LinkedIn – Networking in Isolation?

Is it just me, or is LinkedIn doing a bit of a a Twitter?

To my mind, one of the most useful functions of LinkedIn is the ability to ask questions and receive answers from a fairly wide pool of people, with a fairly broad range of experience. This is, as far as I can see, the whole ‘social media – an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations’ thing actually in action, actually working.

Only it’s not.

In the last couple of days, I’ve asked a couple of questions, and I’ve answered a couple of questions. What I tend to do – and forgive me, this is all based on personal experience, an ‘opinion piece’, if you will – is read the other answers to the question and see if I can add anything further, or enter into debate with the other answerers. Because I’m actually interested, I will then re-visit the question later, to see if anyone has posted anything else, that might add to my thinking.

Unfortunately, others don’t seem to have the same MO. I read the answers to one question and everyone – but everyone – was saying the same thing (OK, maybe there was only one answer) – but without referencing any of the other answers. I checked the threads for a couple more questions. More of the same. It appears that very few people are engaging in ‘meaningful conversations’ or entering into debate – in fact they’re not actually listening to others at all.

This could be the first signs of the Twitterisation of LinkedIn – where it gradually morphs into a place for people to state their points of view, communicate their feelings or their whereabouts, shout their messages – without actually taking into account what others are saying.

Millions of people engaged in one-sided communication, networking in isolation and kidding themselves that they’ve cracked the whole social media conundrum.

One thought on “LinkedIn – Networking in Isolation?

  1. Jeremy,

    Here are a few things to bear in mind.

    I notice on many questions that the answers that include mention of other previous respondents tend to happen in clusters of the first several answers. To a degree this makes sense. To do otherwise would result in a daisy chain of each successive respondent calling on, or calling out, the ones which have recently replied.

    For two reasons that won’t happen:

    First, the nature of the LinkedIn (LI) ranking system, which (after the question is closed) ranks the answers and rearranges them by hierarchy. Given that experienced respondents know this, after several answers begin to post, people begin to reply for the questioner’s sake, giving less import to the social aspect.

    The second reason is that this is similar to the way people respond outside of the virtual world as well. In a real forum, say a City Counsel meeting, other than profession communicators such as the politicians themselves, PR people and journalists, most people tend to draw reference to a previous commenter only occasionally.

    Sadly, there is one other consideration: while some industries, such as the IT industry, tend to converse at warp-speed in their social networking, others tend to get low and slow response from both professionals and the general public. Right now, on LI I’m seeing low and slow interest in advertising, and PR. For example, PR and marketing questions take the longest time before a “Best Answer” is chosen—if it is chosen at all. Nowhere else have I seen this on LI.

    Now for the good news.

    Jeremy, I tracked you down here at your website as a result of one of those recent LinkedIn Answers you gave. (Is putting 2 sub-heads below a press release title overkill?) I think this bears evidence that Answers do work to provoke discourse to some degree.

    But here’s the best news: when your objective is to engage in discourse, LinkedIn provides a better means for this. Join a related LinkedIn Group wherein you can try generating a Discussion on the subject. You should even use your blog to promote your discussion, asking your readers to provide their thoughts (hint) and the Discussion will sometimes result in visitors to your website.

    You can search LinkedIn for Groups using the search feature at the top of the LinkedIn page.

    Happy hunting. Happy discussing.

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