©Unsplash, Greg Bulla, LinkedIn company headquarters

Is LinkedIn still a professional social network?

When scrolling through your Facebook feed have you ever thought, subconsciously, that you were on Instagram? Or perhaps you’ve watched a series of Reels on Instagram, all while experiencing what you thought was TikTok? Meanwhile, Twitter has long since it abandoned what made it unique –the famous 140 characters — to become an eminently visual platform. With its set of new features this summer, has LinkedIn also joined the standardized wave of the web, at the risk of ditching its differentiating quality: being a professional social network?

In a world completely transformed by the Coronavirus pandemic, LinkedIn, like other social networks, experienced a significant increase in 2020 in the number of logins and time spent by users on its platform. An attempt to fight social distancing or a will to perform in order to combat professional doubt and uncertainty? Whatever the reasons, LinkedIn has decided to take advantage of the uptick by offering its users new features that allow them to spend even more time on its platform.A blog post published on March 30th signed by Tomer Cohen, Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer at LinkedIn, announced all of these transformations that were implemented this summer. Have you noticed them? What are these new features of LinkedIn?

The “new” cover stories

Your profile picture can now come to life in silent auto-play whenever somebody checks out your LinkedIn profile. Does that remind you of anything? Technically identical to the Facebook cover video and of course similar to Instagram stories, this feature is however marketed with a professional purpose. In fact, the video promoting it highlights a few examples in which professionals use it to talk about the services they provide or their professional ambitions.

© LinkedIn

What about the real value of this feature? Are LinkedIn users going to use it the way LinkedIn expects them to? Whether for job search or commercial prospecting, it does indeed seem interesting, for a potential employer or a potential client, to get an overview of who you are through this tool. However, while it might be very useful for communication professionals — for whom its use may come first-hand, it seems a bit unfair to judge engineers or analysts on skills in which they are not expected to excel.

More live streaming

With these new features, LinkedIn boosts its live streaming function. Now, your livestreams will temporarily replace your cover photo to give your content even more visibility.

© LinkedIn

With 82% of global internet traffic expected to come from streaming and downloading videos by 2022 (Cisco, 2019), it’s not surprising that Linkedin is investing heavily in its streaming service.

Introducing the creator mode

Last but not least, LinkedIn now offers a mode specially designed for content creators. As stated on its site, this mode allows users to increase their audiences. How? Once the creator mode is activated, the “connect” button will be replaced by the “follow” button and the precise number of subscribers will be displayed in the introduction of your profile. Just like on Twitter or Instagram, you will also be able to choose to display topics related to your content viahashtags. In addition, this mode will restructure your profile to display the “content selection” and “Activity” sections at the top.

The creator mode is nothing other than the sanctification of the influencer on LinkedIn. But what about the initial purpose of this professional social network? Should influencers really have a stage there? Tomer Cohen isn’t shy about the strategic intentions behind the move:

“At the heart of our ecosystem is our creator community. People love to see creators give their take on what’s happening in the news or share insights into a specific industry — whether that’s a post, a video, an article, or even a comment. If this is you, check out the new creator mode in your Profile dashboard.”

Tomer Cohen, Vice President and Chief Product Officer at LinkedIn

While professional topics related to different industries will always be welcome on LinkedIn, it seems that these influencers are expected to express their views, particularly on news and information.

But isn’t politicizing and polarizing exchanges on LinkedIn risky for a network that it’s supposed to allow us to stay connected to other professionals? Plus, isn’t distributing and commenting on news already the main attraction on other networks like Twitter and Facebook? By following the trend of standardization and trying to be like the others, doesn’t LinkedIn risk drowning?

The platform’s arguments for increased personalization, self-promotion, live streaming and some “sales” advantages seem well constructed. But what about the real utility of these novelties? Does offering features similar to those of other social networks bury the initial professional intention of LinkedIn? Only time — and users –will tell. What is your initial reaction? Have you noticed these new features on LinkedIn? Do you find them useful? I hope to see your insights in the comments!

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Georgiana Pricop

Georgiana Pricop

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Smart citizen / « Citoyenne éclairée » passionate about digital humanities and writing.