I found this Substack article by Trung Phan recently and it both made me laugh and think at the same time. Truly an excellent combination.
Trung makes some valid points about the fact that much of what we see on LinkedIn is, of course, targeted at the audience, which is really HR Managers and Recruiters. (Other professionals are there, and they might be who we think we are targeting, but the real customers of LinkedIn are those in hiring.) This means that most of us are putting on what Trung calls our CV mask, and interacting with everything in the same way we write our CV, which is not actually how anyone naturally interacts.
This got me thinking. What we see with LinkedIn, and all social media is that the more successful one type of post is, the more of it we will all create. On Twitter snark goes viral, on Facebook outrage and conspiracy theories go viral, on LinkedIn, it’s the humblebrag, the Poll for the sake of making a Poll, the cringe motivational post, and so on.
So, we get more of that. Because it works, and it works because it succeeds at the things that LinkedIn measures. When you see a coworker or a friend humblebragging about some success you naturally want to congratulate them. It’s a polite and professional thing to do. Those posts get more likes and comments. Polls, by their very nature, get more interactions, because people vote in them even when they serve no purpose at all.
For example, in the legal tech field, consider the difference between a post sharing that you will be attending Legal Week in person and asking folks to let you know if they wanted to meet up, versus putting up a Poll “Are you going to be at Legal Week – Yes/No”. Which one gets more responses? Which one is actually effective for you in your real-world work? LinkedIn is going to reward the one with more responses, despite the fact that it has almost no value. They measure response, not real-world value because the response and interaction matter more to them.
It can be very easy to lose sight of this on social media but it can also be easy to lose sight of this in the workplace or in our own careers. When we reward certain measurements people respond by doing more of that thing. This makes sense if your goal is to simply attract more attention to yourself. For social media maybe that is your goal. If you are representing a brand on social media, yeah that is probably what you want. However, as an individual, I think you have to ask yourself if getting more eyeballs this way causes you to actually undermine your own goals.
To put it more simply, why are you doing what you’re doing? If it’s just to get more attention for yourself, and these tactics work for you, great. Good for you. But if your goal is something else, like educating or reaching people with a specific message beyond this fight for eyeballs, is following the trends always the best way to do that?
Simply measuring something because it’s the easy thing to measure doesn’t get you to your goals. It might take a little more to figure out what those measurements are, or should be, but sometimes it helps to remind ourselves that what LinkedIn rewards is what LinkedIn wants more of, not necessarily what each of us wants more of.
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