Opinion

Is LinkedIn killing the trade press?

Steve BlakemanIn this guest post, Steve Blakeman shares his experience using LinkedIn’s publishing service, and wonders if the business social network has replaced the trade media as the best place for executives to voice their opinions.

There has been a quiet revolution over the past 8 months since LinkedIn fully launched it’s ‘Publishing’ service – now everyone has the opportunity to be their own author, curator and commentator without the need to have a publication validate their work. Just over 1 million individuals have now published on the platform and 45 per cent of its readers are in the upper ranks of their industries (i.e. managers, directors and CEOs). Impressive stats right?

LinkedIn

I’ve been writing for various trade publications for many years now and was only enticed into publishing on LinkedIn after Andy Goldman (Global Agency Lead for LinkedIn) persuaded me to simply publish the same articles on LinkedIn. Frankly, it was nothing short of a revelation. The numbers associated with the pieces were much higher than I had initially imagined with most items racking up at least 1000 verified views. The aforementioned Mr Goldman attributes this kind of resonance to the concept of ’emotional disruption’:

LinkedIn is both a knowledge network and a personal one. As professionals define their writing voice on the platform, authentic and relevant stories are highly aspirational. When a chord is hit by an author you can identify with professionally and personally, it can be downright emotionally disruptive, cutting through the white noise of media we are all so good at filtering out.

I have also been surprised to see that the majority of my audience were not ‘media’ people either. Or indeed from Asia. The reality is that over 35 per cent of the audience were from the US and in terms of industry discipline it was a fairly eclectic mix of people – anything from Finance to Farming?! But the most interesting insight was that the significant proportion were C-suite and that’s an audience which (as we all know) are notoriously difficult to connect with. What’s more, my number of ‘followers’ has escalated to almost 2500 from a base of less than 50. And if you aggregate all the views, likes, shares, tweets, retweets, comments etc. across the items I’ve written, the collective figure stands at over 1.2 million.

Not too shabby. Yet I would say that the most significant difference between LinkedIn and the Trade Press is the capability to make your work go viral. I wrote a piece entitled “Burn your resume – LinkedIn has made it obsolete”. It did decent numbers but really took off when it was picked up by Yahoo FinanceFox News and Business Insider. Using their online trackers (where available) I’ve estimated that individual piece reached a combined audience of well over 150,000. A flash in the proverbial pan? Actually no. I managed to pull off the same trick with another piece entitled “Forget Greece, the real financial crisis is in China” which was featured in the Banking section of Pulse and at last count had almost 19,000 hits on LinkedIn alone.

Blakeman's piece on China

Of course it’s not just about the numbers, it also demonstrates that you don’t have to be ‘shackled’ to write about your own industry to make a valid comment and elicit a reaction. It’s really about how your work resonates with an audience and that can be measured by the ‘quality’ of the comments. And I have detected a distinct difference here too. The tone of voice of those comments is often much more ‘professional’ than those in the trade press. We have all witnessed the bile and vitriol from nameless trolls who leave their snarky comments on many of the articles published by the likes of Mumbrella. They hide behind their pathetic pseudonyms, too afraid to openly air their opinions. Come on, if you have got something to say at least have the courage of your convictions and reveal who you are. After all the author was brave enough to stand by their words, so why can’t you?

Trolls

Some industry observers have referenced the issue of ‘content pollution’ on LinkedIn and that the effectiveness of items is affected by the sheer volume of work available. I get the point but to be honest I believe that if the work is good enough then it will find its audience. It can also be aided significantly by being featured as an Editor’s Pick or spotlighted in one of LinkedIn’s curated Pulse sections (e.g. Technology, Social, Media etc.). I have found that when any of my items are picked up in these sections the viewing numbers are bolstered dramatically.

So does all this mean that comment from industry leaders in the Trade Press will be effectively phased out over the next few years? Well actually no I don’t think that. I suggest that both platforms can co-exist in the same eco system and actually feed off each other to their mutual benefit. Case in point? I now simultaneously publish in the Trade Press and LinkedIn whilst cross-referencing both pieces to ensure that readers overtly link the two. Result? My LinkedIn viewing figures are improved by associating the piece with a credible industry publication. However, not enough industry publications follow the same logic and only use LinkedIn sparingly to promote their own content. My attitude is that they should embrace it to harness it’s power. Rather than simply push out the occasional link they should be featuring all their articles on LinkedIn as well as in their own delivery systems to maximise their potential reach. I asked Chris J Reed, CEO of Black Marketing his opinion and he was typically erudite:

Advertising people can’t advertise themselves. The media are the worst. National newspapers and trade publications from big brands like The Guardian to local ones like The Straits Times. They’re just not getting it. LinkedIn has 400 million professionals on it. Do you want engage with them or ignore them? If you don’t share there are more than a million people on LinkedIn publishing, often they reference trade and media sources. Work with them and you will benefit.

So Robin Hicks, for the moment I wouldn’t worry too much about where you get your third party content from… but as a quick litmus test I am going to track the viewing numbers when this article and the ‘mirror’ LinkedIn version go simultaneously live. Let the platform battle commence!

Steve Blakeman is the managing director of global accounts, OMD Worldwide.

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