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The Engagement Crisis on LinkedIn

Charlotte Ashlock Posted by Charlotte Ashlock, Executive Editor, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Charlotte Ashlock is a crazy idealist trying to make the world a better place! 

The Engagement Crisis on LinkedIn

Let’s be real: does anyone know of a LinkedIn group that is not a hellish wasteland of linkspam? Because I’m desperate for a professional forum where people are actually talking and listening to one another.

My Bad Experience with LinkedIn Groups

Online marketing is very much still the Wild West, and I find it enjoyable and exhilarating to discuss new developments with colleagues. However, I work for a small company with an even smaller online marketing team — so I’m starved for new viewpoints! Accordingly, I joined several LinkedIn groups on digital marketing (I won’t name names) hopeful of encountering new people and new ideas.

As my memberships were approved, I checked out each new group, only to scroll down an endless ribbon of link posts with ZERO likes, comments, or shares. Worst yet, almost everyone appeared to be posting their own blog! Self-promoting without giving is the height of online rudeness — yet it seems to be the norm on LinkedIn, ironically especially among these marketing “professionals.”

Why Are the “Unprofessionals” Marketing Better?

For my creative writing hobby, I’m part of several indie book writer groups on Facebook and Goodreads. The moderators of those groups vigilantly stamp out anything that has the least hint of spam about it. They help people get to know each other through competitive creative writing exercises. They have rules like, “You can only post links on Tuesdays.” These strict rules empower the people in the group to truly socialize and connect. By contrast, the moderators of these LinkedIn groups appear to be asleep at the wheel.

LinkedIn says it wants to be a hub for content and discussion. But no one’s showing up for their conversation — they’re just sending their robot slaves (or auto-posting routines) to fling promotional brochures at my head.

The True Driving Force Behind Low Engagement

Sorry to be such a curmudgeon; let’s shift the focus to solutions. I ask myself, what is the deeper reason for this kind of unproductive behavior (so prevalent across the entire web?) Will you laugh at me too hard if I blame individualistic American culture? It’s true — from the time we’re small children, we’re taught that our goal should be to garner positive attention. We’re never taught about the rewards of GIVING attention.

Be the Change You Want to See in the Internet

When I give my attention to somebody, I grow. When I GET attention, not much about my life really changes. Sure, a pile of likes might validate my ego, make me feel flattered, or make me smile. But it’s reading a story about another life which will change my viewpoints, expand my mind, grow my heart. I can’t think of a single situation where getting attention has been more rewarding than giving it.

But those marketer’s employers don’t reward them for helping someone else. They reward them for driving traffic to their own posts. Perhaps employers should change their incentive structure. Instead of telling marketers to drive traffic and sales, they should tell their marketers to help as many people as possible before the month ends. Just think of the partnerships and networking that would result from that! I bet you profits would double.

But that’s not the way we roll. That’s not the way we’re training to think. So that’s the solution: change your mindset. Wake up each morning and don’t ask what you can get, but what you can give. I know this is almost unbearably saccharine advice, but it works.