Self-promotion on hold: How LinkedIn users are connecting during Australia’s bushfire crisis


DARE Group Australia founder Sue Parker. Source: supplied.

It’s been a very different start to the new decade on LinkedIn for 2020. January is a month mostly overrun with swashbuckling motivational listicles of success tools and business tips, and self-promotional ‘I’m going to smash the year’ posts. They are still there but the start of the year has seen a sizeable shift to content dedicated to the bushfires on a national scale. 

As our beautiful nation is burning, heartbroken and facing one of the greatest disasters of our lifetime, LinkedIn members have responded with focus. I have so been proud of how the platform has been been used to champion, share, fundraise and support. 

The well touted catch cry of ‘it’s not Facebook so keep the personal, political and social away has been kicked to the kerb at this time. Sure, LinkedIn’s not the ideal place in normal times to share what you had for breakfast or how your dog saved the neighbours cat. But this is not normal times as we adapt and open the platform to share, elevate and support socially as well as commercially.

The core fabric of humans and organisations does not change in times of crisis. Behaviours are mostly amplified, in the positive or negative, in times of crises and confusion. So what is being observed on LinkedIn during this time of disaster is an amplification of true intent and opinions. Many members, both individuals and companies, are putting current agendas on the shelf for now. It may be good corporate social responsibility and human decency, but I sense it’s a bit more than that too.  

But similarly there are quite a few who are posturing and using the platform to push vitriol and self-promotion masked as philanthropy or political party trolling. Such comments and responses are best kept away from LinkedIn. Times are politically volatile and frustrations and anger palpable. 

Whilst LinkedIn has nowhere near the horrid attacks and bullying levels of Twitter and Facebook, mindfulness is still critical.  We must ensure we stamp out unacceptable trolling and vitriol quickly to preserve the LinkedIn community standards. 

Leaders emerge

The quality of content and discussion on LinkedIn in recent weeks from eminent scientists, academics, leaders, not-for-profits, businesses and members has been as voluminous as it has been cogent and brave. The level of contributions from so many industry heads and true thought leaders in their fields has been immense.

These people seem to have come out of the woodwork. I have looked at the past content history of many of them and there was low engagement in recent times. This change is a positive sign of the power of LinkedIn and the opportunity it promises. Inactive members are now robustly adding to the platform to influence and raise conversations.  

Given the depth and breadth of posters and conversations, I predict those contributors will continue to engage and connect with others in 2020. And this has strong implications for the value of LinkedIn membership broadly. After all, it’s a place for building aligned networks and rich learnings and conversations. A deeper, richer and more collegiate group of c-suites and leaders will be using the platform along with their associates. I also foresee the platform will be used by many differently and from other sectors and extended think tanks being encouraged.

Use your voice, with respect

On LinkedIn, it’s not only what is said and written that is important, but also how it is done. There is a line between political correctness and moral sensitivity. At the end of the day, it is a business focussed platform and people’s memories are long. How your comments are written and interpreted may bite you months down the track.

As a country Australia is divided in so many ways across political opinions, actions and inaction, and it makes sense that this will spill over onto LinkedIn engagement. Personal insults, derogatory comments (including references to the dress and speech of bushfire victims) by professionals will damage their brand. Likewise, disgorging personal attacks and venom are not appropriate. People will observe and judge your brand and values by what you write. Remember, the vibe attracts your tribe on LinkedIn. Name calling and attacking without logic and cruelty will definitely be remembered as 2020 moves on.   

Conversely, there is the opportunity to build new aligned networks. Sharing values and care is a great platform for any relationship, be it professional or personal. I am heartened to see this in my own communities, along with corporations and media groups getting behind the nation to go above and beyond.

Please also be very aware of the words, headlines and images used in content. Adapting to current affairs with sensitivity is critical; photographs of searing flames alongside robust proclamations to ‘burn with passion’ or ‘turn the flame high on in business’ is not wise at this time. The line can be crossed. It’s also the reason why scheduling posts well in advance is foolish on any social media platform — and, in any case, automated scheduling tools are not recommended on LinkedIn as they affect organic reach. 

So raise your voices for the change that we so desperately need in this country at this time. Be vocal and passionate, but do so on LinkedIn with thoughtfulness. Respectfully disagree in debates but focus on the belief or action, not the person. 

Use the profile ‘block’ tool as required and report posts or comments that are odious and dangerous. The function to remove comments from your own posts is also now fully available, which can be appropriate to activate. But never argue publicly on the platform or respond to hatred with hatred. Activism for causes and change is different to bullying and attacks. Be discerning where and how you communicate.

Thanks again to all the wonderful LinkedIn members doing great things. Let’s continue to be, and do, better with kindness and gravitas throughout 2020 as we return our thoughts back to our own businesses goals and needs, but never far away from others who we can support.

NOW READ: Videos are less effective on LinkedIn (and car-filmed clips are partly to blame)

NOW READ: How Aussie founder Zoë Manderson repurposed her travel tech platform to support bushfire-affected businesses


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