Why people share the “wrong” content on LinkedIn–and what you can do about it


While it’s always been a point of contention, there seems to be more debate than ever about what constitutes “correct” LinkedIn content. Perhaps due to a spike in political commentary leading up the election, I’ve recently seen a number of virulent posts like this one (with names and other information redacted):

I certainly agree with the spirit of this post. After all, LinkedIn’s strength is its primary point of difference: unlike every other major social media platform, it’s aniche network. Unlike Facebook, where’s it’s fair game to talk about what movie you just watched; Instagram, where you can post as many photos of your kids as you care to share; or Twitter, where it’s fine to Tweet about what you had for lunch; we’ve been taught to keep the personal stuff off LinkedIn–and keep the professional trulyprofessional.

The challenge, of course, is there’s a lot of gray area about what’s personal and what’s professional. I recently read comments made about a post by a model. Many said a provocative photo had no place on LinkedIn (and I’d tend to agree). Others, however, said it was in line with the user’s profession, and therefore totally LinkedIn-appropriate. My suspicion is that many people in the latter camp just wanted to be seen as friendly to the model, but they also have a larger point: if your profession involves things that may be considered superficial or “unprofessional,” are posts about that work off limits?

To me, even more insidious are posts that lack substance, regardless of whether they can be seen as work-relevant. Word games and math puzzles. Selfies. “Inspirational” quotes superimposed over photos of Leo DiCaprio in the role of Wolf of Wall StreetJordan Belfort. (Maybe I dislike these because I hated the movie/character so much, despite most people seeming to view Belfort as some kind hero and the movie as Oscar-worthy.) These don’t reinforce how the person sharing that content can be a resource to me; instead, it just reinforces the degree to which that person is top-of-mind with me for word games, math puzzles, selfies, or Wolf of Wall Street quotes. In short, these posts don’t help me, and they don’t appear to help the person who posted them, either. They’re just kind of…there.

All of this got me thinking about something that really does interest me: when there’s so many great things to post about–industry insights, success stories that speak to our capabilities, job opportunities, and more–why do people post what can generously be called “crap”? I think there are two answers:

  1. They don’t know what else to post on LinkedIn. Ever since we first heard the term “social media,” we’ve been taught the power of impressions. We know we should be posting something, but it’s not always clear what that should be–especially on LinkedIn, which isn’t always as intuitive as other platforms. And because we’ve been rewarded (in the form of the endorphin rush that comes with likes, comments, and shares) when we post to other social media platforms, we’re conditioned to believe the same will happen on LinkedIn, even when our instincts tell us that a given post may not be entirely “professional.” In short, we start to view LinkedIn as just another place to share the highlights of our life, even when they’re not expressly work related.
  2. Coming up with good content is harder than posting crap. The biggest differentiator among brands’ social media strategies is quality content. Brands that get social media right have a commitment to creating content of substance–blog posts, white papers, and videos that help position them as a resource to their customers and prospects. However, many brands don’t do this because it’s harder than tweeting about the weather, or posting about trends unrelated to their industry, or sharing content created by other brands that do understand the value of substance. The same holds true for individuals: those who stand out have made a commitment to creating substantive quality content. Those who don’t, don’t–so instead they post word games, math puzzles, selfies, or Wolf of Wall Streetquotes and call such posts “content.”

Here’s the challenge for all of us, however: we can’t completely control what others post, and we certainly can’t decide for others what’s LinkedIn appropriate. We can, however, consider taking action to mitigate the impact on our news feed.

Start by hovering over the upper-right-hand side of a post in your news feed. You’ll see a down arrow that looks like the one highlighted below:

You now have the opportunity to:

  • Hide an update, making sure that particular post no longer appears in your news feed,
  • Unfollow the person who originally posted or shared it, meaning you’ll no longer see any of his/her updates, although you’ll still remain connected to that person on LinkedIn, or
  • Report the update to LinkedIn, alerting the authorities that it’s not–at least in your opinion–appropriate for LinkedIn, or that’s it’s spam, or that it appears to be posted from a fake account

Another option, of course, is to entirely disconnect from the person posting it, if you’ve determined that the relationship no longer has enough value to keep him/her in your network. And while I believe one post usually shouldn’t make or break a relationship, that decision is up to you.

There’s one more action, however, you can take that may be the most constructive of all: whether or not you unfollow or disconnect from users or hide or report posts, you still have complete control over what you choose to post. Your ability to influence others may be limited given the size of your network, but what you post says as much as the actions above ever will. In short, to paraphrase a famous philosopher and leader, “be the change you wish to see on LinkedIn.”

Now let’s just hope no one shares that quote superimposed over a photo of Ghandi–or, God forbid, Leo DiCaprio.


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