UnLinked – The Problem with LinkedIn & The Endless Appetite for Wasting Time

When used well, LinkedIn is an invaluable tool and should be the first point of call for raising your digital presence. After all, where else can you – within the space of three clicks – connect with partners, prospects and experts to discuss opportunities?  

Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly hijacked. Adverts are the epitome of tedium. For every quality post, there are about 20 self-congratulatory ‘words of wisdom’ plagiarised from one post to the next. When you throw in the bloke you once shared a table with at a conference lunch telling you about his promotion, and a mocking ‘Meetings: For When You Don’t Want to Work’ image that you’ve seen a million times before, it’s no wonder everyone gets social media fatigue. 

Take a scroll through your LinkedIn feed. You’ll likely see a couple of adverts. Are you going to click on any? Chances are the answer is no because they’ll be stuffy, bland and boring. People have a perception that LinkedIn needs to be cold and professional, but from an advertising perspective, it’s better to be bold and eye-catching instead.

If someone expects something boring and miserable, surprise them with a hit of colour. A compelling thought or question. Not just the same background image of a steelworks with a navy-blue overlay. If you actually put creativity into your adverts, chances are you might get some clicks. The break from the norm is good. 

It’s also worth remembering that LinkedIn is an expensive platform anyway, so even though you might be baulking at that £3.00 cost-per-click, chances are you’re probably doing much better than you think. 

If there is one thing worse than receiving praise from someone else, it’s seeing people openly putting themselves out there to get adulation. Every ‘story’ on LinkedIn always starts the same way: ‘I was at an interview’. It shocks me that somehow every person managed to be in the right place at the right time to all capture this momentous event.

After all, it’s social media, they wouldn’t dare lie, right?

These messages do, however, give you a useful piece of insight into that person. Imagine they are someone your business is looking to work with. Do you really need to partner with someone whose biggest digital prerogative seems to be bending the truth? It’s a great way to help you weed out those people that aren’t actually adding anything productive to your feed. Rather than engaging these people, try and find relevant industry groups and credible individuals to connect and discuss with. You might get to hear about ‘how to ace every interview’ or why ‘you should always salt your soup before you taste it’ etc. but you might actually get meaningful discussion instead. Which is probably a worthy trade. 

Don't let your LinkedIn content get lost amongst the alphabet soup of self congratulation.
Don’t let your LinkedIn content get lost amongst the alphabet soup of self-congratulation.

Now we come onto the networking part. Yes, it can be useful to make friends and connections through events and adding them on LinkedIn might be a way to stay in touch. 

However, it’s vital to remember: LINKEDIN IS NOT FACEBOOK OR TWITTER.

It’s meant to be a professional network and you are meant to be using it for those means. Okay, we all probably can’t reject that request from our brother even though he works in a completely different field. But just adding whoever you meet is just asking to clog up your feed. Make sure they are credible and relevant enough for what you are doing – or interesting enough to be a useful contact. When it comes to recruitment firms – just one contact is enough, you don’t need the entire team swarming you like an angry cloud of wasps every time you post a vacancy for your business. Similarly, if you are a managing partner for a law firm – do you really need a swimming pool salesman

Moving onto our final point. Seeing that image once might elicit a short chuckle. Seeing it 1000 times just becomes boring. The cliche becomes cliched. However, you can use this type of content as inspiration for your creative teams. Keep a bank of it. It’s your job to ensure the creative team avoids falling into these pitfalls and making content that appears old-hat or dated as soon as it goes out. You can even potentially invert some of these messages and twist them to create your own unique imagery and content. If someone is expecting the same image and the same messaging – like with the adverts from before – inverting their expectations can often be highly impressionable. At least you’ll make them feel like they gained something this time. 

Concept of cliches on LinkedIn fading into existence represented by rubber ducks.
Although the first time it might be clear, repetitive content on LinkedIn quickly becomes forgettable and faded.

This blog might have come off as a bit of a rant. I make no apologies for that. However, I would like to feel there are some vital lessons for individuals and businesses at the very core. The same old tired designs and imagery often falls into the LinkedIn chasm. People want to hear original stories, not rehashed and thinly-veiled self-congratulations. A connection on LinkedIn is only worth it if they add value to you or your business. Finally, content that is original once becomes boring and predictable the 2nd, 3rd or 4th time. 

If you take these principles and apply them, you’ll find your LinkedIn experience more enriching, and less taxing. Probably.