What LinkedIn did next

Back in my early days of my current job I used to run lunchtime digital training sessions and the first one I ever led was about LinkedIn. It was key, I thought. Here is a social media site full of professionals looking for ways to get ahead, and I work for a membership magazine publisher, producing magazines and websites for professionals looking for ways to get ahead.

Natural fit.

But that was two years ago.

Back then I focused on the value of LinkedIn groups – pointing out the established value of the Economist’s group on the site – which, despite having only half the readership of the unofficial Economist reader’s group still seemed to be thriving. I launched a LinkedIn group for an HR title I worked on and managed to get the membership up to 6000 inside 10 months. We featured LinkedIn comments in the magazine. It seemed like a great way to engage not only with readers, but also with job seekers, sending potential candidates to the jobsite associated to my magazine. And on the whole, it worked. It wasn’t a massive driver of traffic but that wasn’t the aim. It was the engagement we wanted.

But back then Groups was a main menu link and now it’s buried in the Interests section.

I still am involved in LinkedIn groups for some of my brands, but it seems to me, more and more, that people don’t want to hear from a brand, they want to hear from a person.

Yes, I know this is not a new concept, it’s been around. It’s been touted. But nothing has reinforced this to me like the recent revelation that Pulse (formerly LinkedIn Today and now available in handy app form) is now allowing non-Influencers to post news and advice content.

LinkedIn Pulse screendump

Previously this was restricted to the cream of the professional world – 150 carefully chosen names to dispense the kind of career advice a hungry graduate or stalled middle manager would kill for. Now that list stands at 25,000 people and anyone can apply to be number 25,001.

Tempting, right? Nothing says “Hire me” like being featured on the LinkedIn homepage for your professional insights.

Though you have to wonder where this will leave the rest of the news – which is to say, Company news and Publisher news. Already relegated to the furthest right tab of the Pulse homepage, All Publishers reads like a who’s who of American media outlets, and seems to be entirely based on how many company followers each title has.

The editorial brands I work with are solid. They produce high quality magazines and high traffic news. We employ experts in our very specific fields and the feedback from readers is nearly always gushing. But they’re brands, not companies, and we’re small brands at that. We can’t compete with the Forbes and HuffPos of the world, though given how mainstream all those brands on Pulse are, I can’t help but wonder what career advice they could offer which would be as useful as that offered by a specialist?

And if people do want to hear from individuals – as Pulse adding 25K+ new experts would suggest – it’s going to be a hard slog to get enough follows on my new created brand-based Company pages to make the cute. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to encourage my brands to do this, but it kinda feels like no matter how hard we try, we’re always going to be overlooked in favour of the kind of high profile individuals I used to ghostwrite blogs for in a previous life.

Another point is that for all that Pulse is both an app and an on-site news feed, it feels pretty insular – the kind of articles it wants its user base to submit are written on Linkedin, not linked to elsewhere but written and published inside the site itself. I had a brief look at the terms and conditions and couldn’t see if there were restrictions about reposting or crossposting content, but I can’t imagine it’s encouraged.

LinkedIn would seem to be moving away from being that place where we keep our CVs to  update publically when we’ve had a particularly bad day, to being the place for professional news.

And as someone who works for a publisher than specialises in professional news. I’ll admit that worries me.

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