Why LinkedIn should stay in its ‘experience promise’ lane

Following the controversial announcement of ‘LinkedIn Stories’ in February, Sue Parker contends that social media platforms (and businesses) need to stay in their ‘experience promise’ lane.

We don’t venture into a 5-star Michelin restaurant for a fast-food burger, or take a camping holiday for a gilded infinity pool in a caravan park. Nor do we expect a bookstore to sell TVs or chemists to dispense scotch whisky.

Every core problem and need has divergent solutions. Customers mostly know where their needs can be met by aligning their preferences, time, environment and budgets. And much of that awareness comes from powerful advertising, social media and brand campaigns.

Social media, especially LinkedIn, foster unique value propositions and ‘experience promises’. The bells and whistles of each social media platform will attract users and marketers aligned to their goals, markets and nuances. The experience promise of each channel will either sway or dissuade.

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok each hold quite distinct positioning. Their experience promises encapsulate trust and market relevancy to that position.

So what social channels do businesses and marketers utilise to meet the desired experiences of their market in a meaningful way? The simple answer is to be bang in the middle wherever the majority of ideal clients congregate, and then tap into other channels as relevant. As a rule of thumb for B2B markets, I recommend investing 70 percent in one core social media channel and a 30 percent spread elsewhere.

Deeply understanding the members of your market and their consumption preferences is key. Once key channels are identified, the next step is delivering content in a manner that best delivers to that audience. With LinkedIn being a unique market force, there is a range of content options to navigate.

FOMO and shiny objects

Staying in a clear lane can be a challenge, as evidenced by social media platforms who are all grappling with a fear  of missing out (FOMO) mindset, trying to offer something for everyone. This is not just a conundrum for social media, but for many businesses as they lose nerve and long-game vision. FOMO is rampant and needs courage along with logical market nimbleness to overcome.

Trying to be everything to everyone dilutes value with platforms becoming a vanilla and/or discombobulated hotchpotch. The line across refining and remodelling is long and when big issues seem too hard to fix or competition revenue hovers, the tendency is to jump onto the next new shiny object. This is an issue for all mature platforms – apart from the relatively new TikTok.

Social media stories

And that brings me to the issue of Stories rolling out on LinkedIn. With 675 million global members, the platform is the undisputed king of professional social media and rich value.

The speed of change and updates on LinkedIn is relentless. Mostly LinkedIn will add, remove or update without any prior warning or fanfare. Suddenly something has changed, disappeared or rolled out randomly. Often it’s met with great deserved applause, or at other times, bewilderment or disapproval.

This year alone there has been some fabulous changes including showcasing Profile Features, LinkedIn Events and Polls. So, it was most unusual that LinkedIn announced early in the year that it was rolling out Stories to “add greater conversational opportunities”. Stories are an ephemeral visual feature that mostly disappear in 24 hours.

First appearing on Snapchat, Stories then went gangbusters over on Instagram. Not surprising as Instagram is a fast visual platform with a focus on product engagement and a lighter conservational tone. Facebook also rolled out Stories but with a whimper and Twitter is introducing ‘Fleets’.

Each of these platforms is truly unique and audiences engage in different ways and with nuanced criteria. Age demographics, industry sectors, client focus (B2C or B2B) and content preferences all sit in the melting pot of social media experience promises of value. LinkedIn has a distinctive offering with significant C-suite and professional members from every industry all converging for commercial returns and visibility.

LinkedIn is also marked by higher dwell time, rich content resources and professional conduit capabilities and engagement. Yes, there is some fun and banter (thank goodness) but it is not (nor is it wanted) to be a Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. It is not marketed as a moveable feast of tick and flick 24 hour sound bites for ravenous consumption.

Further, with 49 percent of members logging in weekly, Stories will have gone up in the cloud abyss well before your market may even view them.

Understanding generational demographics on LinkedIn is also critical. Currently the spread of ages is diverse with a higher leaning toward Gen X – people aged in their 40s and 50s. That is an organic outcome given the maturity of the platform. The upsurge of core active Millennials and Gen Z will again be organic, based on industry, educational and professional needs. But not all ages can be aligned to content preferences.

Staying in the lane of value experience will cement a stronger foothold for LinkedIn as “the world’s premier professional and networking site”. It’s important to recognise that other sites have their unique lanes and they do it well. 

Member feedback

I was curious to see how members viewed the potential rollout of Stories and how (or if) it was welcomed. So I posed the question in a post asking if Stories on LinkedIn was a Yes, Maybe or No. I received more than 150 private messages from members of all levels, ages and sectors, as not everyone chose to publicly air their views.

The feedback publicly and privately equated to:

  • 65 percent ‘NO’
  • 30 percent ‘YES’
  • five percent ‘I don’t know’

The feeling from the ‘Yes’ group was that it’s an evolving platform and that content needs to be viewed dynamically. Some of the affirmatives also commented that they love Instagram Stories and would like to view stories on LinkedIn also.

There were some very passionately shouted noes – from a range of ages – and some thought that the concept was ‘bonkers’ and will diminish the value of the platform. A few marketers were concerned that the current dearth of video quality is poor and that Stories will encourage more of the same, hence the diluting of high-value strategic content.

Bec Derrington, the founder of PR resource Source Bottle, strongly believes that social media platforms must evolve in-line with changing audience trends and demands, but doesn’t believe that they should become carbon copies of each other. She is not a fan of the proposed addition of Stories on LinkedIn that will vanish in a day. She also is concerned about an adverse effect on platform use by further segmenting users and actually diminishing features loved by rusted-on fans.

So, should LinkedIn stay in and strengthen its core lane? Should businesses stop trying to be everything to everyone? Is social media delivering content shock and are too many choices diluting value? I think that they are.

And will pharmacies ever sell whisky and camping grounds install gilded infinity pools? I guess time will tell in the new world we navigate.

Sue Parker is the founder of Dare Group Australia, a unique communications, LinkedIn and personal branding consultancy.