If you share dog pictures, you’re not a professional!

Picture it, a beige boardroom, with monotonal furniture, ‘inspiring’ wall-art of quotes like ‘Teamwork makes the Dream work’ and ‘The harder you work, the luckier you will be’.

There is a boardroom table, enough to seat 12, with the additional side table to sit the CEO’s PA. Around the outside edge of the room are little stands with busts of forgotten people, awards from paid-for award bodies in a sort of narcissistic homage to how great the company is.

Each seat has a beige suit; every suit is white, middle-aged and a man. Kipper ties and drenched in Sex Panther, the Executive’s cologne!

The only female in the room is Julie, the PA.

No room for diversity in this business!

Glass ceiling? That’s four-foot thick!

There’s a smell of stale cigarettes and crap coffee in the air. The meeting starts with the CEO slapping his PA on the ass as she brings him his coffee with the extra good stuff in it, (it’s past 10 am).

“Today’s agenda,” the CEO declares, “our marketing strategy moving forward.”


That’s the image I have in my head when I read LinkedIn’s recent blog titled:

“Don’t Be a Fish Out of Water: Do Business Where Business Is Done”.

In it, LinkedIn, written by Keith Richey, Senior Director, Global Marketing of LinkedIn, explain how their new motto for marketers on LinkedIn is…

“Do Business Where Business Is Done.”

You might think, no sh*t Sherlock, that’s pretty obvious!

Of course, you’re going to get business at a place where business is done, that’s not the reason for my mind wandering back to a 1978 boardroom.

It’s what else was written in the blog, featured on their main website.

I’ll explain:

In the opening statement, Keith Richey writes, “In modern marketing, getting your message to the right audience is key. But if you want to reach business professionals, reaching them when they’re ready to do business is critical” – think we can all agree that’s also spot on.

He goes on, “Reaching your target audience when they’re in a ready-to-do-business mindset is particularly crucial on social media. Sure, your buyers enjoy watching a skateboarder roll down a hill while lip-synching to Fleetwood Mac and drinking Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry juice. LinkedIn is different, though, and it’s different by design. It’s a place where professionals nurture relationships and grow their careers. If your business message is sandwiched between the skateboarder and your best friend’s vacation photos, it’ll feel out of place.”

So, let’s visit that bit again.

The roller-skating Ocean Spray viral video was one of 2020’s highest viewed piece of content and propelled the Ocean Spray brand into millions of fridges worldwide.

Ignoring that, a happy accident, not everything goes viral and adds $£$£ to the company’s bottom line, I know.

It goes on, “Our new brand campaign, which debuts in the U.S. and U.K. today, uses the “meme-able” visual language of the Internet to demonstrate that LinkedIn is the way to reach your key audience when they’re ready to do business.

On LinkedIn, videos of pugs in bunny costumes look out of place because your target audience is thinking business thoughts, not “pugs in costumes” thoughts. 

In other words, meet your audience where they’re in a professional mindset, ready to do business. And when you do, share content with professional value.”

So much to digest with the above – quickfire questions running in my head:

  • Who is LinkedIn to say what thoughts we have while on the platform?
  • Who is defining ‘Professional’ and ‘Professional value’?
  • Why is business only conducted by people with professional mindsets?

Cue my mind exploring that beige boardroom with the LinkedIn Executives discussing their strategy as the tea trolly rolls into the room. “Got any of those Bourbons, Sugartits?” One of the exec shouts over to Marge, the tea lady.

So, no Pugs in bunny costumes, family pictures or anything remotely not work-related, right.

Keith does go on to share suggestions of content you can share on LinkedIn:

  1. Industry: News, trends, observations about where the industry is now and what’s next.
  2. Product: Insights on how people are using your solution, ways to use it more effectively, answering burning questions about it.
  3. Organizational: Your business’ values, purpose and brand point of view.

Ok, so now we have a little direction from the LinkedIn team. If we start to focus on the 1content ideas suggested above, we will get the views, engagement, and business, right?

Surely LinkedIn wouldn’t suggest a strategy that would reduce the potential organic reach, reduce earning potential to feather their hats? They wouldn’t write an article like this and place a ‘Come and spend money, creating Ads’ call to action at the bottom, would they?

 They did!

Further down the blog, Keith Richey writes, “Many social media sites are more about passive consumption than engagement… …but audiences on LinkedIn are in a more active mindset. Content that engages and sparks a conversation will be more successful on LinkedIn than elsewhere.”

Tell Facebook that! Tell Instagram that. The line between B2B and B2C is getting thinner and thinner each day. Content that engages you, full stop, regardless of platform, wins the race.

It’s as if, in that boardroom, someone stood up and said, “Let’s give our members what WE want to give them, rather than watching for trends and asking/ engaging with our members. Remember five years ago, when we had a record year, well let’s do what we did then… feck progress, feck development, feck cultural change, feck the lot. Let’s resort back to previous conventional wisdom.”

Conventional wisdom told us that the earth was flat, that sexual assault in the workplace was just part of corporate life, that a social class system was the best approach for society, that slavery was ok.

Now I know, comparing 70’s marketing strategies to sexual assault, slavery, or flat earthers is a little heavy, but at some point, in our history, those terrible, awful, acceptable (at the time) practices went out of fashion. They became unacceptable. They became part of history because people stood up and fought against the social norm. They decided to challenge the conventional wisdom held by so many.

In the article, they suggest a need to humanise, influence and invoke trust with your audience, but remain on-brand message, saying to do this; we should focus on being professional.

The humanising of business has been talked about for decades, yet we still see marketers, influential marketers, de-humanising marketing every single day. Promoting hacking, automation, mass emailing, list creation, throwing sh*t at a wall and hoping some of it sticks.

LinkedIn DOES give us the ability to humanise our business processors to market human to human. Human to human doesn’t mean beige to beige. It could mean relationship forming. Getting to know your prospects, helping them achieve what they need to succeed, being a source of information, humour, confidentiality, a shoulder to cry on, a person to celebrate with.

Some of what Keith Richey writes about is accurate, “LinkedIn is the ideal platform for promoting thought leadership not just from a corporate perspective, but from an individual perspective as well.

Your executives can use their LinkedIn profiles to promote their own thought leadership, which humanises and elevates the brand.

You can add even more credibility by including influencer content in your thought leadership strategy. Seek out the people your audience trusts for thought leadership, cultivate relationships, and co-create content with added value for everyone involved.”

So, here is my summary of LinkedIn’s current marketing motto/ strategy.

It’s outdated.

Much like the 1970’s boardroom and all its unsettling goings-on, it should no longer be conventional wisdom guiding the future of a billion-dollar corporation.

The cynic in me would say that LinkedIn wants to promote content ideas that don’t do well organically, because people are more likely to spend money on premium services and ads, increasing their revenue.

While from a business standpoint, I can see the reasoning behind that. Microsoft have a fair hole in their P&L that they need to claw back somehow, but IS driving away the platforms’ most active, most creative members the right strategy?

It also wreaks of being out of touch with modern-day social selling. Passive, engaging content, regardless of if it’s a Pug in a G-string or Reface Video, get the engagement because people are NOT just on LinkedIn 100% of the time, in a business mindset. People consume content at every stage of their buyer journey.

It’s as if there has been precisely ZERO work completed on Buyer Personas (go check out Adel Revella – she wrote the book on it). As if they have no idea about buyer journeys and understand nothing about ‘business consumer’ behaviour.

What does this mean for the platform?

It might attract more stiffs to it. More folk that get slight arousal when they get the chance to write the phrase, “This isn’t Facebook”.

I don’t think it will drive people away unless they start to reduce the organic reach.

If the organic reach starts to dwindle and more 1970’s kipper tie-wearing, Sex Panther smelling misogynists start flashing their quarterly forecasts in some satanic ritual to decide who has the biggest bottom line, LinkedIn will be the next Myspace.

Just a place where our grandkids find our profiles in 25 years when they’re learning about corporate suicide in business studies!

So, what is your take? Out of touch or bring back the beige?

Chris Williams

About the author: Chris Williams
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