from business leaders and other industry professionals--including the entertainment industry. It's part of LinkedIn's attempt to go mainstream.

Some might think this whole thing is a joke for Conan and his team. But if Conan O'Brien continues his torrid pace, it won't be long until he tops the list as the most-followed LinkedIn account in the world.

The questions: Is Conan O'Brien the Ashton Kutcher of LinkedIn and will he make the LinkedIn Influencers program mainstream?

Published on: Oct 24, 2013
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