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Age of majority | How LinkedIn is doing after its first 18 years

The social network for professionals seems to age better than its peers and in Italy it is confirmed as the seventh most used platform. Many, however, are beginning to complain about the addition of new features, such as stories and polls, which would have sanctioned a gradual shift towards a more generalist networking model. And, for some time, the phenomenon of MeToo has also arisen

Turin, February 15, 2021

by Roberta Cavaglià

In a few months, LinkedIn will officially come of age. Launched in 2003, the social network for professionals seems to age better than its peers, at least in Italy. Globally, however, in 2020 LinkedIn does not even appear in the top ten most used platforms in the world, mainly due to the spread in China of Wechat, QQ, QZone and Weibo. In our country, on the other hand, LinkedIn is confirmed as the seventh most used social network in the age group ranging from 16 to 64 years, surpassing TikTok, Twitch and Snapchat.

Everyone agrees on one thing: LinkedIn is the only social network where there is still good organic visibility, “even after the post-lockdown algorithm changes”, explains Valentina Vandilli, independent LinkedIn Expert and author of the book “LinkedIn Formula”. This means that today anyone could expand their network simply by creating valuable content, an increasingly distant prospect for those who choose to promote their work on other platforms, such as Instagram.

LinkedIn’s goal, as Marcello Albergoni, Country Manager of LinkedIn Italy recalls, has always been to “create an economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, regardless of background, geographic area of ​​origin, ethnicity, gender, orientation sexual or other choice or preference ‘. During its first eighteen years, the platform sought to make job search more accessible and fair for all and for all, and “this culture and these values ​​will also be the basis of our results in the future,” explains Albergoni.

Yet even LinkedIn is not immune to the signs of aging, just as it is not immune to criticism from its users. The “top of the class”, the LinkedIn Top Voices Italia, fifteen users selected by the editorial staff of LinkedIn News to “offer our community a list of members to follow, people able to generate useful conversations to the community on the topics of greatest interest ”, explains Marcello Albergoni. We asked some of them to tell us about their experience on the platform, and in particular how LinkedIn has changed over time.

According to Gioia Novena, Co Founder of Nextopp, CEO of Joy Careers and LinkedIn Top Voice 2021 for the HR world, there has been “a strong increase in engagement from users, and therefore more posts, articles, comments, likes and much more interest in personal branding by professionals “.

And the data confirm this: “In the last quarter alone we reached the record threshold of around 740 million members globally, of which 15 in Italy” confirms Albergoni, adding that in the same period conversations increased by 48%. But not all conversations are, in the end, simple conversations: behind some would be hidden real commercial operations.

«Making non-commercial content» says Marta Basso, co-founder of Generation Warriors and Linkedin Top Voice 2020, «requires attention, listening. Furthermore, the communication style of television or other social networks is not applicable to LinkedIn: using the wrong grammar to communicate on this platform is a bit like shouting in church”.

An interest, that towards personal branding and commercial marketing, which would risk stifling the real dialogue between professionals. «My great fear» explains Roberta Zantedeschi, expert in Human Resources and LinkedIn Top Voice 2020, «is that in the future the use of ads will also be granted to individuals. My love for LinkedIn was born thanks to the fact that here I found profiles of ordinary people who grow based on what they write, not on what they promote».

Thanks to the pandemic, «many non-digitized companies have poured into LinkedIn, but also operators in the events sector, who, unable to offer off-line experiences, have started frantically sending invitations to their webinars. This operation, carried out without adequate training on the platform, led to the burning of the opportunity to acquire new contacts and restart with one’s business », confirms Vandilli.

Even the addition of new features, such as stories and polls, would have sanctioned the gradual slide of LinkedIn from a professional social network to a simple social network, bringing it closer and closer to Facebook and betraying its initial vocation. Not the best of choices, given that, despite still being at the top of the charts of the most used social networks in the world, there is already talk of a golden decline of Zuckerberg’s creature, which in July alone lost 120 billion dollars on the stock market.

In addition to the bugbear of ads, the wind of MeToo has also been blowing on LinkedIn for some time (with a certain delay). Posts with the hashtag #keeplinkedinprofessional are multiplying, in which professionals from all over the world talk about how harassment is starting to take hold even in the (virtual) place that promises to make you “get in touch with the people and issues that matter in the your professional world “. One of the first, if not the first, in Italy, to talk about harassment on LinkedIn was Novella Rosania, Marketing Manager and Digital Strategist. In no time, his post has reached almost a thousand shares and more than 600 thousand views.

“I am convinced that when you subscribe to a social network you sign a” pact of trust “which aligns users with the intent of the platform” explains Rosania. «LinkedIn was born as a social network to implement one’s own networking networks: when I accept a professional, of any sex, I know that I am not playing on a field dedicated to romantic relationships. To do that there are other playgrounds, where everyone is aligned on why they are there ». A thought shared by many other users, who told her their testimonies in private, confirming the need to bring the issue of harassment to the spotlight, at work and in private life. But, as often happens when it comes to these issues, criticisms from skeptics and benaltrists were not long in coming.

“I think that the man will stop making unwanted advances only when the woman has learned to make them. (…) And this does not diminish the professionalism of the woman, on the contrary, it increases it because it demonstrates those famous” soft skills “of which all they speak »commented one user, proving that the line between advances and harassment is still thin and blurred in the minds of many Italians and Italians. According to Rosania, however, “advances are nothing more than the antechamber of a harassment, which if it occurs at work is even more serious”.

And if it is true that we interact in the virtual world inspired by the real one, we can say that workplace harassment is not an exception. According to the Citizen Safety Survey carried out in 2016 by ISTAT, almost one and a half million women have in fact suffered physical harassment or sexual blackmail in the workplace during their working life. “For me it remains absurd, however, that these harassments take place in writing” adds Roberta Zantedeschi, “because it makes it much easier to keep track of the fact and file a complaint”.

In response to this phenomenon, the Italian manager states that LinkedIn “has strengthened the so-called Professional Community Policies to be even clearer on the fact that harassment and romantic advances cannot have space on LinkedIn”, also integrating “reminders for users in order to to be able to guarantee professional level conversations in posts, as well as in comments and messages».

Especially in the latter case, in fact, it is essential to report the user to the company, where there is an internal team that uses “a mix of measures at a technical level based on the review of a person and reports from our members to discover any cases of harassment. And when they are discovered, we act accordingly », concludes Albergoni.

However, in the wake of the #keeplinkedinprofessional movement and the progressive slide towards some social dynamics, many users have found themselves looking for alternatives to LinkedIn. According to the expert Valentina Vandilli, the first step is to distinguish the two main functions of the site: the search for work, through the publication and response to ads, and the construction of social networks functional to professional growth.

For active research there are many alternatives: one of the most fun is certainly JustKnock, a platform that allows you to demonstrate your skills by presenting a project, instead of a simple application. Then there are the classic ad sites, such as InfoJobs, Monster and the like. In America, the same function is performed by university databases, capable of putting new graduates and companies in direct contact. Also in Italy the main universities have similar platforms, but with much lower results, and in any case limited to the inclusion of young people in the world of work.

For those who want to build their own network of contacts, “the only alternative I know is Xing, but it is mainly used abroad,” says Vandilli. Born in Hamburg, Xing claims to be active in more than 200 countries, but its user base resides mainly in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Due to the variety of features available, as well as its international reach, «LinkedIn is the only system that works at the moment. All the other social networks are missing one or more of these elements,”says Vandilli. But there are other solutions that could still bear fruit.

Overseas, the great suggestion that comes to those who work in the world of communication and journalism is to focus on Medium, or at least, to try a mixed approach between the two platforms. With the Medium Partner Program, writing content in English is much easier (and more profitable) than writing posts and articles on LinkedIn. But writing in English is not within everyone’s reach, and certainly not for many Italians, last in Europe for knowledge of the language.

Partner Program aside, it should be remembered, however, that according to Fabrizio Fantini, CEO of Evo Pricing, the articles of Medium (in any language) are promoted by the LinkedIn algorithm even more than the native articles of LinkedIn itself, precisely because the latter considers the quasi-rival Medium is an authoritative source. This combined approach would therefore also allow Italian users to take advantage of Medium to create content related to their profession, always keeping in mind, however, that Medium Italia has stopped promoting its contents independently since 2017.

From December last year, Zwap, a Made in Italy platform born during the pandemic from the idea of ​​four under 30s, has been available. You register by email and select a time of the week in which to make a face-to-face video call you with a stranger. After a few days, Zwap puts you in touch with your first match, another user who has selected for you based on your interests. From there, that’s it.

To date, more than 1,500 users have tried this service, including senior profiles from Google, Sky, Microsoft, Azimut and Airbnb Italia, and with excellent results. That Zwap is the next reference platform for professionals? It’s a bit early to say, but why not. For now, it is a service free from spam and ads, a security that neither LinkedIn nor other social networks care about guaranteeing their users.

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Transcript: English (auto-translated) / Italiano

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