I can’t get enough of Social Media. I’ll admit it. There aren’t enough free slots in my day to tap into the ether of other people’s business and snoop their news, work gripes and media opinions and whilst all the platforms offer “engagement” of varying intensities and worth, they respectively suit some demographics as well being totally inappropriate for others.
The global perception is relatively sound: Twitter is quirky for sending short messages with embedded articles, LinkedIn is a professional networking tool, Google+ and Facebook are community platforms and Instagram and Pinterest flaunt nice pictures. We all have our favourites, platforms which we *don’t really get* and sites about which we endeavour to learn more. My all-time favourite (I’ll wager other’s too) is the almighty Facebook.
Facebook works: a concise interface, neat mixture of tidy menus and navigation-friendly pages; all heavily-laden with plenty of personally-relevant community news. They even plug just the right amount of third-party snippets to keep their advertisers happy. It is, however, corporately deemed as being too informal be used professionally – an unfair perception as business pages are (in-line with the standard news feeds) very user-friendly and sync with corporate Twitter accounts. Similarly, the introduction of Facebook hashtags in 2013 and Trending Topics earlier this year proved that Facebook was trying to narrow the gap with Twitter’s breaking news standpoint and become more of a business tool.
Regardless of my faithful advocating, Facebook has acknowledged its non-professional demeanour and has created a snazzy new version targeted at businesses. Facebook at Work, looking just like the current site, aims to get a foothold in the office environment to connect colleagues and contacts, discuss agendas and documentation and expects to see corporate networking of over 1-billion people – competing directly with the professional engagement leader, LinkedIn. It isn’t without new rivals; hot in pursuit of “professional networking” is WeWork – established in 2010 and is set to triple membership within the next year. Facebook at Work should be a hit – it simply needs to continue the simplicity and technical competence of its community counterpart. I’m delighted that Facebook are enhancing their portfolio. I’m also pleased that I won’t have to use LinkedIn anymore.
Before I start, I felt obliged to add that I acquired a meaty contract through LinkedIn and I felt a little unkind in my following “observations”. This was before I subsequently posted an update to another client’s User Conference – complete with overview download and embedded web links – which, on clicking Share, disappeared completely. I hadn’t lost internet connection, logged myself out or exceeded word count; LinkedIn just didn’t fancy posting this shizz today.
LinkedIn was started in 2002 by guys from Yahoo, PayPal and Socialnet and boasts 300-million users with quarterly reported revenues of $568-million. Its basic function allows employers, employees and contacts to make formal “connections” with each other to represent an IRL (in-real-life) professional relationship. Makes sense – we could all do with this kind of organisation in our working lives. Except it doesn’t work and we need to start again.
As a dreadful achievement cynic and after having a sceptical peruse through this wincingly-enriched array of HIDW (Haven’t I Done Well) profiles and characterless avatars, the true nature of this platform bothers me. It feels show-offy. It feels as if all my contacts want to tell me about what they have achieved and how professional they are now. Edwin Rumphries, Financial Liaison Officer at Gradgrind Incorporation has listed his last 3 jobs with a CV-style summary of how swish he is, also plugging third party endorsements to affirm his swishness (awesome – I must employ him now). Rebecca Farthing, Media Asset Executive could be congratulated for being at her company for 1-year (she will be off soon then) as Kat Wang has for 16-years (she will be off soon then). Rhiannon’s ex-colleague (twice removed) describes her as “imperatively dynamic” and Sunni’s former stationery supplier lists him as “daring to be different”. Anyway, this self-indulgent tripe (I’m feeling empowered to call it simply BS) catalysed by the relentless thumbnails of sad suits makes me recoil from my tablet.
LinkedIn profile building does actually take skill. When I started the agency, I participated in a Social Media for Business course (recommended, get in touch for details) where we stripped each platform down to its bones and deciphered which one was right for our companies. Halfway through the course, we arrived at LinkedIn. This was the only platform where the trainer suggested that we, as a group, challenged our own LinkedIn pages for improvements. Cue nervous laughter; we all knew ours was wrong. My professional headline simply said “Marketing Agency” (there may have been an “Errrr….”immediately following). One fellow delegate gingerly displayed his Business Consultancy page whose profile showed him drowning himself in a Strawberry Daiquiri fishbowl.
The very concept of making formal “connections” is sound, but the variable of who and why is ripe for misuse. Anyone working in media, client or agency, will have been hounded daily by advertising sales; sometimes you can recognise their number on call display and ignore the call or pretend that you are someone else (instantly changing the rep’s chipper mood, eh?). Either way, you don’t much fancy engaging with this relentless chap with whom you don’t really want to advertise. But hang on! You’ve received a request to connect on LinkedIn. You click accept. What’s the harm? 9-seconds later, the phone rings. It’s him. You see, you are friends now. And even in that tiny period of time, he has viewed your profile and endorsed you for “supplier relationships”. Perfect.
The Who’s Viewed your Profile is a funny one. For one thing, it has no purpose other than causing paranoia (or boosting egos – depending on your inclination); tablet users may accidentally click on “someone you might know” by accident, hence making a record of your interest in them and embarrassingly alerting them to this allure instantaneously. Equally, I don’t want to being checked out by some random, especially based on the BS endorsements that I feel obliged to assign to my totally-unidentifiable-to-me profile. They might be a competitor, laughing at my cringe-worthy CV-esque summary and blindingly abrasive gloating. The stats teaser on my page tells me that 5.5 people have viewed me in the last 15-days. I’d like to meet this half-a-person and actually connect with him/her IRL out of admiration.
My Updates page tells me that Jeremy Skimpole joined a group that is very loosely connected to a group which I follow. I suppose I am missing out on something important by not being a part of this group; Jeremy is in it, I should be too. I ask to be accepted. I note that the photocopier supplier of a competing agency is also following this group. This confirms my doubt. This group is definitely for me.
Groups. This bit doesn’t work either. I am a member of 30-something groups – mostly technology oriented and categorised into sector or market. I like to post client’s updates on events and product developments into these groups for exposure. Except 9 of these groups are still “membership pending” since June 2014. There is an option to contact the group admin to re-request (beg) your plea to join. I embarrassingly did that once and I’m still not in. Coincidentally, I posted a development article in a legal IT group once; I wanted engagement and received some interesting stances and further questions. One solicitor thought this was an excellent opportunity to complain on my thread, at great length, about an installation of totally different software from an unknown supplier in which he had invested two years ago and would not sign off. It did derail the thread somewhat.
Speaking of featured updates, LinkedIn’s offering of a feature link is a large pastel box with tiny white copy within it. They look unappealing, characterless and disproportionately aligned. Sometimes the title is omitted completely – offering just a BitLy URL and a ClipArt image – leaving the viewer the taxing task of having to guess the content of the article. Occasionally, a connection posts a photo.
• I-am-standing-on-our-exhibition-stand shot. Especially if there is no one else on the stand and you are sporting a pained “how-much-has-this-cost-us” face.
• Look-at-our-new-office shot. Just a big fat So-What?
• Corporate Mug shots. You don’t look like this IRL – your company has invested in a photo dude to stand everyone against some weathered brickwork (arty!) or white space (formal!) to capture your best HIDW face.
• Any photo taken with a Nokia 520 phone for an undesired condensation effect.
Back to usability, my iPad tells me daily that LinkedIn has new notifications. Today, there were 7 and I was excited. On opening the app, the 7 instantly changed to 2 in the notifications flag icon. On selecting the icon, it changed to 1. What a carrot dangler. To top it off, it was another whinge from that solicitor with the 2-year gripe about the billing system.
I feel I should stop my observations now. Some of them aren’t LinkedIn’s fault*, but instead the nature in which it is used and the unprecedented desire to tell the world an individual’s brilliance. LinkedIn isn’t even slightly representative of me; it reads like a CV and I can’t post my IRL business news here; connections are impartial to my tears over IT support (real tears; we’ve all been there) and sales pitch mishaps (ditto). This brings me back to Facebook and the differences in engagement – the Friends Vs Connections; Facebook: we have friends because we want to. LinkedIn: we have connections because we might need them at a later date. Facebook already stems from community and has stream of enrichment and goodness to it. LinkedIn attracts a very different demographic, but nevertheless feels untrue.
With Facebook for Work due (it is currently being developed in the London offices), millions of new users could soon be creating their profiles, flaunting their wares and sharpening their résumés. It’s a good opportunity for users to get it right this time.
LinkedIn just flagged 2 new notifications to me. The first: Edwin Rumphries has a new job of Senior Technical Manifestation Consultant (of course) and has already been endorsed for Auditing, Logistical Management and Trouble Shooting by, no doubt, his new colleagues.
The second: Steve smith, decorator At self-Employed is Someone I Might Know. I do actually. His professional headline reads simply “Painter since 16”. That’s the bloke I trust to paint my kitchen.
*poor company templates, sporadic notifications, badly formatted digital campaigns, cumbersome update processing are LinkedIn’s fault.