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…
- 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-focussed, non-business social media platforms.
This is why I believe LinkedIn may be falling into the trap of trying to market to everyone.
In this article, I examine 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.
Why is LinkedIn doing this?
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.
Are you seeing the pattern emerge here?
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 by LinkedIn makes sense.
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 itself 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 importance of playing to your strengths
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.
What does the LinkedIn community think?
Of course, the most important thing is how the LinkedIn community responds to these changes.
So I thought I’d ask them…
Sixty-eight reactions and 105 comments later, it’s fair to say most people – at least in my network – want LinkedIn to stay true to its roots…
It’s interesting to see the common themes and fears emerge here.
What the majority of regular LinkedIn users enjoy most is the professionalism, focus on business, growth, strategy and collaboration the platform has to offer.
The opportunities that arise out of networking is the jewel in LinkedIn’s crown.
But the shine can wear off pretty quickly if LinkedIn becomes an extension of today’s “look at me” culture.
I’ve often said that LinkedIn is an extension of the workplace in terms of tone, conduct, and content. If you wouldn’t do it at work, then you wouldn’t post it on LinkedIn. But it seems all that may be about to change…
What can you do to ensure LinkedIn remains effective for your business?
Firstly, I want to point out content is still absolutely vital in terms of your brand building and lead generation strategy. Perhaps it’s even more important now as it has to compete with some pretty irrelevant flashy content to capture your audience’s attention.
Having said that, you may need to pivot slightly in terms of how you prepare and share content going forward.
Cornerstone content that speaks to your target market broadly will still be incredibly useful to establish your authority and expertise.
But what will be even more useful is the content you prepare specifically for an ideal prospect and share with them as you nurture the relationship.
Hyper-relevant, personalized content accelerates the strength and trust of business relationships, and it is where your content will stand out from the dumbed-down, crowd-pleasing content in the newsfeed.
Relationship-building is also going to be more important than ever before.
The importance of crucial elements of lead generation on LinkedIn – whom you send connection requests to, how you follow up with them, the questions you ask, the frequency with which you interact and nurture the relationship, and the timing of moving the conversation offline – has now gone up a notch.
For those who research their prospects well, value relationships and are playing the long game over cheap, low-level content and hope for quick sales, it’s an opportunity to really stand out from the competition and grow your business.
If LinkedIn continues to follow the trends of other social media platforms – ones that aren’t built for business, I guarantee a massive decrease in the number of serious business people actively engaging in the platform.
Tuning out LinkedIn’s newsfeed
They won’t leave altogether, but they will tune out the newsfeed. And the only way to reach your prospects will be through a 1:1 outreach with hyper-personalized content. This approach will become key to anyone wanting to generate leads and build relationships on LinkedIn.
The younger demographic targeted with these changes will never swap Tik Tok for LinkedIn because the social validation and “cool” factor just isn’t there for LinkedIn.
What LinkedIn should be doing is teaching the new generation the right skills to succeed in business rather than say “Hey! This is just like Snapchat and Tik Tok!”
This way, when they are ready to grow up and grow their careers, they’ll hit the ground running, using LinkedIn as a key part of their professional journeys.
If you want to learn how to do lead generation with depth, class and authority, introduce yourself to people the right way, and generate high-quality leads on LinkedIn even if people tune out the newsfeed, check out my FREE Masterclass “The Ultimate LinkedIn Lead Generation System.”
Inside, you’ll learn a subtle rapport building formula that will produce a steady flow of high-quality leads and clients from LinkedIn, month after month, in under 30 minutes a day. You can register here, and I’ll see you on the inside. 🙂