Yesterday, LinkedIn made a shock announcement: It is going to open its blogging platform to anyone who wants to share advice and insight – and not just to people it deems ‘influencers’. The aim is to try and reverse two quarters of drops in page views, and get users to be more engaged, and stay longer on the site.
The details are still sketchy, but it appears that users will be able to post their entire blog posts on their profile. Initially this will be shared just with their network of contacts, but others will see their posts if they are liked or commented on, and then be able to follow the writer even if they are not a first-level connection.
A writer who proves particularly popular will be promoted to ‘influencer’ and their posts shared with everyone on LinkedIn.
According to the WSJ the total number of influencers will remain capped at 500 – its current level.
Even if the identity of these 500 is in flux, this means, in reality, that the vast majority of people will be broadcasting to little more than their contacts. And I don’t see why most will want to do this, for one simple reason.
Right now, on the other platforms in which users share their writing – such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter – no one ever actually shares their whole post. They share a link to it, and the post itself is hosted on their blog, where they can get users to sign up for email lists or other products which further cement their relationship.
Yes, companies build up communities on these platforms. But marketers know that social media is ultimately a funnel to direct people back to their own website.
LinkedIn, by contrast, is asking its users not to post a link, but a whole blog, and keep readers within LinkedIn.
Are LinkedIn users going to be happy to build up a readership on the platform itself – without directing their readers back to their blogs?
I don’t think so.
On the one hand, influence is influence, and if you can build up a strong following on LinkedIn, you will establish yourself as an authority, and undoubtedly attract many new customers who want to access your expertise.
But many people with large blog readerships are going to ask themselves what they gain by building up a readership on a platform where they cannot insert those crucial calls-to-action (in its current design anyway). Can they really risk diverting their readership away from their blog?
(Granted, if you didn’t have much of a blog readership to begin with, this might not be a consideration.)
In addition, the major platforms have changed the rules so often recently that users may be very reluctant to put their eggs into a basket which they cannot control. What happens when LinkedIn suddenly decides that it’s no longer publishing your updates, and all your new followers suddenly disappear overnight?
There’s a reason why companies direct their traffic back to their blogs – it’s their own territory!
One last problem for marketers. At the moment, as we understand it, LinkedIn is opening up this blogging opportunity to individuals. If you’re running your own company, or if your aim is to establish your own reputation, that’s fine. But how useful is this for companies that want to build themselves up through content?
Yes, they can allow their CEO, or directors, or more junior staff to blog for them on LinkedIn. But all these people, including the most dedicated CEOs, eventually move on to other jobs, and will be taking their LinkedIn influence and readership with them.
So it’s actually not a great tool for companies.
My prediction: Most people will continue publishing links to their blogs – not publishing the blogs themselves. The people likely to creep into LinkedIn’s top 500 influencers are going to be highly successful people with enormous followings and networks in the first place. For everyone else, the inability to drive traffic back to your blog will be a turn-off.
What do you think? Does LinkedIn’s latest move make it more or less attractive? Let us know in the comments!
Miriam Shaviv is director of content at Brainstorm Digital
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