During the COVID-19 lockdown, we all had to spend more time working in the Home Office. In turn, our use of digital communication platforms for work and personal reasons has increased. For instance, data from Linkedin tell us:
- There was a 55 percent increase in conversations, such as comments, between March of 2019 and March of 2020.
- There were 300 percent more “live broadcasts” during February and March/April 2020.
The use of webinars or web events and viewing of videos has also increased:
- 272 percent more comments were made during live stream events during February and March 2020 alone; and
- 180 percent more hours of watching videos on #LinkedInLearning => 4 Million hours in March, 7.7 million hours in April 2020.
By the way, our focus here is on using these platforms for work related purposes, not our hobbies or entertaining ourselves during our spare time. That’s why we chose LinkedIn, which is considered a business exchange platform.
LinkedIn ROI (Return on Investment)
Today people might tell you that time, personal as well as professional, is a very valuable asset. Accordingly, using social media platforms such as LinkedIn during work hours should benefit the individual as well as the company. With that in mind, some questions may arise:
- If I share an update my employer made to the corporate LinkedIn page with the followers on my personal LinkedIn profile, is this time well spent?
- Besides maybe getting one of my friends to smile when they see my comment on the shared company post, what other benefits are there?
- Does my sharing help raise brand awareness for my employer with my circle of acquaintances?
What we do know is spending too much time on social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn may result in higher occurrences of signs of depression than if you spend time outdoors. LinkedIn and Instagram are both transaction platforms, while Baidu, Match.com, Uber, AirBnB or Hotels.com are intermediaries or online marketplaces that make it possible for users to exchange goods and services or information including contact data.
Most platforms have different objectives, such as trying to be a glorified Rolodex and helping you keep in touch with your career-related pals and acquaintances. For this, LinkedIn has created a means that should make it easier for us to stay connected. We will give you a short run down based on personal experiences and reflections.
Interesting read to check out: Cusumano, Michael A., Yoffie, David, B. & Gawer, Annabelle (Spring 2020). The future of platforms. MIT Sloan Management Review, pp. 46-54. Accessed on 2020-06-01 from http://sloanfreview.mit.edu/x/61304
How do you keep LinkedIn groups alive? Personal reflections
We started a group in November 2009 and did pretty well until about 2013. The focus was on how lawyers could use social media and what legal and economic issues they had to consider for themselves and their clients. Many legal luminaries were actively participating. But at that time LinkedIn was very new for lawyers and the world had yet to begin with using social media channels in earnest. Here are some facts for you about our former group.
- Title: Originally ‘Social Media for Lawyers’, now Social Media for Lawyers with Nancy Myrland
- Founders / Owners: Founder Nils Victor Montan (lawyer), I was asked to join shortly after it got launched as a social media expert, Nancy Myrland (the current owner; also a social media expert) became a co-moderator around 2013.
- Founded: November 2009
- Members: 3,327
- Moderating: No pre-approval needed, but violating the principles and the focus may result in the deletion of content.
At the beginning we spent at least 15 minutes each day ensuring we replied to every comment left by a member. We also used to monitor this group 24 hours a day. Not that difficult, considering that Nils was in the US, and I was in Europe. But it took A LOT of time.
Then, my colleague Nils Montan (a crackerjack lawyer) felt that his interests had shifted. I was working in a start-up, so I had to be very careful with my time. Another problem for me was that in those years, I was unlikely to serve clients in Argentina or Singapore, but many of our active group members came from far away places.
So we passed the baton to Nancy in about 2013. She is a very savvy social media consultant and had worked with us as a co-moderator for a while beforehand. She does a great job of sharing interesting stuff and tidbits for lawyers using various social media platforms even today. But things have changed. Nancy is the most active poster, yet lawyers – our primary target group – have become pretty much inactive in the group.
Fact 1: You need plenty of stamina to keep going. Even if you have the resources (most large firms such as Philips do), is it worth the trouble to spend maybe three working hours every week on moderating a LinkedIn or Facebook group? Is a once-weekly activity enough, or do I need to engage daily?
What is LinkedIn groups’ latest illness?
Many of the factors above can be used to describe even some of the most successful groups. One example is the one listed below (see also screenshot above), from global consumer brand Philips. But why would Philips decide to close such a group?
- Innovations in Health group on LinkedIn (not hyperlinked because Philips closed it June 30, 2020)
- Owner: Philips
- Founded: September 2009
- Members June 2020: 165,142
- Moderating: Members’ posts require admin approval before they become visible to others
- Closing: At the beginning of spring 2020, the page had this text: “The Innovations in Health group will be closed on June 30, 2020. Please follow the Philips LinkedIn page to continue the conversation: https://www.linkedin.com/company/philips/“
Clearly, the group had amassed plenty of members since its launch. Already with its name, it was clear its primary focus was health and innovation. Nevertheless, moderating such a group is not an easy job and takes time and patience. In other words, you need to enforce the group’s charter. If posts do not fit the charter, they have to be pulled and people have to be warned. This gets to be a pain after a while, but you have to remain courteous, polite, and professional – despite needing to deal with members who know they overstepped the charter or group guidelines. Even if caught, some people still react surprised and irritated when told that what they did was neither nice nor according to the rules.
The greatest challenge is keeping up the engagement and participation of the members. The Philips group on Innovation in Health and our former Social Media for Lawyers group illustrate this very well. Especially because exchanging ideas, and hosting discussions of people’s differing opinions is what we are after. At least in theory.
Fact 2: Just broadcasting seems to be perceived as more resource-effective than running a community group (see Philips corporate LinkedIn profile as a corporate page).
Do some of these platforms that supposedly want to foster discussions and dialogue belong in our rearview mirror? Is it like a balloon – the air is out, the novelty has worn off, and LinkedIn ROI is a thing of the past?
LinkedIn ROI Check and Engagement KPIs
Marketers find that increasing value in user-generated content is one of the pipe dreams we are being sold. Specifically, we are supposedly able to gain traction in terms of engagement rates and ROI. But how many times will you look at Made.com’s Instagram posts that showcase its products in customer homes?
Buffalo Wild Wings created an ad in just six days using homemade fan videos. In reference to the absence of live sporting events, the ad shows a number of people creating their own made-up sports at home. Yes, it created 100,000 views by now, but did it help sell products? Since it was mentioned in the press as a laudable example of how to do it right, the brand awareness certainly went up. Great.
The above two examples are Business to Consumer (B2C) situations, but if we look on LinkedIn, it does not seem to be vastly different in the Business to Business (B2B) space. To illustrate, social media is supposed to have moved us all from a broadcasting culture (few send to many) to a culture where many send to a few or maybe many who follow, but all engage, discuss, reply, and so forth. Some TV shows use hashtags and Twitter polls during live events, apparently to better engage with their audience.
The moderators of the closing Innovations in Health group directed me to the Philips corporate page on LinkedIn that has 1.6 Million followers, but:
- 100, 20, or fewer likes per post – 80 percent of them Philips employees it seems, and
- zero comments / engagement from the followers over the last month or even longer… okay, maybe one post with a single comment, but no reply from the author.
If we just post about our products as Philips and many other large companies do, we have downgraded a dialogue opportunity to an advertising channel. It basically provides little if any added value to our customers and potential clients. Is this bad or just a shift in what we find more effective for our company and how we communicate with clients on platforms like LinkedIn or Xing?
Fact 3: Navel-gazing metrics, such as simple follower numbers as a “possible reach” are not the whole story. 50 likes may be fine, but unless you get more substantive reader comments that in themselves add value to the original (i.e. more than just “great post”), who cares? Of course, the author(s) replying to the comment is a must, or the commenter is unlikely to feel appreciated, and chances are they’ll never comment again.
Like Xing and other platforms, the fact remains that LinkedIn is a glorified electronic Rolodex (originally a rotating file device used to store business cards of contacts). I can get information about a person even if one changed has jobs. Unfortunately, in some cases, users make that difficult by not providing a phone number or contact email on their profile. However, this helps LinkedIn or Xing sell paid subscriptions that enable one to contact people via the platform directly.
The people whom you really wish to reach and who can help you in your B2B business are maybe executives in the purchasing or product development departments of your targeted client company. They may neither have the time nor be willing to take the time to be on LinkedIn or Xing.
LinkedIn Groups are a way you can connect and interact with like-minded professionals in your industry.Neil Patel
Neil Patel’s (a British author, entrepreneur, marketer, and blogger) quote is interesting but it presumes that those you want to reach are active on the platform and want to engage. Who has the time, besides people like Neil, who is trying to convince us that it is worth it? Even if you are one of the top 40 digital strategists, as Neil claims to be, you cannot change these facts 😅.
For Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SME – see EU definition) having business contacts in markets where they are not active might make one feel good. Obviously, their marketing and branding campaign worked, right? Nevertheless, those contacts and their interaction won’t make the cash register ring – today or tomorrow. Nor will such LinkedIn contacts help you to pay the rent at the end of this month.
Overall, we found that most active people on LinkedIn use the platform as an information and idea exchange marketplace. In addition, they find it helpful to stay in loose touch with (former) colleagues, since everyone will probably keep the profile updated. We also heard from some really small entrepreneurs (coaches, one-man-shows, etc.) that they do get inquiries for talks, sessions, or small business opportunities. For large companies such as Philips, LinkedIn and similar platforms represent a brand-building exercise, not a sales funnel.
Please share your experiences with us in the comments:
- How much do you like and use LinkedIn and how much time do you spend engaging, commenting, or posting?
- How do you know it is worth the time?
Interesting read to check out: Heffer, Taylor, Good, Marie, Daly, Owen, MacDonell, Elliott, and Willoughby, Teena (2019-06). The longitudinal association between social-media use and depressive symptoms among adolescents and young adults: An empirical reply to Twenge et al. (2018) (see also ResearchGate). Clinical Psychological Science, 7(3), 462-470. DOI: 10.1177/2167702618812727. Accessed on 2020-07-20 from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2167702618812727?journalCode=cpxa& or ResearchGate