Last week, a friend sent me a note the posed an interesting question:
“How do we remain authentic about our business selves on LinkedIn? Comms people are ethical, authentic and we challenge our leaders to be authentic communicators. Yet, on LinkedIn everything is so positive. Rarely do people show any hint of humility.”
Great point, right? So good, I thought it was worth a more lengthy discussion and exploration here.
First, are comms folks really so braggadocious on LinkedIn? In a word, yes. I spend more time than the average person on the platform, and I can tell you: the number of people who don’t either 1) promote their company more times than not or, 2) promote themselves more times than not is pretty small. Like, I can barely think of anyone that DOESN’T do these things. David Armano at Edelman comes to mind (always has thoughtful posts and rarely promotes Edelman or his clients), and Amber Naslund (who does talk about her employer, LinkedIn, but rarely in a “look how cool my job is”-kinda way).
No, that observation is spot-on by my friend. We are self-promotional on LinkedIn. We do show only our best selves. And, we rarely show any chinks in our armor.
And, that is odd. Because, like my friend said, we would never encourage leaders or others at our company to do that. In fact, when I’ve led trainings for clients on LinkedIn, it’s one of the first things we talk about–don’t promote your company too much. Work on building relationships. Work on commenting and sharing other people’s content. Work on showing humility.
But, are we practicing what we preach as communicators? Are doing those things on LinkedIn?
I’m not so sure.
But, it can and should be happening more often. After all, I firmly believe most people who work in our industry are ethical and sensible.
So, what we can do to right this ship? A few easy things come to mind.
1 – Focus on being a listener.
Like I said, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. But, the bulk of it is spent on listening–not talking. I’m looking for posts to comment on. Information I can use to send someone a private note (job promotions come to mind). Or, nuggets I can use to build a blog post or podcast “talking point.” Add to the conversation–instead of always trying to start a new one.
2 – Seek to open up discussions around topics that interest you.
This is one of my favorite things to do on LinkedIn. I’ve done this with case studies (recently, the Winona Super Bowl Ad discussion). I’ve done this with “controversial” topics (like how and when to correct people when they misspell your first/last name!). Give it a try sometime. I think people are thirsty to participate in these kinds of discussions on LinkedIn, but we just don’t see too many of them. Give us something to react to. Give us something to talk about with you. Start a MEANINGFUL conversation that doesn’t involve your brand or company. See where it goes. Report back!
3 – Instead of promoting yourself, seek to promote your colleagues, bosses and friends.
Everyone wants recognition. I get it. And, I’m no different. But there’s so much value in promoting your colleagues and friends vs. talking about yourself. First, it’s going to feel really good. Trust me. For me, nothing feels better than writing and sharing one of my PR Rock Star interviews–and then seeing the comments of support from the Rock Star’s friends, family and colleagues roll in. You can do the same thing on LinkedIn. The next time a friend or colleagues scores a new job, showcase them in a post of your own (instead of just commenting on that post noting their promotion in your feed). I guarantee your friend or colleague will notice–and so will a bunch of other people.