I often get this remark in my workshops: “LinkedIn is increasingly resembling Facebook, with people openly sharing their joys and sorrows, making the platform less professional.” Is this the case, and how does LinkedIn view this shift? Where does this trend stem from and what does it signify for our future use? I’m keen to shed light on these questions in this article.
What Does LinkedIn Say?
Let’s step back to 2003, when LinkedIn was born into a world where Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube didn’t exist. It was a pure business platform where individuals shared their resumes and built professional networks. It acted as a matchmaker for job seekers and employers.
Fast forward to 2021, LinkedIn articulated its vision to evolve into a platform that aids individuals in connecting, learning, and growing professionally. According to the minds behind LinkedIn, this transformation was essential to remain relevant to a broader audience, who anticipate a blend of professional and personal content.
In 2022, LinkedIn stated, “This is a professional networking platform, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be personal. We believe it’s important for individuals to showcase their authenticity and connect with others in a way that works for them.”
This statement resonates with me as ‘authenticity’ is the modern-day asset in a digital world devoid of economic boundaries. I will delve into this shortly, but first, let’s examine the causes of LinkedIn’s ‘Facebookization.’
Why the Shift from
Professional to Personal?
Pandemic Crisis: The Quest for Digital Social Interaction
In 2020, a focal point of the pandemic crisis, we sent twice as many LinkedIn messages as the previous year. User contributions also noticeably became more personal. A logical explanation is that lockdowns led us to seek alternative forms of social interaction, a trend benefiting all social media platforms. We began forming impressions of individuals based on their digital presence. Hence, it’s not surprising that LinkedIn became more personal during this ‘remote period.’
This shift impacted our branding (Corporate, employer, and personal branding), our buying and selling approaches, and our recruitment and application processes.
Globalization and Competition: The Battle for Customers
In a world where economy and competition know no boundaries, many companies chase quick profits. However, this presents an opportunity for those emphasizing personal customer relationships. Customers who know you and your company are likely to trust you, yielding long-term benefits.
The Influence of Facebook and Instagram
The emergence of theme-based groups, mirroring Facebook groups, and LinkedIn’s brief experiment with stories, akin to Instagram, are undeniable influences. Although the stories feature fizzled out due to an outdated editor, it shows the changing tides.
The Fresh Wave of Content from Gen Z
Generation Z, the digital natives born from 1995 onwards, utilize LinkedIn for career growth. These ambitious twenty-somethings, compared to older LinkedIn users, are more engaged in their respective sectors and avidly read studies to hone their knowledge. However, their affinity for Snapchat, TikTok, and influencers also drives them to post diverse content. In my view, embracing this shift by giving our brand a unique voice and compelling narrative is the way forward.
Humans Seeking Humans
Perhaps the most logical explanation for LinkedIn’s personal turn is our innate desire to know the people behind the brands. Before investing in collaborations, we want to know who the other party is and what they stand for. An authentic profile significantly outshines the competition. As mentioned earlier, the youngest generation is most sensitive to authenticity, making personal and employer branding more crucial than ever.
My final take? Times change, and so does LinkedIn. Not everyone welcomes a less professional platform, but in my eyes, it remains a valuable and inspiring channel filled with networking opportunities. The content value is gradually shifting from professional to personal, which isn’t necessarily a detriment.
To build a robust profile today, it’s prudent to be open and share powerful personal narratives. Let’s not forget, economics is a social science, centered on human interaction.
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