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Facebook was created to be a casual social platform: a place to post things that interest, inspire or amuse you; a place to make new acquaintances and reconnect with friends and family members, and a space to share important news.
Career-driven individuals and brands noticed an opportunity and promptly decided to use this platform to their advantage. The career-driven individuals hoped to make career- advancing connections and the brands hoped to build an audience. Some brands had great success and a lot of the career-driven individuals did alright. B2B companies, meanwhile, found themselves standing mostly on the side lines, struggling to find a profitable use for this modern communication method.
Then something happened. Suddenly Facebook started bombarding us with unending streams of profile picture updates, motivational or barely witty memes and out- of- context status updates like ‘having a good day’ or ‘so irritated right now’. The career-driven individuals became annoyed and the B2B companies came to the conclusion that Facebook held no value for them.
In the meantime LinkedIn became popular (coincidently launched two years prior to Facebook), a network designed specifically for professionals and companies. Here you could cultivate professional relationships; post and read thought-provoking industry content and join industry specific discussion groups. Needless to say, the career –driven individuals and B2B companies rejoiced, because finally they had found a welcoming home within the social sphere. Even the statistics confirmed what we hoped to achieve: LinkedIn directs almost four times as many people to your website than Twitter or Facebook and the most in-demand content revolves around industry insights.
We soon discovered that becoming a notable presence on LinkedIn held some serious benefits. With such a credit to your name you can convince companies to hire you, your boss to promote you and other businesses to buy from you. For these purposes, LinkedIn proved itself to be not only useful but invaluable.
But now we have become worried, because again something is happening (or rather a series of worrisome things). Again we find ourselves bombarded with motivational memes and casual selfies.
The function unique to this platform, namely skill-endorsement, has fallen victim to mindless reactionists: “You endorsed me, so I’ll endorse you, even if I have no clue whether you are actually any good at this.” Updates are also no longer exclusively professional, plus, we are now assaulted with generic connection requests from people who have no connection to our industry whatsoever. Even the content that gets posted claiming to give industry insights has become mostly generic and uninspired.
How did this happen?
In my opinion a lot of what is happening can be blamed on the fact that people have fallen victim to the idea that there is nothing more important than posting regularly. Even if you have nothing of value to say, just post something for the sake of posting. It also does not help that when you read up on LinkedIn best practices you encounter statements like: “It is recommended that you post 20 times per month if you want to reach 60 percent of your unique audience”. In essence, people are starting to post forgettable content in an effort not to be forgotten.
Individuals and businesses that are doing this and whose aim it is to form and keep profitable connections are playing with fire and should not be surprised if they lose the connections they value most: the companies they aim to work for or with, and the successful individuals that they respect. At the end of the day, a casual profile picture and a tendency to post motivational memes does not make you come across as someone who should be taken seriously.
I believe that, in order to avoid losing the value of LinkedIn, the first step is to shift our focus back to quality as opposed to quantity. Rather post once a week and make it a worthwhile post, and keep in mind that the value of the content determines its lifespan. Quality, thought-provoking content will in all likelihood be shared and discussed, and if a piece of content made a positive impact and continues to do so, then there is no reason to post more. You will not be forgotten if your posts are worth remembering.
We also need to be mindful of the future connections we accept and consider ridding ourselves of current one’s who abuse the platform or add nothing of value. You are, after all, judged by the company you keep. Also, do not get trigger happy with endorsing skills. If you cannot with absolute confidence recommend a person or company to someone you truly respect, do not endorse them. You are risking your reputation.
Ultimately, utilising LinkedIn as we do Facebook will not benefit anyone. It amounts to attending a fancy dress party hosted by the greatest minds in your industry, wearing casual clothing. People might stare at you initially, but no one will approach you to talk shop.