Is Linkedin still a business social network?

When considering this blog, I thought I could open with something akin to Facebook’s love/hate figure, Be Like Bill. Therein lay the problem – I’m treading the fine line between valid social media commentary or straying into becoming a pious and condescending irritant.

The blog stems from recent observations from my morning routine: arrive at work, sign in to my laptop and fire up all the key sites that keep me honest during the working day. LinkedIn is one of them.  As the world’s preeminent network for professionals, I have found it to be the beating pulse of information not only on peers and colleagues but company news, which is all too important in our business.

Alas, instead of the latest company developments, I was first presented with a post in my timeline from a user (not a part of this company) outing another user for harassing them inappropriately. Though the alleged was reprehensible, it hardly felt the right channel. And it left me wondering: has LinkedIn lost its USP?  I mean, with all the tinkering  possible to story feed algorithms, allowing posts that other connections have liked and commented on to appear in your own timeline, is this not just a bit too much like Facebook?

Perhaps my expectations are misguided, but when I read LinkedIn is a ‘professional’ social network, I presume content and commentary will focus on matters you would expect within the workplace.  Drawing parallels between the office and social platforms, Twitter is the watercooler, Facebook the breakout space. But LinkedIn is (or should be) your workstation. Of late however, the ‘social office’ now feels like one big breakout space.

It turns out I’m not alone. I observed a recent post where a commenter raised this very ‘Facebookisation’ of LinkedIn. Ironically they were sandbagged by other commenters with a prevailing viewpoint: that for a lot of verticals, knowing the personality of the people they do business with is as important as their credentials.  As such, showing that colour on your professional network is key.

To this I say: rubbish.

The rules of business have always been guidelines, but there is common decency and respect to have in all cases.  The content finding its way to LinkedIn have no place in a network where a lot of users have (or aspire to) a high-level relationship with each other based on a handful of meetings.  A passive-aggressive post about your nature is unlikely, in any industry, to land you that big deal.  Inspirational memes based on quotes from renowned leaders or captains of commerce can communicate character or your business goal (though this can backfire as below).What does a recently observed GIF image of a pug illustrate about your business aspirations?

Observing this, it’s clear there are regional differences. The more established corporate cultures of the UK, US and Western Europe see fewer wildcard posts.  In developing markets however, there is far less of a separation between social channels. That may in itself dictate where LinkedIn goes in the future, distancing the platform from its origins and opening it up to a wider audience of millenials.

This in itself may create an opportunity for a rival professional network to emerge. But just like Be like Bill, I’ll not tell you about it.

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