Especially when it was first developed, LinkedIn was essentially the online social version of a Rolodex. Even though its format has been updated and modernized, the site still serves as a relatively stark business tool for professionals to stay connected and help each other network for future job positions. There is little to no personal information on each member’s profile. If people do choose to share personal anecdotes, it is usually directly related to their field of business. Unlike other major social media sites popular in the United States, LinkedIn is not about fun and making friends.
In June, the folks at Twitter made a major decision not to let its users’ tweets show up in LinkedIn activity feeds. The syndication agreement ended without much explanation, but it changed the way LinkedIn users were looking at each others’ activities on and off the site. There was no immediate negative result of the syndication divorce, but it did prompt a 1,000% increase in LinkedIn profile referrals from Facebook.
However, LinkedIn has announced that it will do Twitter one better. The connections on LinkedIn who are “influencers” feed will feature 150 super influencers that fans can follow in a Twitter-like format. So far, the limit to 150 influencers will keep posts extremely relevant and business-related. In other words, your LinkedIn influencers feed won’t get clogged with your average Joe friends posting about their unpleasant experiences at Starbucks or their kids’ first day at school. Among the 150 influencers are Virgin CEO Richard Branson, Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore, President Obama, GOP candidate Mitt Romney and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. Obviously, these contributors alone can provide immense value to each connection on LinkedIn. The posts are not confined to 140-characters or less, so contributors can craft articles right in the feed and they can explain themselves in depth.
It’s an interesting move on LinkedIn’s part, and it is the first major site revamp since its creation nine years ago. However, descriptions of the feature are vague, and many professionals are left with questions about their personal role in the new influencers feed as well as the feed’s potential effect on the future of the network. They wonder if they will get a chance to be such an important connection on LinkedIn.
Will the Elite Circle Connection on LinkedIn Ever Expand?
There’s no arguing that the 150 original influencers are all excellent choices to start off the new feature. They are unparalleled in their success and innovation, and we can all learn something from them even if we don’t share a career in their industry. Many companies and individuals are wondering if the site will ever expand this circle to include more experts. Smaller industries are wondering if their figureheads will ever appear on the influencers list.
The problem is that by adding a wider circle of experts, LinkedIn risks losing the professionalism its site is known for. It’s highly unlikely that President Barack Obama will post a short quip about the crummy service at Walgreens or a picture of his breakfast (though we’d probably love to see it). Professionals like Obama will only be posting content relevant to their industry and valuable from a professional standpoint. Other professionals can’t be trusted in the same way, so LinkedIn might hesitate to add these influencers to their running list.
Will the Feature Cause a Connection on LinkedIn to Be Less Valuable or Reputable?
LinkedIn has to be careful about becoming too much like Twitter. On Twitter, fake accounts and crazy tweets are part of what makes the site so fun. On the other hand, people visit LinkedIn with a specific purpose in mind. Sometimes people are even using it at work with the permission of their boss to help out with employee searches. Others are using it to metaphorically flip through their Rolodex and see who they might know for a certain connection. Rarely are people on the site to waste time.
In that way, LinkedIn runs the risk of changing their reputation by letting people crowd the site with their own ideas. Posts from the original 150 influencers might start off with the right intention, featuring articles relevant to their industry and links to similar content. Over time though, people might start adding humor to their posts and eventually their articles will be lax. After that, they might feel that they’ve run out of ideas, and posts will be shortened down to Twitter-like updates. Of course, this is all hypothetical, but it’s entirely possible when you consider the risks of giving people outside the company control over featured content.
Will Some Posts Be Promotional?
Promotional content on any social media site is annoying. Many of us feel connected with friends and acquaintances when we log into Facebook or LinkedIn, so even featured content masked to look like posts from our friends can be off-putting. By giving even the most unembellished professionals creative control over the LinkedIn influencers feed, the social site runs the risk of allowing things to get too promotional. For example, say there was a popular author in the influencers circle. He might have plenty of thoughtful, meaningful posts to share often with followers. However, when his new book is about to be released, will he be able to resist the temptation to post an article about it for a self-made plug? Many people will want to buy the book after his endorsement, but these promotional opportunities could quickly get out of hand. Promotional clutter will make the site a lot less appealing to many users.
The circle of influencers is exciting for everyone. At first, it will feel like an incredible opportunity to gain important LinkedIn Connections and to read what Obama has to say or find out how Richard Branson feels about a new mobile app. However, over time, these personally tailored posts might start to change the landscape of LinkedIn as contributors lose sight of their original intention. There’s no telling what the new feature will do for the site or social media marketing in the long run, but for now, it will be thrilling to read the personal posts of these innovation celebrities and feel as though they’re giving us advice directly without the gatekeeping restrictions of media outlets and news sources.