Monday, 15 of September of 2014

Why LinkedIn is Losing Value for Content Creators

LinkedIn used to be a great tool to attract an audience for my articles and talks. Two or three years ago, an investment of less than an hour on LinkedIn would bring me a substantial number of views, and the viewers were interested in my field. Those days are over. Today, that effort brings perhaps 10% of the viewers it once did, and I expect it will only get worse from here.

First – how do I know this? Being a data analyst, I have made an effort to track views over the past 4 years. I use tracking links and observe the response to my posts. My approach isn’t the best controlled or most sophisticated available, but it tells me enough to let me know which posts attract readers, what channels draw viewers, and what times are best for posting.

It might not surprise you to know that overall response to posts has been declining. After all, the number of posts and emails, even the number of channels is increasing all the time, and human beings have only so much bandwidth. But LinkedIn has made a number of changes that make the problem even worse for the everyday content creator, and many LinkedIn users are unaware of them.

For example, have you noticed that LinkedIn routinely reduces the frequency of emails from your groups – even though you opted in for those emails and did not request any changes? So, those who don’t open group emails frequently receive fewer and fewer messages, and may even stop getting messages at all from some groups. No message means no chance of a message getting read, and no chance of a reader taking notice of your post.

Another thing – are you sure that your posts are really getting posted? LinkedIn automatically diverts some posts and comments for moderation, even when moderators don’t request this. Since many groups don’t have active moderators, those posts are never seen. Recently, I looked back at the groups where I post, and found that, in some cases, as many as four or five posts made over the course of several months were still “waiting for moderation”. (I suspect some others may simply have timed-out and disappeared, though I don’t have sufficient records to verify that.)

It appears that LinkedIn flags some people, in some groups, for moderation. This may be hard to detect, as the same user may be affected in some groups, but not others. Or the new posts may be diverted, but not comments. If you can spot the pattern, you’re a better woman than I. I’ve found that this is happening to many people. So, a lot of posts are just going down a black hole.

But the posts are just diverted for moderation, so they should be moderated and appear in the group in a little while, right? Best of luck. I tried writing to moderators about this. Many never responded, some responded but weren’t sure how to address the problem, and one told me point blank that he had no intention of actually moderating his own group.

And then, it got worse.

Once upon a time, any entry in the LinkedIn status box would bring me a couple of interactions with other human beings. I’d get a note, a call, or perhaps a comment from someone I spoke to for another reason. And I knew that, for every person who reached out to me, perhaps ten more saw the post. Then, LinkedIn integrated status updates with twitter. Ugh. The feed was soon jammed with oodles and oodles of twitter posts. Even now that they have eliminated that particular twist, I see lots and lots of links to mainstream media content, with no meaningful comment from the person who posted. That’s mixed with notes about every group my colleagues join or company they follow. The small fraction of updates that are actually about what people are doing are lost. I may get a few “Likes”, but I don’t get real interaction.

A few months ago, LinkedIn decided we needed “Thought Leaders”. Only certain people can be thought leaders. They started with already well-publicized figures like Richard Branson. After a while, LinkedIn opened a path for applications to become a thought leader, but quickly closed that channel. So now, the top of the page is crammed with mainstream news updates, Thought Leader posts, and crap. The thought leaders I see in my feed are all men. Out of curiosity, I alphabetized the thought leader list and checked out the first 100 people. About 90% men. Mostly white and Asian men. I think one black guy managed to make it in there, and good for him.

Bottom line – if you’re a content creator, and you’re not, say, Richard Branson or Jack Welch, LinkedIn has become a very poor vehicle for cultivating an audience. Time to develop other channels. I, for one, have decided to stop posting about new articles in LinkedIn groups, and to cut back my time spent on LinkedIn. It’s just not producing for me any more.


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