Article by Victor Potra. First published on LinkedIn here.
As we all know, LinkedIn is a network designed for professionals. Here people find relevant information for their career, seek for jobs and search for business contacts. Furthermore, LinkedIn is a b2b virtual meeting space and a way to promote one’s products, services or brand. A lot of the content posted here has also a commercial purpose. Yet the rule of a successful article is having an interesting content and approaching pertinent issues. Disregarding this rule may drive one to isolation. LinkedIn users will mentally mark distributors of petty content as spammers and will feel harassed of excessive mercantile approach.
Nevertheless, we have seen lately a lot of content not related to business thriving on LinkedIn. It may be culture, art or history, political or social debates and so on. There have appeared groups dedicated to literature, or even “varia” groups, where the members’ common interest is the variety and the quality of the knowledge posted in the community, even if the fields may be very different. I also saw announcement for cultural events (like poetry festivals). Independent investigation journalists also find an interested public on LinkedIn. And the examples may go on.
We must ask ourselves two questions. Why is this happening? And is this content legitimate on LinkedIn?
Looking for the right audience
I think the reason behind this mutation is a massive migration of more and more serious content creators from Facebook to LinkedIN. People that spend time, intelligence and know-how to create valuable content want to be heard and appreciated for their work; even if they do this “pro-bono”, like some bloggers. They want access to quality public, relevant feedback and real visibility that will last more than a few hours. And it has become obvious that Facebook can’t provide any of this.
Distributing your creations in social-media networks is critical for building a public. This is also true if you are an art photographer, a writer, a blogger etc. Depending on what type of content you want to distribute, you may have more options than Facebook and LinkedIn. (I’m not discussing about Google+ as I consider that it is still a start-up searching for a shape) Pinterest or Flickr may prove to be very useful to a photographer, Twitter – indispensable to a blogger, Goodreads – a good tool for a writer. Yet, Facebook and LinkedIn provide the largest and most diversified public. And they also offer the most vivid interaction and feedback. A complex networking, to say it in two words. But what kind of networking?
Evading “digital garbage”
One of the most disturbing issues when publishing to Facebook is the competition with a tremendous amount of “digital garbage”. Kitties and kids stuff, anniversaries, good or bad jokes, occasionally some pornography, small chat posting, tones of commercials – a lot of junk. Maybe I’m too harsh on this – in fact a lot of it it’s about people’s day to day life – but almost any valuable content is drown into this ocean of slapdash data generation. Even if you get noticed by some people, you’ll lose some significant audience, ‘cause of the overwhelming flow that will bury your post in a few hours. Very frustrating for content creators: your work being overrun by a puppy picture.
A Facebook user is encouraged by the network design and by the FB regular feedbacks to post anything and everything. As a result, users are less and less selective towards the content they share.
On the contrary, a LinkedIn user has an entirely different state of mind. Prestige is the key in this network and popularity must be built with patience, on solid ground. People are choosing carefully what they post and how they interact with others. Trespassers find themselves quickly isolated. Valuable content will be easily reachable for days, even longer. And you have comprehensive options to structure the content you want to see. All these create a fair competition ground for original and elaborated posts. This is the first reason why creators migrate to LinkedIN.
Likes versus comments
As far as users are concerned, what is really surprising is that the same people may have a very different behavior on LinkedIn versus Facebook. And this includes not only the self-restraint when sharing content, but also the availability to appreciate elaborate, even sophisticated content. This leads us to the issue of feedback quality.
Success on Facebook is measured by the number of likes. On LinkedIn – by comments. These are the drivers for acquiring views on the two networks. And they are very different.
A LinkedIn comment is expected to be elaborated and meaningful. It’s not just chat, as on FB. For example, posting appreciated comments may allow you to become a Top Contributor in a group, which will enhance your profile visibility and your reputation. The name of the game on Facebook is a quickly-acquired, but very short-lived popularity. On LinkedIn the reward is prestige that lasts. This encourages users to take their time to read and understand posts, and to come up with quality feedback. And that’s exactly what content creators search for.
The next role-model for social-media?
Other concerns – like addiction, privacy issues, too many commercials – were quite well exposed in a very popular article published by Chris Chan this month (available here), so I won’t address these subjects here.
It seems that LinkedIn is appreciated by more and more online content creators for its “tidiness” and “code of manners”, which allow durable visibility and relevant audience. But is this non-business content distribution over LinkedIn legitimate?
I believe that, yes, it is. The key for LinkedIn success is not only the professional networking, but also a proper networking. It’s a way of reaching interesting and structured pieces of human knowledge – against deafening internet noise, a safe environment where you may meet real intelligent people – versus digital communities full of fake identities – as well as a path to reclaim a meaningful online interaction.
I think that LinkedIn succeeded where Facebook failed: building a complex, yet sane social network. And it is normal that its members should appreciate creative content beyond their professional interests. If LinkedIn manages to deal with a diversified content while keeping its “properness”, it may become the next role-model for the entire social-media.