LinkedIn: The New Supportive Coworker Community
“The pandemic is over.” – President Biden announced during a 60 Minutes interview with Scott Pelley late last month.
As we reflect on what has changed since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, we ask ourselves where to begin. Having worked in digital and social media for over 6 years, the answer for me centers around how we share stories and consume content online today – more specifically, the evolution of LinkedIn. The platform has transcended beyond career updates into a safe haven and an intentional community for professionals to share personal experiences and reflect on challenges and opportunities both in and outside of the workplace.
Throughout the pandemic, and still today, I’m frequently asked by clients across industries a seemingly simple question: what’s “new” in social media since the start of the pandemic? They’re quick to bring up the emergence of TikTok (albeit, they’re often asking if their brand/company should be on it), but my answer is always LinkedIn. More specifically, it’s the shift in what people are publishing, sharing, and engaging with today. Some of today’s new LinkedIn content would’ve been viewed as taboo or even frowned upon in 2019 and prior. Ask anyone who has been active on LinkedIn since before the start of the pandemic, and they’ll likely point out how the content in their feed has shifted from professional updates and milestones to personal reflections, hardships, and life updates. LinkedIn’s become personal, humanizing, and almost “real”.
For example, over the past year, I’ve seen engagement and wedding photos, once confined to Facebook or Instagram, make their way onto LinkedIn. I've read of colleagues' and friends' struggles with mental health issues previously undiscussed in professional settings. These are things that have little direct impact on an individual's professional network, yet their messages garner some of the highest engagement in my feed today.
So Why the Sudden Shift?
A recent New York Times article suggests during the pandemic, employees lost their ability to connect and interact with one another in the workplace and turned to LinkedIn to fill that void. They quickly found a platform that was not only an outlet or escape, but also a source for answers and support. Many factors caused the shift from a platform designed for checking up on old coworkers and humble bragging – we all love posting those new promotions/job announcements – to one that acts as an actual social community rich in resources and information relevant to modern professional life. (Not to mention, you’re less likely to have “guilt” or “doomscrolling” on LinkedIn compared to Instagram or TikTok.) From work-from-home office tips, to Zoom background design ideas, to managing remote work while taking care of a child, new LinkedIn content shares a common theme: empathy.
People began to seek and offer thoughtful advice on LinkedIn. At a time when people in the world were most vulnerable, and experiencing the deepest feelings of hopelessness or loneliness - LinkedIn and its members were there to offer support. Every day LinkedIn members, from your current and former colleagues/classmates and friends to connections you’ve never met before, began engaging on a more personal level – work/life balance, remote learning, science, social injustice, mental health, and family matters. This new style of LinkedIn personal content wasn’t like Facebook, Twitter, or any other platform. This was different – as people discussed and shared insecurities and vulnerabilities, they were also weaving in an underlying message that connected back to corporate culture, company values, talent acquisition, and employee retention.
To shed some light on the numbers – after all, everything we do here at Ringer is backed by data – over the past year, we’ve witnessed an uptick in Execs’ personal and humanizing content, specifically their thought leadership and company culture content. Looking at our proprietary Exec Signals Platform (ESP), which tracks 500+ C-suite executives across the major industries and sectors, personal content has steadily increased each quarter this year, (up 54% from Q1 to Q2) and is likely to see a slight increase in Q3.
Over the past year, I saw people in my network and out-of-network connections/followers sharing personal stories, such as job layoffs, struggles with depression, ADHD, anxiety, and even the loss of a loved one. But beyond the posts themselves, the real action occurred in the comments, where people provided empathic responses, shared their own experiences, and offered support. And it wasn’t just the communities’ response to this content. Soon after, the LinkedIn platform adapted as well.
To illustrate and foster this shift in community, LinkedIn rolled out two key strategic reactions since the pandemic began. The first was “Support” in July 2020 (arguably at the peak of the pandemic and social justice movement), and most recently, “Funny”. Support was the first reaction that wasn’t directly tied to professional updates/news but instead to personal ones. The “Funny” reaction is somewhat self-explanatory and a testament to the shift toward more light-hearted or playful content, as well. When reactions first rolled out in April 2019, no one could’ve predicted what was to come within less than a year later. These reactions have evolved and will continue to evolve just as the platform and the conversations it hosts.
Why Should You Care About LinkedIn Now?
LinkedIn’s membership and number of daily active users are consistently growing. According to LinkedIn, as of July 2022, the platform has more than 850 million members across more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. But more important than just its growing membership is the high-quality content and engagement on the platform. A social media site that reinvented itself from a networking tool into a social community fostering humanizing discussion and unique content.
So why should you care about LinkedIn’s recent transformation? Whether you’re looking to build/promote your own personal brand through thought leadership, discover qualified leads through account-based marketing techniques, or just better understand the digital trends and conversations from your industry colleagues and leaders, it’s become essential that you keep a pulse on LinkedIn today. With that, here are my three biggest reasons why it's critical you’re a member of the LinkedIn community:
1. Sense of Community – but Actually
LinkedIn has become a place where it's okay to share success and failures in all parts of life. It’s where people can let their guard down and receive encouragement and support without fear of embarrassment. Both in-network and out-of-network connections/followers chime in to offer support and perspective or, at the very least, throw someone a “Support”, “Love”, or “Like” reaction.
Even on the weekends, I’ll find myself from time-to-time checking LinkedIn, just like any other social platform such as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, to see what’s been going on since I last logged on Friday afternoon.
2. The Emergence of Digital Trends & Trending Topics
Recently, I’ve noticed things that once went “viral”, for a lack of a better word, on Twitter before appearing on LinkedIn are now doing the opposite. For example, I first saw The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and Quick Quitting (the newest one!) on LinkedIn before I saw it on Twitter or in the news.
3. Mecca of Thought Leadership Content
In 2022, everyone has a voice and a personal brand, and LinkedIn is the platform to amplify yours. According to LinkedIn, during the pandemic, 66% of Decision-Makers reported a “huge increase” in thought leadership in the marketplace - along with this, users have reported spending more time consuming this type of content.
And while you don’t need to have a “Chief” title in your LinkedIn profile to be viewed as a thought leader in today's age, it’s important that you meaningfully and deliberately craft thought leadership content that matters and is in the right tone. Sharing opinions and perspectives on real-world events and everyday common career successes and challenges is likely what resonates most with your connections. And according to LinkedIn, 64% of users prefer a more human, informal tone. It’s simple, make social media more “social”.
LinkedIn mission statement: “Connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful” [inside and outside of work*]
There’s no doubt that LinkedIn has undergone a content transformation – some will argue it's negatively inched closer to the likes of Facebook. But there is no mistaking that LinkedIn has become a social platform where professionals can turn for career support and advice, share personal stories – both in and out of the workplace, and even find some comic relief to break up their workday.
If you’re not on LinkedIn at this point, you have to ask yourself why.
About Ringer Sciences:
Ringer Sciences is a data science and analytics consulting firm that works with companies of all sizes and across industries to help them leverage data to make informed business decisions backed by research. Using a combination of real-world, social, and third-party data sources, we arm our clients with actionable insights and prescriptive recommendations for immediate impact and outline future opportunities tailored to their specific business goals.