Is LinkedIn a platform for engagement?

On Saturday, #tweetdiner launched the “How to build your brand online” series with a discussion of LinkedIn. The first question I asked everyone was whether they felt LinkedIn was a necessary site to use if you are trying to build a brand online. There was quite a lot of debate about that issue, but the reason for the debate was very interesting. As it turns out, to a lot of people, LinkedIn is simply a resume site and nothing more.

I’m on the LinkedIn Fence

Three years ago, I had the great privilege of seeing Lewis Howes speak at the SummitUp conference in Dayton, Ohio. If you’ve heard Lewis speak in real life before, you know that he is engaging, funny, and a huge supporter of LinkedIn. That speech, in addition to a break-out session that focused tons on what a great tool LinkedIn is, convinced me that I really needed to dig in a bit more.

When I got home from the conference, I started filling out my profile, and just like on Twitter, I started looking for the big names to connect to. That didn’t seem to do much good though. I had a lot of  uncertainties on my mind too. LinkedIn kept prompting me to get some recommendations to flesh out my profile. Well, that’s kind of awkward, especially if you’re just reconnecting with someone after years and years. Do you post status updates on LinkedIn the way you do on Facebook? I tried importing Twitter last year when I first started tweeting and discovered, after I started joining chats, that ALL of my tweets were being dumped into LinkedIn. That made me feel bad. Oddly, no one yelled at me. Was my profile that invisible?

For all of the raving and praise I had seen LinkedIn receive, I was not seeing much action myself. And in fact, that’s still the case today. As a person who loves online engaging, LinkedIn is quite the conundrum.

How to engage on LinkedIn

For people who are strong supporters of LinkedIn, nothing I said above really makes any sense. There are two super easy ways to engage with other people on LinkedIn.

1. Groups: Groups can offer the same kind of interaction that Twitter chats do, only you don’t have to worry about the information flying past your head at 90 miles per hour. You find a group that is relevant to your industry, you join, you start chatting. Boom. Done.

2. The  Questions & Answers section: The Q&A section of LinkedIn is a bit hidden as it’s under the “more” tab. However, if you know that it’s there, it can be a pretty easy way to engage with people. There are questions divided up by all sorts of industries and then sub-divisions within your industry. Fly around in there, offer insightful answers, and you might even become the top consultant in that category.

What could be easier than that?

I don’t know about you, but so far, I haven’t found either of those options particularly easy to build on.

Groups

My experience (and keep in mind, this is just me talking) with groups has generally gone 1 of 2 ways. Either the group is essentially dormant (I think I saw tumbleweeds roll across one) or every thread is a promotion of someone’s blog.  The groups haven’t really been places where I have found it easy to engage with people.

The Q&As

I know a lot of people have had great experiences in this segment of the site, so maybe it’s just the particular areas I’m interested in, but it seems like a lot of the questions are asking for huge chunks of information that aren’t really realistic for a venue like that. For example, one question I saw was something like, “Please outline for me all of the steps involved in creating a marketing campaign, including how you make your decisions, how to choose publications, and what the campaign theme should be.”

Um, no. I love ya, but I’m not going to give away what I do professionally.

So again, even though I know a lot of people love engaging in that part of the site, I haven’t had much luck with it.

So where do you fall in the LinkedIn spectrum? Do you believe it’s just a static resume site? Do you feel like engagement is possible but like me, you haven’t had a lot of luck with it? Or do you love LinkedIn and think I’m a total nut now?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

This is post #47 in the Engagement Series. I hope you are finding this series useful, really and truly!

Image by S Brumley. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/LilGoldWmn

13 comments
Joellyn Sargent
Joellyn Sargent

I've been on LinkedIn since 2004, and was a huge fan from the start...until just a few months ago. In the beginning, LinkedIn was a great way to get and stay connected with contacts made in my professional life (real life, before social media because such a big thing).

As a b2b marketer, I worked with large and small companies and have contacts around the world. LinkedIn was indispensable to stay in touch with former colleagues, partners and customers, keeping up with their career news, helping connect people and providing references and recommendations..

Recently, and especially since 1) LinkedIn went with open groups and 2) social media became "mainstream" LinkedIn has become very spammy. I get 20-30 emails a day with "updates" from groups which contain no value for me.

You might say LinkedIn has "jumped the shark" and become just another social media platform. I'll still use it and I love connecting (my profile is on my business card) but the group spam and self-promotion are a real turn-off.

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Maybe that's the problem. Maybe people who got off to a really good start with LinkedIn and who are still soaring with it are the ones more likely to say that it's a great tool. As a late-comer, I seem to have arrived just as it was "jumping the shark," as you say. It feels like LinkedIn is kind of going through an identity crisis. It wants to be social, but it also wants to be kind of formal and job-searchy. I'm sure it'll find its way again eventually :)

Sherree Worrell
Sherree Worrell

Great post Margie. I participated in #Tweetdiner this weekend. It was quite the discussion. Those that loved it couldn't say enough and those that were like me (not thrilled), couldn't convince them why we felt the way we did. I can't tell you the offers I received to help me with my profile and to learn more.

I'm on the fence and sliding off. Personally, I find LinkedIn to be another place to put your resume and that's about it. I have never cared for LI and still don't. I don't find it useful (for me) at all. I am not comfortable asking for recommendations, so I have none. My profile leaves a lot to be desired, although I did update it after starting it two (2) years ago. I just can't seem to get excited about LI.

I have joined quite a few groups and have found most of them to be nothing but noise (I'm big on the noise thing lately) and spam. I rarely participate since I rarely get acknowledged when I do. Seriously, what's the point of asking questions if you're not the "top" member of the group? I have joined groups outside of my area of interest and only a couple have held my interest. The rest I look at on rarely..

A friend forwarded me Lewis Howes' e-book and some other information. I haven't looked at any of it yet. Just doesn't seem to be all that important to me.

Dunno...I'm not feeling the same amount of love that others I know do about LinkedIn. What am I missing here?

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

I think there's more to LinkedIn than you might be feeling, and I might not be giving it enough credit - but I think it takes a lot of time, persistence, and dedication to make LinkedIn work for you. I think you really need to track it, spend time over there, and find the right groups to interact with. I just haven't found the right ones yet, I guess :)

Christine Geraci
Christine Geraci

I joined a social media marketing group on LinkedIn and asked the group their opinions on the value of mini MBAs in digital marketing. I got one response, from a co-worker of mine who felt bad that no one responded. Plus, the group owners pick their favorite posts and throw them to the top of the pile, and you're right, they're all pretty much book and blog promotions. I'm not particularly upset no one answered my question, but the experience made me feel like the new kid in class trying to make friends. So, Margie, I definitely relate when you say you're on the fence about LinkedIn as a means to truly engage.

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Hi Christine,

That's a shame. I would be hesitant to say that all groups work that way, but it does seem like there are certain people who are more likely than others to get responses. Then again, the same holds true when you are first starting with Twitter and blogging, so maybe we just need to be more persistent. :)

Sam Beamond
Sam Beamond

Christine, curious to know how big the group you are referring to was? Best responses come from 1,000 or more members, i'd say.

Sam Beamond
Sam Beamond

Margie,

I can speak to this a little, having been relatively active on LinkedIn for a while. In the early days, I spent a lot of time in groups building my network and offering assistance where I could. As one who's expertise hits home to small businesses, I joined those types of groups to interact. I got a fair bit of business this way. More recently I built my own internet marketing group (Internet Marketing Source), I was shocked to not see you on the members list :). (http://www.linkedin.com/groupRegistration?gid=2475645&csrfToken=ajax%3A0493368080135085997) The goal of this group was to bring all internet marketing professionals together to learn from each other. That said, the group is made up of web developers, graphic designers, affiliate marketers, bloggers, SEO pro's etc. I have my blog feed directly into the group so when a new post is live on my blog it populates the group with a new discussion item. I'm not as active in there as i'd like to be, but chime in from time to time.

As for Q&A, i think this is a great method for defining yourself as an expert in your field. I get a fair bit of traffic fro Q&A when i'm active in there. That said, I try to answer about 10 questions per week about internet marketing. Part of this strategy is to find questions that have had little action, or might be a little harder to answer. Then I connect with the question poster as a follow up.

Hope this helps...

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Man, outted in my own comments section!

Thanks for this great input, Sam. This echoes a lot of what I've heard about LinkedIn from other people. I just haven't quite gotten there yet. I tend to rove around in the marketing section and just find that it's mostly filled with people trying to market themselves or trying to get free consultation on major marketing questions. I'll keep looking!

GrandmaOnDeck
GrandmaOnDeck

Just this week I received an invitation to follow may niece on LinkedIN. I was surprised because I hadn't used the site for two or three years. As I did several invitations popped up with acquaintences I had known in business before retirement reentered my world.LinkedIn has great value to some professionals . For me, I do find it a static resume site.

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Interesting. It seems like you really need to be there, but as an engagement tool, like you say, it seems a bit harder to make that work.

Bob James
Bob James

Marjorie, your impressions of and experiences with LinkedIn pretty much match mine. Groups without controls always seem to degenerate rapidly, once salespeople join. Groups with controls never seem very active. As a social media platform, LinkedIn leaves a lot to be desired. Its value resides in its use as a B2B super-directory, which is the way the founders conceived it.

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Hi Bob,

I feel like having success with LinkedIn is possible if you can dedicate a lot of time to it. If you started your own interesting conversation threads, for example, would the group gear more that way? I just haven't been able to dedicate a lot of time to it, and without much hope of reward, it gets kind of put on the back burner.

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