(I originally published this post on LinkedIn, and it’s been met with a bunch of solid feedback. Click on over there for the good stuff.)
Last month, I used LinkedIn to reach out to ten marketing directors of mid-sized companies in Charlotte about the idea of sustainable marketing. I invited them to connect, and offered to buy them coffee or lunch to discuss how they might integrate the concepts I developed while building the Boxman Studios brand by over 3000% between 2009-2013. Concepts that rely less on traditional advertising, and more on authentic (human) storytelling and smart distribution. Not one of these people even so much as accepted my invitation to connect, much less take me up on my offer to have coffee or lunch. And yes, I included a link to my website www.smashcommunications.com in the invitation. It was a good message. Simple. Friendly. Social. But direct.
Maybe they were afraid of change? Maybe they felt threatened because I presented a different way of doing their jobs? Maybe I should have gone straight to the CEOs instead? Maybe. But I think it’s more that I was so direct and didn’t use the, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” template copy in the invitation. Because I successfully connect with almost everyone I reach out to there, otherwise.
As someone trying to get his feet back under him as an entrepreneur consultant, I found this experiment pretty discouraging and haven’t tried it with any others since. Which begs the question, is LinkedIn dead?
I’ve been a member of LinkedIn since 2005. Way before I was active in Twitter and Facebook. And other than random connections with people, I’ve found the LI platform fairly useless for anything like meaningful dialogue. Sure, you can search for jobs there (which might be my next step if I can’t generate some interest for my consulting services soon), and I’ve found that the group I created in 2008, Copywriter’s Guild (which has over 6,000 members worldwide), is pretty active. But for ten years now the meaningful connections on LinkedIn are nil. I’m better off using Twitter.
I’ve been blogging since 2008 (have kept a journal for as long as I can remember) and have over 500 posts to show for it. I’ve developed a pretty strong following for my writing, and have used all the social platforms to distribute the content. Only, I have never focused on a niche business topic to become “known” for. I’m a writer. I use my blog to hone my skills. The name of my blog is intended to be ironic. The topics I write about range from poetry and fiction, to politics and, yes, work. Since 2014, when LI opened up their platform to creating posts, not just updates, I’ve published 18 of them. Naturally, I’ve tried to stick to the business stuff when writing for LI. Most of my posts there have received about 100 views, a few likes, and sometimes a comment or two. Nothing special. Of course there are some people who generate thousands of interactions with their posts. From what I can tell, most of these folks have focused their energy on establishing a solid business foundation to grow their personal brands. They don’t bother with poetry, fiction, and life stuff. And frankly, I’ve found many of these widely-viewed posts are either so boring, or so obvious that I can’t understand why people gravitate to them. Anyway, my experience with publishing posts there is yet another example of how, for me, LinkedIn is a dead zone. But this one is on me. I’m sure if I focused all of my writing strictly on business, and was ok with gratuitous self-promotion, I’d eventually do just as well as some of those other guys. It’s certainly not the quality of writing that’s making the difference.
But as far as I can tell, it’s not just me who is walking around blindly on LinkedIn. Most everyone I’m connected with there who publishes posts gets about the same amount of interaction. Additionally, I’ve attempted to use LI to connect people to each other, and most of those attempts at networking have also died on the vine.
I don’t aspire to become LinkedIn famous. I simply want to use this networking platform for what it’s worth. And lately, it feels like it’s worth a lot less to normal folks trying to advance their commercial endeavors.
Yes, I definitely believe that the experience I’ve acquired over my career, combined with the concepts I’ve developed over the last few years, can help people and businesses grow and prosper. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother with consulting. It’s just that I’m just beginning to think that LinkedIn isn’t the networking platform we all thought it was.
What about you? What’s been your experience there in terms of connecting with other professionals in a meaningful way? Is there hope for LinkedIn beyond just collecting people?