Adapting to Social Media Changes: LinkedIn is Evolving … and So Should You

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Having written two books on LinkedIn, I naturally get asked for my opinion every time LinkedIn adds new, or deletes old, functionality. But instead of writing this post about what I think about LinkedIn discontinuing LinkedIn Answers, I wanted to instead tell you how I respond to all change in social media. And while I really dislike provocative, finger-pointing blog post titles, hopefully by the end of this blog post you’ll see some truth in what I’m about to say:

LinkedIn is evolving – are you?

Let me first provide you some background with what I see are some truths about social media before diving deeper into responding to LinkedIn’s recent announcement.

The first truth about social media:

Social media is always in flux.

Whether it’s platforms, functionalities that we use on those platform, or who the users are and how they use the platforms, social media is an endless, raging sea of people, communication, and information. While users can sometimes paddle to safer waters to feel more in control, you are always at mercy to the powers that be in the sea.

If we envision social media as a whole to be the sea, I see each social networking website as being a sandbox of sorts. With this in mind, the second truth about social media:

Social media users are playing in the sandboxes of social networking website owners.

When we sign up to any social networking site, we are agreeing to play by their rules. They make us as users few promises. We continue to play while we can – and hopefully find tangible business and professional benefits in doing so.

So, if businesses and professionals find benefits in being active on social networking sites, shouldn’t the site owners share in the benefits? That’s why the third truth about social media is the fact that:

Social networking websites need to make money, too.

Companies are in business for a reason, which is usually to turn a profit, unless they are a nonprofit organization. EOM

The fourth truth about social media?

Social networking websites are usually created based on the vision of its founders, which over time changes. Sometimes they do things that we question, but most often their changes are leading us into uncharted territory that neither the founders, nor the users, have ever traveled. Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they fail, but I like to give these brilliant people a chance to implement on their vision before reaching a conclusion.

Which naturally leads to the fifth truth about social media:

At the end of the day, with the ever-changing landscape of platforms, users, and uses, social media is still one huge experiment which will have no end.

So, understanding the way that I see social media, and to try to give practical advice to businesses and professionals who rely on the insight from the bloggers at Windmill Networking, I offer you this advice:

1) Focus on the Positive Change, not the Negative

This is my rule of thumb for life, but spending time dwelling on the negative means that your business is losing time it could spend on the positive. Don’t fall into the trap, and don’t take social media personally. Social networking sites will always be changing user interfaces and functionality as part of this grand experiment, so acknowledge the fact and move on to more important things that matter to your business.

2) With Negative Changes Come Positive Opportunities

LinkedIn cancels LinkedIn Events. Time to move on to Eventbrite or Plancast. Perhaps make a greater use of Facebook Events or Google Plus Events. LinkedIn cancels LinkedIn Answers. Time to move on to Quora. How about asking more questions in status updates throughout social media? Out with the old and in with the new, and hopefully this gets you thinking more dynamically about your social media strategy and the need to better adapt to social media changes.

3) Few People Used LinkedIn Events or LinkedIn Answers – but the Same Engagement Can Still be Found within LinkedIn

LinkedIn has to make money like any other site. So when they provide functionality that very few of its members use, it’s time to focus those resources elsewhere. Perhaps in the early days these applications were used by a greater percentage of the LinkedIn user base, but with the introduction of LinkedIn Today, the blog posts of thought leaders, the ever-growing number of LinkedIn Groups and engagement inside those groups, and the new LinkedIn user interface and its addition of LinkedIn Endorsements, there are more than enough ways of engaging, discovering, and promoting activities that we used to do in Events and Answers. Not to mention that one in two LinkedIn users joined the site since 2011 – and they may be using it very differently than the way us older members do.

4) Expect More Changes in the Future

The hand that gives you can also take away from you. LinkedIn, and any other social networking site, will continue to evolve in the future. It’s hard to expect the unexpected, but if you face every potentially negative change with frustration, it’s definitely not going to help your business or yourself. Trust me: In the early days of this blog, I also used to complain about changes that the platform did back in the day, but no one really benefited from such rants. So I stopped and evolved. I am hoping, if you still hold negative sentiment, that you will too.

After all, I’ve already blogged about why being negative in social media is plain old bad social business.

So, at the end of the day, we the users must accept these changes and grow up together with the platforms, hand-in-hand, in the belief that the uncharted waters ahead will lead us all to greener pastures.

All the more reason why you need to be constantly revisiting your social media strategy on a regular basis to align your objectives and compare your choices in terms of social media channels, the varying functionalities they provide, and how those who frequent the sites are utilizing them.

So, what are you waiting for: Has this blog post changed any way in which you think about change in social media? Comment if you feel strongly about the issue. Thanks!

Neal Schaffer
The Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Maximize Social Business, Neal Schaffer is a leader in helping businesses and professionals strategically maximize their use of social media. Neal is the author of three social media books, including the recently published definitive social media strategy book Maximize Your Social. Forbes lists him as a Top 35 Social Media Power Influencer and AdAge lists his blog, Maximize Social Business (formerly known as Windmill Networking), as a top 100 global marketing blog. Neal provides social media strategy consulting and coaching, having worked with Fortune 500 companies and a Grammy-award winning musician. He has presented worldwide on social media at more than 150 events and also teaches social media marketing at Rutgers University. +Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

@nealschaffer

Author, @MaxYourSocial | Founder @msocialbusiness | Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, and Speaker | 日米ソーシャルメディア専門家|G+: https://t.co/BqaJvubiP8
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Comments

  1. says

    This! This Neal is why you can’t put all your eggs in the social basket, why you can’t buy into ‘set and forget’ programs or leave it to the interns. The one Constant is Change; not just in social media but marketing, in PR and communications, in life and in business. Adapt, improvise, overcome – evolution or else. It’ll take work, the right minds, right plans and strategies to do so. And FWIW – I’ll miss LI Answers but have already started looking at the possibly greener pastures (aka biz G+ communities and/or FB groups, maybe even Quora).

    • says

      Thank you so much for the comment, Davina, and sorry for the delay in getting back to you! Glad to see that the post resonated with you and that I have another soulmate out there in social media ;-)

  2. Rick W. says

    Social Media is like the ever changing ocean; we can adapt our boats and use it to our benefit or we can stay anchored in the harbor and miss out on seeing the rest of the world. Thanks Neal, great blog, insightful as always.

  3. says

    Excellent point made in that we are playing in the sandbox of the social media site owner. We don’t own or ultimately control anything on these sites. That’s why engagement with your audience is critical and your job as a marketer is to move your audience to your website or opt-in list which you do own and control.

  4. Jim says

    Along those same lines of thought, Davina, is the challenge some organizations face in committing the manpower to truly stay active with social media in order to keep up with the evolution. Using the “set and forget” programs becomes tempting for some organizations when there simply are not enough people to actively stay on top of the social media portion of a communication plan.

    • says

      Great point Jim. Social media requires an investment of time, so I’d rather have a company start small with the resources they do have in an authentic way rather than try to automate themselves to the point where they can’t keep up with engagement. After all, the more active you are on social, the more that others will engage with you – and not being able to respond defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

  5. Lore Lapinsky says

    As much as current technology is rapidly changing the manner in which we choose to communicate, the vital components of communication still remain the same. My take away from your article, is that change is inevitable, in social media, business, and life. It is how we choose to embrace that change that defines us. I can not possibly know and understand all that is social media or all the changes that will take place, but I can accept what is available to me and improves my life, both professionally and personally. I could spend hours in frustrated grumblings about what has gone away or I can choose to be excited about what is taking its place. My choice is and will always be: Get excited about what else there is to learn, use and experience. Besides, learning new things, keeps our brains young. And who wouldn’t want that! Thanks, Neal. You continually inspire me to learn, move and grow!

    • says

      Thanks for your beautiful and eloquent comment Lore! I’m not trying to be a Tony Robbins type of person, but I want to see everyone achieve their maximum potential in social media, which was the reason behind my writing that post. Let’s aim higher together Lore!

  6. says

    This is most definitely a stunning revelation how to well-kept social media marketing strategies.I have learned so much by reading your blog. It always amazes me how much there is to learn. thanks for sharing.

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