TL;DR: Everything you say on LinkedIn is part of your résumé. So unless you’re a “professional influencer,” watch your words…
Back when LinkedIn first came into being, professional networking and career development revolved around referrals and job-application sites like monster.com and corporate recruiters who spent their days cultivating a network of contacts. Old-school recruiting is what brought me from Boston to San Francisco, and personal network referrals took me from there to Seattle. But LinkedIn served as a primary source for industry outreach ever since.
The service didn’t always have a “news feed” feature, and when it was first introduced it was a tentative thing. Most people have social media accounts on other platforms that already fill different social needs, and the idea of a “social dialogue” amongst our professional personas is a pretty new thing. I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself I’ve always tried to maintain a neutral voice on controversial topics when speaking in a professional context. That’s not to say that I don’t have opinions, or advocate for particular outcomes, but the language and style involved is (for me) very different than a Twitter fight. I don’t always succeed at being neutral, but I do try.
The tone on LinkedIn has really started to change, however. On the rare days where I decide to wade back into the LinkedIn feed, I don’t have to work very hard to find posts on all of the following, above and beyond the usual unsolicited connection requests:
- Why Politician X is great / horrible
- How my personal strategy to Be A Better Person has worked great for me, and why you should do it too
- Business school memes about leadership
- Look at this amazing thing I just did
- Mimicing the current hashtag-of-the-month
- “Sales spam”
Are any of these things that you want permanently, easily referenced from the page that contains your CV? And what is the goal of publishing any of this content?
I’d argue that the only point is misguided brand-building, or perhaps dreams of becoming an influencer run amok. You’re building personal brand awareness, or company brand awareness, or establishing/reinforcing the virtues and beliefs associated with your profile. Professional LinkedIn users (recruiters, social marketers, business development, etc.) have tangible objectives and processes they work through on LinkedIn as a tool. But it’s a really poor choice of platforms for finding circles of friends, or for virtue signaling, and isn’t even always the best place to connect with friends from other environments.
Continued leakage of Twitter and Facebook behaviors into LinkedIn will not end well, for its users or the platform as a whole. The same compartmentalization of networks and information will form as individuals naturally establish social graphs based on ideology or other virtues, and companies will find it harder and harder to communicate effectively with any individual without affirming how it is aligned with those virtues. It’s almost as if all the childhood warnings to not post content to Instagram you don’t want “discovered” by a future employer are being completely ignored on the platform where all the major employers thrive.
Maybe it’s just symptomatic of the current culture. Nonetheless, I’d like to believe that a business professional wouldn’t broadcast dogmatic views unless they felt safe from negative consequences. And you can really do yourself and your employer some serious damage on LinkedIn.