So LinkedIn is becoming more like Facebook. Get over it – and embrace the opportunities
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I’ve been on LinkedIn since July 2007. It doesn’t make me a veteran, but it’s a reasonable length of time to notice change. One change is pretty recent. In 2015 “shock, horror!” messages began to appear, saying something like this: “LinkedIn is not Facebook! Keep chitchat out!
There has been a blending of the ‘roles’ of social network platforms that goes right back to the early days of Facebook. “Keep the grownups out of the college kids’ site!” the teens would rant, as adults started playing in their schoolyard. “Oh no! Now, corporates have Facebook profiles!” we would moan, as companies told us they wanted to “be our friends”.
“Stop sending Christmas jokes on LinkedIn – we’re a serious business networking site!” was at the milder end of the LinkedIn moan spectrum last year.But there’s a reason for all this. As we have become more accustomed to managing our lives online, we have started to emulate the way we live our lives offline. Online compartments were useful to us when, in the early days, we learned how to cyber. But we don’t live in neat, self-contained boxes. We drift randomly, talking to colleagues at work about our personal lives, bringing work ‘home’, gossiping around the water cooler, taking politics into the pub and having stock-market banter with our barber.
Marketers communicate their favourite movies, financiers circulate kitten gifs. Recruiters peddle 1,001 wonderful jobs alongside wistful Gandhi quotes. The Netterati uses all social media to dangle alarming new tools and fuel an ever-changing future. Last year it was virtual reality. This year? Could be blockchain.
We are flagrantly disobeying the unwritten protocols and codes of social network behaviour. We’ll now drop whatever we think is interesting into any conversation, often without thinking about it. LinkedIn is open to everyone. You don’t have to have an employer’s tax code to sign up. The more people that join, the more it becomes like every other social site.
Twitter merges ads, PR and sex-talk quite happily. WhatsApp is perfect for keeping select groups in touch with everyday matters. LinkedIn blurs into Facebook, which blurs into Twitter, which sounds like WhatsApp. There’s a lesson or two here for marketers.
First, the customers you think you’re reaching via social media operate at different levels of web proficiency. Some may totally get your social presence; others will wonder why you’re barging in on their small, personal conversation. No social platform is impervious to this. As networks merge in terms of content, a new social strata is emerging, with cyber-multitaskers at one end and amateur hobbyists at the other. Don’t talk to customers – or ask them to navigate – in ways they cannot understand.
Second, targeting your messaging will be difficult. So don’t target, lead. Use your product messaging and presence as a powerful, contemporary piece of quality entertainment. Everything is being passed round everywhere in a systematic, automated way. I’m sure you’re seeing pieces of information repetitively pushed out, like ads in the same movie’s ad breaks. Better get used to it.
Social media is where we say and see what we like. Make sure what people see of your product is something customers will go for. Then use the medium to carry your message to a wide audience with diverse tastes. You’ll need expertise and experience to get this right, but it’s important. Social is the new soap.
Andy Law is executive chairman of Inition and an independent consultant to businesses on how to modernize and keep ahead