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LinkedIn – How the Professional Networking Site Was Personalized

Jonathan Frostick didn’t expect his social media post to go viral while he was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, but it happened anyway.

Five months ago, the British financial services manager wrote a LinkedIn post from the cardiology ward. When he felt the pain in his chest, his first thought was: “Damn, I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow, this is not convenient.” Later, he decided to change his work life, including not “spending all day at Zoom” but “more time with my family.”

The post took off, garnering 15,000 comments and 300,000 reactions, as it resonated with remote workers affected by the pandemic who grappled with the porous boundaries between work and private life. “I felt quite anxious,” says Frostick over the phone. “I was not used to so much attention. It can be overwhelming. ”

While some commenters questioned the wisdom of writing a personal reveal on a professional networking forum, the reaction was largely positive, Frostick notes. “It started a conversation with other people who had events that changed their lives.”

A focus on career and networking has been what sets LinkedIn apart from rival social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. In fact, the relentless self-promotion and bragging on the site has spurred a number of parody social media accounts, including the Twitter accounts @CraponLinkedIn and @StateofLinkedIn, which is dedicated to “exposing the worst of. . . brown nose ”.

However, over the past 18 months, users have increasingly leaned toward personal reflections, according to Dan Roth, editor-in-chief of LinkedIn. Users are considering “what they want to do, are they working on the right things, how they are dealing with the pressures of work and life,” he says. Mental health hashtags have “grown exponentially,” he adds.

Recent popular posts have included a woman describing resigning from her CEO position to pursue her dream of becoming a mother. Three months ago, a man posted about how his partner, by coming out as transgender, inspired him to pursue a more fulfilling but less lucrative career. And earlier this year, a young woman published a photo of her in a graduation gown with her father in a hospital bed before she died.

This is part of a broader increase in activity on the platform. There was a 38 percent increase in the number of feed updates viewed in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, LinkedIn says. Advertising revenue reached $ 1 billion in the latest quarter, nearly double what it was a year ago.

LinkedIn’s personal content also echoes a broader shift in corporate culture rejecting pent-up emotions in favor of authenticity. The company’s mental health campaigns, for example, have encouraged employees to tell their stories of depression and other conditions. Social justice movements like #MeToo have also relied on professionals sharing personal experiences.

However, the results of that exchange are mixed. Authenticity can appeal to recruiters when it comes to high-caliber candidates, but not for everyone else. When it comes to work, people tend to prefer stories about flaws and failures when they end in success.

Since the financial crisis, there has been a shift from streaming success to sharing virtue and vulnerability, says Will Storr, author of The State Game: About Social Position and How We Use It. “We are no longer in the age of greed. The authenticity and storytelling focus on struggles and dramas. Unless you’re a celebrity, other people’s success makes us feel bad. People on social media are aware that they are broadcasting too much success, even on LinkedIn. “

This can result in an awkward work and personal marriage, as shown on a 2017 LinkedIn. mail by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, who bought the social media platform the previous year. He wrote about his son Zain, who was born with severe cerebral palsy and became “the joy of our family.” Nadella then turned a corporate thought: “And I’ve found that the moments that so profoundly change our lives can also be a catalyst for empowering those around us. This is what I see in the dozens of people who are passionate about Microsoft. ”

However, the personal touch helps to forge an emotional connection, something that was difficult to find in the confinement. “When done right, it can help build a positive brand online,” says Sabrina Clark, senior director of marketing for BrandYourself, which helps people manage their online profiles. “Like networking in person, [personal details] it can provide context to their lives. “

In fact, LinkedIn algorithm Reward these publications by promoting those that receive many likes, shares and comments.

But Clark cautions against commenting on News Primer and polarizing issues. While LinkedIn tends to have fewer career completion posts than Twitter and Facebook, users should “keep in mind that it’s for anyone to see,” he says. “You can share too much, or you could share something that can be taken out of context and cast a negative light.”

However, there are no hard and fast rules about what is considered oversharing, and with content so abundant, the temptation is to cut the noise with personal stories. “Everyone posts so much crap that they are invisible and have to post more,” says recruiter Jason Bandy.

You find it increasingly difficult to search for candidates on LinkedIn. “It has not solved the hiring problems. You are making it more difficult. As a recruiter, if I were to spend 15 minutes talking to all of my contacts, it would take me 4,000 years. He has created a haystack, which is very time consuming. “

Recruiter Jason Bandy sits at his desk at home

Recruiter Jason Bandy posted a personal story on LinkedIn about being locked up and not being able to see his son in America © Richard Cannon

However, Bandy also posted about her personal life when travel restrictions prevented her from seeing her teenage son who moved abroad three years ago. “I’m not sure what motivated me. I just wanted to remind people that everyone has a Covid story. In part, I wanted my connections to remind me in a human way. “

LinkedIn users’ personal stories increase the platform’s overlap with other social media companies. You are already facing competition in the recruitment market. In 2018, Facebook launched job ads and this summer, TikTok capitalized on its #careertiktok content and launched a TikTok Resume pilot program, encouraging people to introduce themselves to employers with short videos. With so much convergence, Bandy asks, “At what point does LinkedIn become a personal forum with some business?”

For Frostick, who has previously posted on mental health, posting on LinkedIn has been an often “overlooked” way of approaching his work relationship.

This was part of the reason why JR Storment published an article about the death of his eight-year-old son, Wiley. It started out practical: he felt he needed to explain his sudden absence to work contacts. “It occurred to me that it was going to be a conversation that I was going to have over and over again.” She also wanted to raise awareness of a condition called sudden unexplained death in epilepsy, which caused her son to die in his sleep.

But the article was a reminder for those who, like Storment, had put in long hours at work, to consider putting their family first. “For me, it was a shocking discovery,” he says. “I know a lot of other people are doing the same, missing obvious opportunities to spend time with those who matter.”

Storment received thousands of comments and messages, including some from people who read her post and later turned down promotions due to the hours it would take from her family. There were also responses from professional contacts that revealed that her son had also died. “I feel like of all the things I’ve done in my life, it had the biggest impact on most people. It was not expected, “he says.” That terrible thing [that] What happened had a positive impact: some peripheral people appeared [for us]We made new connections with people who made it. “

There was pushback from those who worked multiple jobs without the luxury of cutting their hours to be with family. “I felt sorry for them,” he says. Storment is unfazed by the fact that if you Google their name, the post is one of the first things to come up. Rather, it has been positive, providing an opportunity to talk about her son. “After the first year, people ask for less.”

He returns to publication every few months, seeing it as a “time capsule on what happened.” He wants to remember. Memories fade quickly. It’s so easy to put that [professional facade]. We are complex people with strange experiences. “

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