Has LinkedIn Lost Its Way?

By Melonie Dodaro

When you market to everyone, you market to no one. It’s an age-old truism of marketing that highlights the importance of sticking to, and amplifying, what makes you unique and serves your target market best.

Maybe LinkedIn missed the memo. Because for a platform that: boasts well over half a billion global users; captured the top end of the market; attracted the eyeballs of CEOs and the business world’s key decision-makers; and became the place where 80% of social media B2B deals are done – it’s starting to look a lot like other, look-at-us-we-are-fun, social media platforms.

If you look at the new LinkedIn features, you’ll notice a dramatic shift in its strategy. It’s introduced features that are more at home on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok.

Such has been the influx of LinkedIn Stories, live streaming, stickers and GIFs that you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between LinkedIn and the other more entertainment-based, youth-focused, non-business social media platforms. This is why I believe LinkedIn may be falling into the trap of trying to market to everyone.

I examined why LinkedIn has made this strategic shift, how it impacts you as someone who uses the platform for business, and how you can get around this “pollution” of the newsfeed to still engage with your ideal prospects, build strong relationships and get more clients.

Pete Davies, LinkedIn’s head of content products, said the aim of LinkedIn Stories was to meet LinkedIn users “where their voices are.” And that means copying a trend that first appeared on Snapchat in 2013 and was quickly ripped off by Instagram and then Facebook.

There is no doubt that video is growing as a key content tool and way to connect with your audience. But short videos of your daily coffee or live streams showcasing a “thought bubble” that popped into your head are not what people expect or want from LinkedIn. I’m not convinced this is what people want when they think about how they want to do business.

It’s LinkedIn’s belief that Stories and live streams will bridge the gap between the very corporate image it currently has (which is its critical USP) and the lighter, more casual tone struck by other social media platforms.

One example given by Davies was that a company might use stories to share “key moments from work events” or “tips and tricks that help us work smarter.” That’s a perfect world scenario, but what you can’t legislate is how people will use the tools once you place them in their hands.

Once the newsfeed becomes polluted with selfie videos and anything that screams “look at me!” you’ll find that the core LinkedIn market will switch off and stop scrolling because they are no longer able to consume the high-quality content that was the hallmark of LinkedIn. From a short-term metric standpoint, this move makes sense.

LinkedIn Stories

Video keeps people on platforms longer, and the younger generation, in particular, are devouring video and love making their own content.

I am not talking about teenagers here. I am talking about recent graduates and people in their 20s to early 30s who are early in their careers but still very much a part of the cultural zeitgeist. In theory, hooking them onto LinkedIn at an earlier age is smart.

But that’s a really short-sighted view. Why?

Because in an attempt to capture the new generation’s attention, LinkedIn risks erasing the very things that made it so successful in the first place as well as upsetting its core audience.

I attempted to help the younger generation see the professional value of LinkedIn in my new book: LinkedIn for Students, Graduates and Educators, although I was clear in stating it is a tool to build your career and not to treat it the way you would with other social networks.

One important factor LinkedIn may have overlooked in trying to make it more hip is that LinkedIn’s audience is unique. A significant number of its users don’t use any other social media platform except LinkedIn. They aren’t interested in nonsense in any way.

The reason LinkedIn is so successful is because it is the only place online where professionals can focus solely on building relationships and growing their businesses, knowing everyone else is there to do the same.

LinkedIn is the online boardroom, while its social media cousins, such as Facebook and Instagram, are the playground. I mean where else will you find, and have direct access to, executives from 92% of Fortune 500 companies?

LinkedIn offers you as a business owner the ability to attract, engage and convert your ideal prospects into clients through three avenues: smart positioning via your LinkedIn profile; relationship-building via client-centered communication using private messaging; growing your brand; establishing authority; and gaining respect and credibility via creating and sharing strong content your target market is interested in. In other words, it is the single best platform in the world to grow your business and generate high-quality leads.

But with the introduction of LinkedIn Stories, live streaming, stickers and GIFs, LinkedIn risks polluting the newsfeed with irrelevant silliness that appeals to a market that doesn’t even use LinkedIn while alienating the very people – business people – who made it the strong, profitable, business-focused platform it is today.

People come to LinkedIn to not only connect with people but also stay abreast of what’s going on in their industries through news, views and content. They scroll through their newsfeeds to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening, stay informed and maintain relevance and knowledge.

Stories, live streams and other shiny fun objects will only serve to turn these people away. And if people start to ignore the newsfeed, a major component of LinkedIn’s effectiveness will be cannibalized by its own strategy.

Melonie Dodaro is a preeminent authority on social selling on LinkedIn and the author of the #1 bestselling book LinkedIn Unlocked. She is also the CEO of Top Dog Social Media, a company specializing in B2B social selling on LinkedIn. To learn more visit TopDogSocialMedia.com.