LinkedIn 2020 was more than business and celebrity influencers

- December 21, 2020 4 MIN READ

LinkedIn was officially launched in May 2003 as a professional job and employment networking platform. It was said to be invented from the Californian living room of Reid Hoffman.

Suffice to say that 17 years on it has changed the world and how business, governments, industry, workplaces and people do business, manage careers and network.  Every sector and profession is represented within 722 million members globally (over 11 million in Australia).

Since its first iteration in 2003, followed by Microsoft’s purchase in 2016 (with 433 million members) the platform has seen endless transformations and changes.

It’s an understatement to say the amount of changes and updates in 2020 has been quite dazzling. Almost every second week a new feature or update was rolled out.

Impact of COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 on LinkedIn was significant, affecting every person and business in some way.  LinkedIn also laid off just under 1000 staff with content and conversations on the platform representing all the pain, anguish, job losses, and industry declines. But simultaneously there was success, support and deeper communications shared.

I have always believed LinkedIn represents the full gamut of people, hence the good, bad, ugly and awesome.  People’s true nature doesn’t change in adverse or good times but amplified.

However, 2020 was a bit different on the platform as much of the self-centred, salesy and wannabe influencer posturing decreased…  Perhaps it’s lying dormant ready to re-surface but LinkedIn does have a brand promise of a higher degree of trust than other platforms.  We started to see a shift back in January with the bushfire response.  But it wasn’t all sweetness and light as humans are humans and survival instincts coincide and conflict.

Content statistics and preferences

Reports stated that content sharing increased by 50 per cent with a 31 per cent increase in member engagement during 2020.

Given the level of available time, needs, job losses, business changes, industry pain, lockdowns and working from home those statistics are not surprising.  And LinkedIn provided free access to a range of learning and skills programs.

And in balance content and engagement increased as some sectors did well, competition was as robust, there were start-ups launched and people wanted to share their knowledge and perspectives

In June I ran a poll asking what members preferred content format was to consume. A staggering 77 per cent of members voted text and images was the preference. This was significant and replicated similarly in many other similar polls.

Publishing origins

It’s interesting to reflect that it has only been since 2014 since all members were able to publish their own content.   Publishing had been only available to a select few influencers from 2012 such as Richard Branson, Jeff Weiner, Barack Obama and Arianna Huffington “.

Content is the foundation of building personal brands, business value and positioning expertise. Designed to educate, entertain and inform it is used and now  available to everyone from prime ministers, scientists, world leaders, local businesses, global celebrities, public servants, sales, graduates  and the unemployed. The richness of contributions across the diversity is quite astounding and so important.

But the fabric of content, fake-influencer activity and reach saw considerable change this year as LinkedIn introduced a new feed ranking system Dwell time to recalibrate how content is classified and distributed.  This encouraged many to contribute as there was greater hope to align social proof of value vs vanity metrics.  But there is still a long way to go to rid the platform of bots and gaming practices.  And further, with the new additional window for value for 48 – 76 hours, there is a fairer playing field.

Conversations and observation

Within the fear and heartbreak of 2020 were comfort, knowledge and empowerment. Situations and feelings shared publicly on LinkedIn and in private messages seemingly halved the pain.  And sharing good news did the same as members saw and grasped the need for balance.

LinkedIn holds a unique place in digital media and social networking as a solid reflector of business, workplace, human and community issues.

With the diverse range of members, industries, professions and intentions, LinkedIn has something of value to give all. But there is often a focus on the experiences only from a sales and marketing view.  Whilst that value is clear, LinkedIn in 2020 had a wider impact.

So I was curious to interview members from different sectors.

Here is what a few shared:

LinkedIn has been an important vehicle for my academic and community voice in the

COVID-19 crises.   It’s been a safe and less divisive platform to share information in a volatile environment.  Content has facilitated conversations, brokered knowledge and built a broad network.  Comments and messaging from members has been particularly helpful to understand the personal impact of COVID-19

Professor Catherine Bennett, Chair in Epidemiology, Deakin University 

LinkedIn is a critical platform for sharing the message of R U OK, self-care and resilience.  Content and engagement has significantly increased during 2020 and has been more honest with less bravado as a result of working from home, job losses and wellbeing issues. 

Graeme Cowan, Director, FactorC  and  R U OK?

Sharing meaningful information on LinkedIn that supported our recruitment markets has created enormous trust and visibility.  I have observed a deeper level of interaction as a result of working from home which I anticipate will continue in 2021

Stella Petrou Concha, CEO Reo Group

 I observed an uptake of people sharing content who had totally disregarded LinkedIn previously.  Many who had been lurkers started to participate and engage meaningfully during 2020

Trevor Young, Founder, Digital Citizen

 Without others we become smaller and LinkedIn is an important means to connect and be heard.   I observed a higher and deeper level of content engagement which reduced risks of dissociation and loss of connection with others. LinkedIn enables our ‘sense of self’ by feeling more supported.

Simon Popley, Director, Coaching Leadership

This year being on LinkedIn has been like watching people discover a whole new world and way to engage with businesses.  The content became richer and the interactions more meaningful. 

Annette Densham, Founder, Audacious Agency

What will 2021 look like?

Frankly who really knows?  But LinkedIn during 2020 was more than business and celebrity influencers.  And whilst not all beers and skittles, it was an incredibly valuable place to be

More platform changes are a given in 2021. But be aware, LinkedIn rarely gives much, if any pre-warning of updates.

Looking forward though to more great content, better user experiences and meaningful connectivity.