Anyone browsing LinkedIn in 2023 will find posts of little or no practical use. Cheerful 30-year-old hasn’t used his smartphone for a month in favor of an old Nokia. Two students looking for a room in Breda. Judge – “Judge Joy” – celebrates fourteen years in the profession. A person looking for a job or an employee can do nothing with it, and yet such posts often get thousands of likes.
These highly personal posts on the corporate network are a growing irritant for some users. They are afraid that Linkedin has gradually become a kind of Facebook, which is the most interesting for your old aunt.
The platform says in writing that LinkedIn has witnessed this advanced customization, especially since the Corona crisis. “We’ve seen an increase in people coming to LinkedIn for… Community discussions – and shared more personal experiences as the line between their work and personal lives became more blurred. “
Stephanie Smith, an associate professor at Virginia Tech College for Communications, did research on LinkedIn. She thinks it makes sense for the platform to allow this development. LinkedIn tries to keep up with trends in social media. It has grown from an established website into a real network platform.”
This may be annoying to some, but not to a platform that has been around for exactly twenty years this past May. The number of users continues to rise; Last year she had one of those 875 million worldwide. A small beer compared to Facebook’s roughly 3 billion users, but still: The Netherlands has more than 10 million LinkedIn accounts, according to the platform. This is about the total working population.
In the recruitment sector, LinkedIn is indeed the absolute ruler. According to Lidewey van der Sluis, Professor of Strategic Talent Management and Organizational Leadership at Nyenrode Business University, the role of the platform is undoubtedly important. LinkedIn guarantees to be mediator – Headhunter is expensive – eliminated because supply and demand are directly matched.” This saves a lot of money.
Funds that end up in part with LinkedIn itself. The main source of income is the tons that large companies pay for premium accounts. And they’re willing to pay that money because employees are en masse on LinkedIn, even—and perhaps especially—when they’re not looking for a job. LinkedIn revenue reached $14.6 billion in fiscal 2022, up 26 percent from the previous year. In total, LinkedIn employs 20,000 people.
According to Smith, users stay active on LinkedIn out of (professional) curiosity. They see who will work in the space and gain inspiration and knowledge about their field. There is also some voyeurism involved; What did that nice new fellow really study? This keeps the recruit’s fishing pool well.
Dungeons and Dragons
The fact that LinkedIn has become a platform for so-called “professionals” is due to the decisiveness of founder Reid Hoffman (55), who put the website together in his living room. California, now worth over $2 billion, is a walking cliché. American nerd says in his youth He was obsessed with the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, where players experience adventures in Tolkien’s fantasy world. At the age of 12, Hoffman decided to hone the comprehensive rules of D&D. He presented them to the producer, who promptly hired the teenager to star in the next release. Hoffmann had little time for school, and much more for cave trolls and witch hunters.
But with good grades, Hoffman got to the prestigious Stanford University, where he studied computer science. He became a member of the exclusive Phi Beta Kappa Society, which counted 17 US presidents and 136 Nobel Prize winners among its members.
In the 1990s, Hoffman’s forte was a pressure cooker for America’s digital future Beau Mundi. At Stanford, he became friends with the founders of the PayPal payment system and the Yahoo search engine. Their generation of online billionaires are the business successors to computer pioneers like Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Apple visionary Steve Jobs.
Philosophy and human images
After graduating from Stanford, Hoffman moved to Oxford to study philosophy. During his many interviews, he regularly tells that through his study of Plato and Nietzsche, he gained a view of man in which individual values separate the two worlds—such as office and home. Hofmann believes this need already exists in everyday life, but will also evolve online. In this could mean something to the world. Whether this account by Hoffman is a retrospective legend, like more American success stories, is conjecture. Sure enough, he came back from England to Silicon Valley to work at PayPal, among others.
In the same period, the social network Friendster, which was the predecessor to Facebook, was launched. There was no platform for professional communication at the time, but it will certainly follow, Hofmann believes — within months or weeks. Realizing this, he decided to interrupt his one-year study sabbatical in Australia after only three weeks. He moved back to California in 2003 to set up LinkedIn in his living room. For a long time, this was little more than an online bio for users. Very useful, judging by the flow, but also dusty.
Professional and private
As mentioned, the most drastic change came from the Corona pandemic. LinkedIn users went into home isolation to find social breaks. For example, Hofmann’s view of humanity, with its separate work and its own worlds, collided with a still-strong professional cultural change.
People no longer want a separation between their private field and their professional environment, says Professor van der Slooy: “In the past, you’d go to the office to do your job. At the end of the day, you were a skill set that you used to your boss for money. Today, he wants “Many employees want to be seen as a whole human being. Sometimes they are happy, sometimes sad. Sometimes they go on a trip around the world or their partner has passed away. The professional environment must know all this, because it will have to deal with it.”
So, it’s no surprise to Van der Slooy that LinkedIn is starting to look more like Facebook. It is an “echo” of the real professional world, which also contains cross-pollination between work-related etiquette and emotional etiquette.
Britain’s Mark Williams has been training companies and individuals for fifteen years how to use LinkedIn. Known as “Mr. Linkedin” – confirming that the company does not pay him. He teaches business courses at renowned universities such as Harvard and MIT. According to Williams, the vast majority of posts on LinkedIn are still commercial in nature.
To do so, he says, is to “dress the work’s messages with some originality and personality touches Totally normal. We are simply interested in human stories.” At the same time, he increasingly sees professionally irrelevant messages on LinkedIn, to the chagrin of users. “The balance is beginning to get lost.”
The LinkedIn algorithm works basically the same as social media like Twitter and Facebook. If a post gets a lot of likes, more people will see it and thus it can get more likes. But this dynamic does not guarantee quality.
Indeed, it is precisely the posts that annoy users that sometimes do very well. Like the “Baki CEO” A tech startup fired a few employees in 2022 and made it known to the world with a selfie in which he was crying. More than ten thousand people have commented, most of them jokingly.
Read also: You can now also share your pregnancy on LinkedIn
Social media algorithms detect what gets attention, whether that’s interesting or embarrassing. This dynamic, along with the growing need to share personal messages, is changing LinkedIn. In fact, Williams predicted that LinkedIn would run into trouble earlier, when it was acquired by Microsoft in 2016 for $26.2 billion. That was about $60 per active user at the time, which is a huge amount for the social media market as well. It turns out that Microsoft cares more about the data than the platform itself. I stepped a bit into the site. Williams’ fears that Microsoft would corrupt LinkedIn turned out to be unfounded.
According to Van der Sluis and Williams, the fact that a “hyperactive” user is the driving force behind LinkedIn’s change is also a risk for the company. If irritation among professionals increases to the point that they swear on the platform, it will also become less interesting for recruiters. Van der Sluis and Williams are convinced that a third party, like Google, can also offer a service like LinkedIn. The only thing holding back his rapid rise is that everyone is on LinkedIn.
However, this does not guarantee a permanent status quo, Facebook explains. In 2022, the number of users has decreased for the first time since its inception. Shares of parent company Meta collapsed and tens of thousands of employees were laid off. Turns out, Instagram and TikTok have more oomph. The lesson is clear: the dominant position of a platform can quickly disappear if the content of posts no longer meets users’ desires.
Too big to fail?
People between the ages of 18 and 24 are significantly underrepresented on LinkedIn compared to previous generations. More than half of people ages 25 to 34 use LinkedIn, but only 16 percent of the group follows. This is partly because younger people are still looking for a job and don’t have a LinkedIn account, but Williams also sees them as less loyal users than older professionals.
Professor van der Sluys also believes that young people today are more pessimistic. “Adults assume that everything is true on a LinkedIn profile, but adults in the near future know that what you read on social media is not reliable.”
On LinkedIn, it’s not necessarily about lying, it’s about “playing” with the truth, for example when people state on their profile that they’ve followed a particular study, not that they prematurely terminated it. Van der Sluis: “Young people know that a LinkedIn profile, just like a Facebook or Instagram account, is an ego document.”
This new generation of pros seems to be flocking in the direction of a smaller, more modern competitor: TikTok. The hashtag #careertiktok, which users post to videos about career paths, resumes and business advice, has now been viewed 2.3 billion times.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper on June 3, 2023.
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