For content marketing, social media has provided opportunities of a scale unimaginable 10 years ago. For me, publishing through LinkedIn was the Promised Land. I accepted that self-publishing removed a certain aspect of quality control and editorial independence, but this would be balanced by the opportunity to reach millions of potential readers. Never, had an ‘everyday’ business person been provided with a platform to directly market their clients’ skills and services on such a scale.
When LinkedIn announced its plans to open up its publishing function I was one of the many marketers excited at the individual branding prospects of this feature. No longer would authors and marketers have to meet external editorial demands. Publication would no longer walk hand-in-hand with my advertising dollar. We would now be free to build our individual brands and share valuable knowledge.
And yet when offered the chance to finally publish on LinkedIn, something held me back.
“Imitation is the bloom of flattery,
to quote is a lack of imagination”
This “something” was Pele. The world’s greatest footballer made me stop on the spot. In fairness, it wasn’t really Pele, it was someone uploading what I call a ‘quotivational poster’—a quote, supposedly/dubiously from the man himself, telling me that hard work, dedication, and love was all I needed to be successful. The details and words now escape me. What stood out was that LinkedIn users were now trying to inspire their business networks with quotes from football players. From a personal branding position, what did this say about this person…and the network I was part of?
To me, this was and is Facebook behaviour. You know the type. We all have connections like this: friends and acquaintances that use Hallmark inspired quotes to evade real behavioural introspection. A made-up quote can make any immoral action appear justifiable. On Facebook I termed this a ‘Dawsonism’, after a particularly self-righteous quote poster. In Darwinian terms, a Dawsonism is the quotivational devolution of the species.
Standing alone, quotivational posters may not have been anything more than a blip on the LinkedIn radar. But unfortunately, LinkedIn’s self-publishing platform arrived at the same time.
“Social media and content marketing are
simply ‘talking sensibly’ to your connections,
no matter where they are.”
For content marketers who work extensively with media, we all know how much work goes into getting published. Quality editors demand (near) perfection and content which is actually relevant to their readers. After all, a smart editor knows that irrelevant articles eventually affect reader numbers and, ultimately, the ability to sell subscriptions and advertising. LinkedIn’s publishing platform removed all typical quality checks.
The result: a mass of material. Some good, some bad, some indifferent, some inappropriate, some based on fact, most based on conjecture. The problem for content marketers is the time it now takes a reader to distinguish between the material they want to read, and the rubbish. And not many people have that time.
If it is now hard for quality content producers to be found or followed, what is the value in writing for LinkedIn? Unfortunately for LinkedIn, these views are now being articulated in many of the ‘comments’ sections.
“You are what you eat, so watch
where those calories come from”
– Genghis Khan*
It is no secret that LinkedIn is trying to diversify its revenue streams. Company-page functionality features are being reduced, and products such as Sales Navigator are being introduced. But will the effects of random (possibly fictitious) quotes and poor content reduce the platform’s overall attractiveness to serious business users and, as a result, for marketers and sales people?
LinkedIn has some strategic decisions to make. The network needs serious business users, but they are rapidly being overrun by content with no professional value whatsoever. If LinkedIn does not take action to increase the commercial relevance of its content then it will suffer the same fate of any ‘content weak’ website: People will stop visiting it.
LinkedIn cannot stop individuals posting pictures of kittens or people inspiring the business community through the words of Diego Maradonna. But LinkedIn does need to seriously consider the overall quality of the content on its website. Five tips on how to write a LinkedIn blog may not be enough. Perhaps, after all, Dawsonian quotivations can inspire motivation.
Next time, I'll present my thoughts on what LinkedIn should do.
*Quotes are unattributed to each of these individuals. But it is possible they could have said these phrases offline. The quotes may also have been made up.
Graeme Somerville-Ryan is the marketing and business development director (Asia) for the international law firm Wikborg Rein. He has more than 10 years’ experience in public relations, communications, international marketing, and brand development. He has also consulted on marketing projects in the oil and gas, shipping, ICT, export education, tourism, and insurance sectors.