I was caught off-guard by an article out of Forbes.com titled “Can LinkedIn Survive the Social Media Bubble?”

The provocative headline grabbed my attention, not so much in terms of market valuation but the media momentum (both social and traditional) building behind LinkedIn (-1 @ 92 pts.) and other social network brands with less proven revenue models.  The chart below illustrates the 4-year media growth of LinkedIn, showing consistent media growth followed by an expected post-IPO leveling.

What’s missing in these bubble discussions is the media-driven brand awareness that these brands have attained.  As you can see from the accompanying 4-year TrendSignal chart, LinkedIn has hit a kind of earned media escape velocity at the 85 – 87 TrendSignal level.  Now, this isn’t somekind breakthrough threshold that all brands must somehow strive to attain.  But I’ve noticed within earned media (both social and traditional) that attaining a level of media prominence across multiple segments (push, pull, social and traditional) takes you a little further from the gravitational affects of the marketing noise in your category.  This is no small feat in the Internet Brand Category which almost by definition is chock-full-of-marketing-noise!

LinkedIn Media Performance

The Forbes.com author quotes Bloomberg and references Wall St.:

“When discussing the true value of the social media vertical, according to Bloomberg, analysts and traders are highly skeptical.  49% believe that internet and social media stocks are already in a bubble citing examples such as Twitter’s IPO (TWTR) where the equity nearly doubled in value on its first day.”

“Sooner or later, the party will be over. Eventually, all bubbles must burst. The million dollar question is whether LinkedIn will remain a viable user-option once the dust settles.”

LinkedIn competes directly and indirectly with Facebook (NC @ 99 pts.), Twitter (NC @ 99 pts.), Google+ (-2 @ 98 pts.), Instagram (-2 @ 93 pts.), Pinterest (-3 @ 81), Tumblr (-2 @ 85), Flickr (-3 @ 79), and even LiveJournal when hustling for the online ad revenue.