I’ve recently begun the painstaking process of going back over the blog library and logging all posts, themes and dates so I can be more proactive in publishing my old content (the blog is 3 this June, so it’s taking some time!)
What I’ve noticed is that the social media channel I’ve mentioned most is actually LinkedIn, and that surprised me in a way, because it’s the one used least by most of the students, solopreneurs and businesses I speak to/work with.
But it shouldn’t be. And I’m going to tell you why I think so…
LinkedIn’s Lack Of Algorithms
LinkedIn remains one of the great networking and information-gathering social channels because it hasn’t succumbed to the algorithm devil that Instagram did, just this week.
If you’re unfamiliar with the algorithm concept designed by Facebook, it basically means that it doesn’t matter what you tell the channel you’re interested in or what people or news you sign up to see, THEY decide what to put in your timeline (and it normally favours anyone paying to promote their posts).
LinkedIn doesn’t do this. In fact, LinkedIn goes one step further in my opinion. In recognising that one of its main functions is networking, the news feed shows you posts that your connections are commenting on and liking, with people that you don’t yet know.
It also tries to guess who you may know based on your connections.
This is extremely fruitful for business development. Like that time I had to bring in a contract with an agency after only a few weeks and I found a call out for PR on LinkedIn (from a stranger) that someone I knew had commented on.
A year-long, 5-figure contract that I pitched for, and won.
Similarly, at the moment I’m creating a brand sponsorship programme for a client. They will want to target a range of family brands and companies both local and UK-wide, from banks and hotels to the big guns like McDonald’s and Unilever.
Of course, no sponsorship package worth its salt is complete without a list of people for them to target.
And the names and email addresses of Marketing Managers at all those companies were found on LinkedIn.
Likewise in terms of my own business development, I’ve been tagged and tagged others, in a multitude of call-outs to recommend designers, freelance writers, social media managers, interns and student placements. The list is endless.
But I can’t tag you, if you’re not there…
Now I understand why LinkedIn is a difficult concept for school and university students to get on board with. A lot of people on it are older and more experienced. However, you’re not there to make friends, you’re there to build professional relationships. You get more out of those already ahead of you than your peers.
If I’d set up my LinkedIn profile when I was 18, my CV had the sum-total of 3 jobs on it - KFC, waitressing in a local hotel, and a high street fashion store.
Those roles don’t appear on my resume anymore, partly because as you move through your career, the beginning becomes less relevant, but also because they are no longer related to where my work is headed.
And that’s OK.
But if LinkedIn had been around when I was that age, it would definitely have been a good place for me to be seen online. You see I had a lot of other elements that I was proud of, that would have made a good foundation on which to build “brand me” and to start my digital footprint on Google with a positive online portfolio:
- When I was 11 I designed a poster for my International Pen Pal club “HOLA!” (yes we did things like that before the internet)
- At 15 I had won a Blue Peter badge for being a finalist in a competition to design a flag for the William Shakespeare birthplace trust (the yellow flag, I was robbed)
- I was a Head Girl for my Sixth Form and took part in a cross-community Peace Wall project, representing my school (unnaturally blonde)
- I had won an award for the highest achieving grades overall in GCSE’s (There are no photos because I was too embarrassed to go to my comprehensive school prize night and receive it for fear of peer ridicule, a decision I regret to this day, but that’s a blog post for another time!)
Even looking at my less-academic friends at the time; some of their volunteering, part-time hobbies and work experience would have looked so good on a young person’s LinkedIn profile!
Added to this, there were various people I met along the early stages of my career that could have helped me, had I built and maintained stronger connections with them.
I remember one woman in particular who came into a designer store I worked at during my first year at Uni. She was a UK-wide Visual Merchandiser (a job I wanted to do, but thought I couldn’t as I hadn’t chosen Art A Level). She said I had a flair for it after I helped her dress the window mannequins one day. Oh where I would be if I’d had the online means to find her and ask her to mentor me…
But today’s students do have the means! And they don’t use it!
This is why I’m really excited to be working with Wayne Denner to devise and deliver a new programme for schools in Northern Ireland taking young people through the process of starting their brand building safely online using LinkedIn:
Modern students with an interest in design and tech are going even further than the basic public recommendations and job search functions of LinkedIn, designing ad campaigns to land their dream jobs. If I was recruiting, this kind of creativity would catch my eye.
Of course I’m not oblivious to the channel’s shortcomings (nobody’s perfect) and I have blogged before about the false endorsements issue and the importance of being nice when asked for help/advice by young ambitious folk coming up the ranks behind you.
However, I feel it is still one of the best social networking sites for people who have a career trajectory in mind. If you want to go places, you will more often than not find those places and the people in charge of them, on LinkedIn.
The other side of that coin is ensuring you can BE FOUND yourself. And your content marketing and networking is key to that. So I suggest activities like:
- Updates on what you’re working on just now
- Shout-outs to people you have met that day
- Short commentary on events you’ve been to
- Publishing articles
- Following companies and industry experts
- Tagging people and companies as you go!
I strongly advise AGAINST posting:
- Too many personal anecdotes
- Cheesy inspirational quotes
- Overly humorous material
- Posting too often
As for the common question of “do you accept connection requests from people you don’t know?” My answer is always yes, unless their location or job title seems utterly irrelevant to me.
At the end of the day, it isn’t Facebook* and so there is little personal information there to safeguard as such. If I add them and they try to chat me up/sell me rubbish/fill my newsfeed with fluff (unfortunately this can happen sometimes), then I simply delete the connection.
*The reverse is also true of business connections who try to add me on Facebook. I have a small number of friends for a reason, there are pictures of my son on there. Your request will be ignored. You don’t network where it’s handiest for you, you network where your network is networking!
For the most part, the real value of LinkedIn only becomes apparent when you build your spider web of contacts and start finding the gold nuggets in your news feed.
In the same way that I tell teenagers I don’t understand the value of Snapchat, because I only know about 5 other people on it. It will become more fruitful to me as I build my connections.
You’re building an online portfolio, a professional home for your brand, strengthening your digital footprint (LinkedIn often appears within the top Google searches for your name).
You also have the perfect research ground to find contacts, read industry news from thought leaders in your field, get a better insight into job roles, find jobs not advertised elsewhere and make your network work for you with public recommendations and tags in opportunities.
It takes time, but the investment is worthwhile and, as far as business development and career opportunities go, there is no other social channel to rival it in my opinion.
We may not always be an active ‘jobseeker’, but our career is a long and winding journey that hopefully doesn’t end for quite some time.
And LinkedIn is the CV that never sleeps!