Why Do People Use LinkedIn?

By Nigel Cliffe

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I often say the key to success on LinkedIn is to engage with content by commenting and sharing your thoughts and content that you think your LinkedIn Connections will find helpful. But in order to encourage people to engage with your content, you need to publish engaging content yourself. You need to pose questions that spark debate and publish posts that fuel discussion!

A few weeks ago, I posed the following question to my LinkedIn community:

Do you see LinkedIn as:

a) A place to find a job?
b) A place to develop your professional brand?
c) A place to generate new business relationships?
d) A readily available list of business professionals?
e) Something else?

I have written before about how to use LinkedIn, but I wonder, why are you on LinkedIn?

This was in response to an advertising campaign I recently noticed that LinkedIn was embarking on that focused on promoting the platform as a job search platform BUT I believe LinkedIn to be SO much more.

The Response

At the time of writing this blog post, the LinkedIn post has 20 ‘reactions’ and 41 Comments, which demonstrates the power of publishing engaging content that prompts interaction. I’d like to share some of the thoughtful responses with you below.

Virtual Executive Assistant, Emma Dick, was the first to share her thoughts:

C for me. However, I find the use of ‘generate’ in the sentence makes me feel it’s the hard sell type of business relationship so many seem to head straight for if you accept their connection request, which isn’t my style all.

“I use LinkedIn mainly for the networking and people connecting. I like to develop relationships with folk who have a similar business ethos, which is important to me in the work I undertake and keeps that passion burning. I have some great meetings that (thankfully!) feel more self-employment peer-to-peer mentoring than any kind of sell, with the bonus that they stop the loneliness that can sometimes occur when running a home office.
“There are also some interesting and inspirational posts that challenge me to think about my own business and my management style or give great tips.”

People connecting, I like it! I agree with Emma about the word ‘generate’ giving the wrong impression as it is often associated with the ‘wrong’ sort of selling and have often struggled with this myself (any alternative words would be welcome!). I also agree with Emma, LinkedIn can provide a healthy dose of challenge, motivating us to change our approach and alter our normal ways of doing or thinking about things.

Relationship Marketing Professional, Debbie Nelson was an advocate for all the options I gave as to why do people use LinkedIn, including, indirectly, the job search aspect.

“My answer is yes to all 🙂 I have used LinkedIn to actively build a professional network, because their [LinkedIn’s] posts have the potential to spark opportunities for collaboration, positive encouraging relationship, and I do believe every employer scans social media to see who we are when applying for a job.

“Although I have not personally been hired from a LinkedIn ad, I believe my profile has influenced being hired for various roles. I learn a great deal and appreciate the platform’s endless array of what’s new in the world. Plus, someone around the world is always awake and interactive, which is helpful at times! Really great conversation starter Nigel!”

It seems that keeping loneliness at bay is a particular reason as to why people use LinkedIn, especially for freelancers and remote workers. Similarly, as well as relationship building, where, in my view, every keystroke on LinkedIn should be considered a trust-building exercise, LinkedIn is a brilliant source of news, trends and current affairs.

LinkedIn Coach, Sharon Hamersley seconded Debbie’s comment stating that:

Nigel, [LinkedIn is] also a great platform to keep up with what’s new and hot in your profession – and of course to complain about (or occasionally celebrate) the latest change LinkedIn has made!”

For Business Broker Paul Dodgshon the reason he used LinkedIn was wholehearted ‘C’ – to generate new business relationships, commenting C, C and C.”. Meanwhile, for Ian Franklin CEO of Stickfest Group, a global recruitment company, the purpose of LinkedIn is B, C and D, so developing his professional brand, generate new business relationships and having access to a readily available list of professionals. Social Media Strategist and Trainer Pamela Hopkinson, said it was definitely all of the above-outlined reasons except for A, the job searching factor, whilst my fellow LinkedIn expert, Jeff Young said he had used LinkedIn for all the reasons, A-E.

Career Consultant, Beth Squires commented that:

“I always tell my clients that “LinkedIn is a networking platform that, oh yeah by the way, can be used to find a job.” If you are only using LinkedIn when you are looking for a job, you are missing out! When my clients hear how LinkedIn can be used to easily stay connected with others, get information, strengthen their brand, transition to a new career, etc., they are hooked! Thanks for the dialog!”

For Business Development Manager, Neil Schaffer, LinkedIn isn’t just about generating new business relationships but nurturing and retaining existing ones:

“Great questions Nigel. LinkedIn is a very valuable place for me, in order to create new and maintain existing business relations. Also, you don’t get any political propaganda, like on Twitter and Facebook. “Deffo a C for me.”

Learning and Development Specialist, Sami Yousef Maayah shared that he uses LinkedIn for networking and business acquisition. Mailing Specialist, Ursula McBride commented saying it was definitely C for her, as Marketer Asif Choudry replied that it was B and C for him, with generating new business relationships being a direct result of developing his personal brand on the platform.

Perhaps Director of Financial Education at Brighton Jones, Jedidiah Collins is onto a winner when he says his strategy for using LinkedIn is:

“I think it works in this order:
D – list of people
B – I get to introduce my brand to
C – build a relationship with
A – possibly work for or with one day
E – exercise my creative muscle (maybe #1)”

Where LinkedIn Has Gone Wrong

If my quick survey is anything to go by, it seems LinkedIn has missed the mark with sharing answers to the question, why do people use LinkedIn, in its first UK TV advert. Marketing Specialist, Simon Reed, who said he uses LinkedIn for all the above reasons except for A, muses that perhaps LinkedIn’s main income comes through the recruitment ads, which could explain why their advertising campaign focuses so much on job searching. He offered some valuable advice for LinkedIn, that they should concentrate more on giving all businesses the tools to do all forms of business, not just finding a job or employee.

Procurement Consultant, David Turner explained that when LinkedIn was first launched he found it to be a place where professionals could share knowledge, network and problem solve. He said that unfortunately, the emphasis has now changed, so much so that his aforementioned answers to my question, why do people use LinkedIn, didn’t even get included in my post. He concludes:

“LinkedIn, in my opinion, has lost its way and I am not sure what it is now supposed to be, and this is reflected by the need to ask.”

I reassured David that those that know how to use LinkedIn to its full potential are doing, for example, some of the greatest LinkedIn practitioners I know were engaging with the very comment thread this blog post is about, adding valuable perspectives. David imparted that he manages four Procurement interest LinkedIn Groups with over 22k worldwide members, with very little activity taking place within the Groups. In fact, he has witnessed a further decline in Group activity in recent years. This is because LinkedIn ‘canned’ Groups a few years ago. As a result, they DO NOT form part of a successful engagement strategy on LinkedIn.

Perhaps LinkedIn’s advertising campaigns should be focusing on how the platform can help people build relationships and develop their professional identity through engagement?

Ian Franklin added to the discussion saying LinkedIn had much more to offer than being a mere job searching tool, yet the TV advertising that he has seen suggests that it is just a jobs board. Electrical expert, Dean Towers thought that LinkedIn might change the advertising they put out every so often and focus on the other elements of its capabilities discussed in this blog post, which he quite rightly said, would be a huge campaign. Whilst I am cynical as to whether LinkedIn would follow Dean’s way of thinking, it would certainly stand them in good stead if they did!

Another one of my fellow LinkedIn Trainers, Steve Phillip vented:

I still find it fascinating Nigel, how much LinkedIn still seems to have a bias toward job seekers, talent, etc and how so many of their articles, blogs, etc are geared toward these sectors. It’s sometimes like they’ve missed how many business-to-business members are using this site?!

I’m inclined to agree with Steve, it’s crazy how LinkedIn neglect how the majority of business-to-business professionals maximise the platform. Imagine how much further the platform could go if only they appreciated the many other reasons why people use LinkedIn…

Indeed, after being more involved with LinkedIn, Dean reckons LinkedIn is a whole lot more than it advertises on TV: “The A to D above is only a snippet of the opportunities it offers.”

Perhaps the above responses will encourage you to reflect on how you use LinkedIn? Are you using it to its full potential?

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