How the LinkedIn community is shifting in the face of COVID-19


DARE Group Australia founder Sue Parker. Source: supplied.

‘A tree that doesn’t bend in a storm will break’ is a true idiom for the current COVID-19 crisis. Everyone is impacted in some way and are experiencing varying degrees of pain and vulnerability. Social media and businesses are the trees that are flailing and trying to adapt to a storm which has totally blindsided them.

The world has changed within a matter of weeks and shaken the shit out of all of us (no pun intended there regarding toilet paper-gate). We are reviewing everything! 

As many will know, I have strong views on what is good and poor LinkedIn practice. I have little time for fluff and sharing what-you-ate-for-lunch-type content as LinkedIn holds a unique business value proposition and experience promise. So, a few weeks ago, I wrote an article for SmartCompany on how and why LinkedIn should stay in its social media lane and not try to be everything to everyone.  

But that article just doesn’t feel right for right now with the new lens of COVID-19, so I am parking the article and beliefs for the time being. My new question is: ‘What the hell does it really matter right now what people are posting and doing on LinkedIn (as long it is not illegal, rude or unethical, of course)?’

So why the change of heart? LinkedIn is a community of business, brands and most importantly human beings. As the crisis continues, people will be spending more time on the platform seeking to contribute and engage from their own needs and perspectives. 

Dwell time and a desire to gain knowledge, new networks and learning will skyrocket. As will the need to find solace, support and encouragement. Albeit in the general ethos of content which will educate, entertain and enlighten. But I will now add another E: ’emotional connection’. And what that will look and feel like for one will be very different from another.

Anxiety, fear of the unknown and human nature is very raw at the moment and people will respond and react very differently to stress based on their individual personality makeup. And this is why I am taking a different stance on what people should or shouldn’t do on LinkedIn at the moment. Compassion and thoughtfulness have never been more important. It does take enormous courage and willpower not to respond with anger. We are actually being given an opportunity to show the best of us right now.

Dr Delia McCabe, a neuroscientist specialising in the neurobiology of stress and its physiological effects, wrote in a recent article on COVID-19: “Feeling stressed is normal. However, psychological stress impacts immune function, so managing the stress we’re feeling is critically important if we want our immune system to function optimally.  Stop reading everything you can find about the challenge on social media and before you post anything, think about whether you are helping or hindering others with your post.”

Members will resonate and seek different types of content and networking opportunities. What is considered trash to one, will be treasure to another. Everyone will be engaging with and posting content that is helpful and meaningful to them and there are many ways to tailor that to individual taste and needs.  Fulfilling needs and feeling valued and respected are human needs which are key to minimising stress.  

What is happening on LinkedIn now? 

As with the bushfire response, the broader community has come to the table and engaged. From heads of business, government ministers, PMs, industry leaders, scientists, The World Health Organisation and NPOs, the conversations and content is diverse and robust.

Webinars, free services offered, support, updates, encouragement and sharing is bountiful. The community broadly here in Australia is coming to the fore with value. We are all indeed globally experiencing the same issues and this is a first. Indeed lockdowns and business stress and opportunities in Canada or Singapore are felt similarly in Australia. 

There is a wide focus and mix of attitudes: from the hyper-motivational to a deeper malaise and back to factual and collegiate community support.

Many, of course, are continuing as business as usual and the way people conducted themselves prior to COVID-19 will no doubt continue as their modus operandi now.  

There is a swag of content about how to work from home and strategies to navigate remote management and systems

For the first time in many years, there has been of course new hashtags (#coronavirus, #covid19). Existing, well-established hashtags have seen increased followers and content (such as mental health and remote work).

Many outstanding posts also with important messages and a humour image to lighten the mood and some really awesome PDF document shares of valuable content and information.

A few tips

Everyone is on the optimism bandwagon of getting your business and LinkedIn geared and ready for when the crisis is over. Indeed it’s true as the seeds now will sprout later when life starts to return to normal(ish) again. So here are a few pointers.

  1. LinkedIn profile. Get it in tip-top shape. Focus on the future which is a given to position your career or business anyhow.   
  2. Content expertise. Share and write now. If you are an expert in a field, whether as a job-seeker or business owner, share that expertise. By doing so, it will not just position your own value and build your digital footprint, but it will help others too. And write more for your own website and other niche medias. Step out and don’t hide. 
  3. Don’t be shy. Reach out and connect to those who you can support, and or can support you, or both ways. This is the time to stand out with integrity so personalise everything with purpose. When the pubs and cafes open again, people remember who to ask for a beer or coffee. 
  4. Fun. Yes, have some fun, please. Nothing helps and supports in stress and uncertainty more than a laugh. Add funny photos, videos, share that pet at home on your laptop. Get the dopamine and serotonin flowing.
  5. Motivation. Check your motivation of why you are posting, not how or what. Good intent is like a boomerang of reciprocation. Self-aggrandisement and posing is never a great look.
  6. Vulnerability and emotions. Share the human that is behind the career and business hood. For those who have the courage to share their truth (in a relevant and appropriate way) there are hundreds that will be encouraged. The fact is many will be suffering enormously and others less so. While you don’t want a pity party, you do want to reach out for the help you need at this time. Empowerment comes with sharing and contributing help.
  7. Future strategy. Really take a hard look at your ideal niche and business model. A must-read on this is from global marketing authority Mark Schaefer.
  8. Spam ham. Ok, despite what I said about anything goes to help with stress, engagement and human value, there is one caveat. No one ever likes the spam and ham of sell sell sell. Enough said!  
  9. Hashtags. Be really mindful of how you use hashtags and don’t use more than four per post. Check the follower numbers to check for the best reach. For example, at the time of writing, #workfromhome has 15,552 whereas #workingfromhome has only 1,780.


A plea to LinkedIn 

As mentioned at the beginning, what we post and how we engage on LinkedIn needs to bend with the crisis. But what should not bend and indeed clamped down on harder is unethical, illegal and downright gaming practices that can damage member’s visibility and their valuable content.

Please LinkedIn, get really serious about removing the fake international syndicate engagement pods, lempods, international click farms of paid likes, comments and fake followers. \ These compromise the platform and more so the opportunity of content and members to be given equal and fair distribution organically. The creator side optimisation program to give more weight to ‘normal members’ versus ‘influencers’ doesn’t appear to have made a sizeable difference.

You created an amazing global community platform that is much needed, more so now than ever before. Do what’s right and not just what adds to the metrics and revenue.

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