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Eileen Dooley is a talent and leadership development specialist, and a leadership coach, based in Calgary.

LinkedIn – where did you go?

I don’t think I am alone in wondering what has happened to the professional social network, especially over the last two years.

All you need to do is scroll for about 15 seconds and you will likely find something you think should not be there, something you do not care about, or something you wonder how anyone felt the need to post. It has become so saturated with non-business content overall that a once-focused tool is now quite diluted.

Pictures of babies, new haircuts, messages of inspiration, and let’s not forget the vacation photos of being able to “check out.” This list goes on, and it does not seem to be going away. In fact, it seems to be getting worse.

From explanations of food served at the company breakfast to informing your network that you finally met a contact in person, LinkedIn has strayed far from what its original intended purpose was. Like all social-media tools, it is expected that it would evolve. But what we are seeing now is a regurgitation of posts that arguably belong on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok.

We even saw, during the overturn of Roe v. Wade, people announcing to their entire network that they had an abortion. Such personal announcements are the sender’s choice, but is LinkedIn the appropriate outlet? Remember that current and future employers and colleagues may see content written in the heat of the moment, but archived in perpetuity.

In the early days, LinkedIn was essentially an online rolodex that people would share with others. Articles of interest were posted, as well as announcements of job changes, job postings and other such business-related matters. It was seen as a social-networking site for professionals, and it evolved into a tool for finding work, learning when people were moving jobs, as well as a place to advertise a business.

Then came the pandemic, when people seemed to feel LinkedIn was the social media site to communicate all “normal” updates, such as children in zoom backgrounds, working off the kitchen table and excitement of seeing everyone virtually over cocktails. After that was all the personal stories, how relaxed they feel about coming back from vacation, not to mention the incredibly long announcements about leaving a job and how deeply their former employer has touched their life.

Please, please stop. Here are some tips on how best to conduct yourself on Linkedin:

What to keep posting on LinkedIn

  • Professional articles you write – your network should care about what you write or why have them in your network?
  • News about your company – any fundraisers, new ventures, exciting announcements to highlight.
  • Industry-related news – post articles or comments about what is new and interesting in your industry. Chances are most of your network is part of your industry so this would be of value to them.

What to stop posting on LinkedIn

  • Photos that belong on other social-media sites – such as a new baby, haircut, working while on vacation, company team-building buffet tables – you know what I mean.
  • Messages of inspiration – if someone wants to see those, they likely have other apps for that.
  • Job-change tributes – displaying how grateful you are for the employer you had or now have is not interesting to anyone other than those named in the post. Send them a personal e-mail instead or put it on the company intranet site.

What to start posting

  • Accepting connections of people you actually know – you should be able to drop them a note, and they know who you are. Let’s be honest, not too many people really know more than 500 people they can just send an e-mail to.
  • Address misconceptions about your industry – we are surrounded by negative news, most of which is either exaggerated or just false. Take time, with proof or evidence points, to set the record straight, in a polite, professional manner.
  • Write posts about the future – share predications of how your industry will change, or what it may look like in the future. After the last few years, the future can only be promising.

With the corporate world back to the office in some capacity, rush hours returning and business lunches climbing back to full swing, let’s get LinkedIn back to some semblance of the professional-networking site that it used to be.

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