If you have a tie on in 2015, it probably means you are a salesman in a non-transparent industry and are generally not to be trusted at any cost. When I see a tie on somebody, I get that funny feeling you get right before the dentist. Let’s face it, the people left wearing ties every day are the confidence-men stealing your money. Think insurance, financial services, bad shoes and, of course, car salesmen.
There’s something else that says just as much about a person as wearing a tie: contributing to LinkedIn’s Pulse program. It’s nothing but self-appointed experts with digital ties falling over backward daily to sell themselves with generic professional insight pieces and daily business inspiration.
It’s important to understand how we got in this mess. In early 2011, LinkedIn first launched social content link sharing. By October 2012, LinkedIn launched the Influencer program, allowing selected “thought leaders” to share original content directly with users on the site. As with every platform, early adopters soon were the recipients of an ungodly amount of early content promotion. Suddenly everybody and their intern was spitting out content in search of inflated view counts. Fast forward two years, and now the platform allows anybody to publish. That’s right, welcome to one giant branded entertainment business black hole.
What a disaster. Four big reasons:
1) LinkedIn has become a giant branded entertainment platform for selling us crappy fake expertise.
LinkedIn has evolved into one giant branded entertainment advertisement for businesspeople. Think about that for second and then vomit a little. Or, let’s put it another way. By the end of each article I read, I can’t escape the feeling that everybody on LinkedIn is trying to sell me something. I can’t be alone in feeling this way.
In this post, I’m reading an article about how to pick a CPA coincidentally by a CPA for hire! Guess what, when I want to read and write compelling business content, I actually want real insight for the sake of insight and thought. Not so I end up hiring you as a pricey consultant or so you get a nice conference speaking gig. We’ve gone well past the point of friendly social network directly into 24/7 lead generation network territory. No thanks.
2) Crappy writing
LinkedIn writers have zero personality. Do you want 2,000 word articles about happiness being a journey? Me neither. As the entire point of nearly every article is to serve as a business card and résumé, nobody on the platform takes a stand at the risk of offending any semblance of a new perspective customer. Who wants to read authors who don’t feel real? You know what real writers talk about? They talk about real world implications without fear of offending customers and advertisers. Real writers talk about not getting things right, getting confused, and sometimes feeling embarrassed when producing ideas and thought. In essence, LinkedIn writers never leave any ambiguity. They can never be wrong. Real writers implicitly understand there are holes and blind spots in every thought piece.
3) No real authentic sentiment
This is going to come as a shock, but I don’t need inspiration from you. You are not Richard Branson. Even though you gurus never admit it, I know that you are just like me. And I’m a really normal guy with the same everyday problems, bad moods and screw-ups that you have, too. The difference is guys like me admit it. It’s really these business gurus and unconscious business gurus who give all of us schleps trying to share real ideas a bad name.
4) LinkedIn notifications are predatory
Last, but certainly not least, LinkedIn notifications are truly predatory. These little notifications are the little flags on the top right side of the website. I’d try to hide from all of these posts, but LinkedIn forces me to see these notifications multiples times throughout the day. I can’t turn them off. The most evil part about these notifications is that LinkedIn forces the title and name of the author in a LinkedIn notification on you, regardless if you ever decide to click. This is a really important point. It means that while I don’t know the vast majority of my “contacts” writing posts, or have any desire to read these branded pieces, I have effectively read the piece and I’m subtly influenced by them. This is effectively brand advertising 101, and what Coke and Nike pays millions of dollars a year for during the Super Bowl.
Instead of giving us endless notifications I can’t turn off, I wish LinkedIn would provide writing instruction to people that genuinely want to write and share business ideas. To be fair, a subset of well-meaning people on the platform undoubtedly have incredible information to share, and the ability to actually talk about it. There is lots of room for great, interesting and thoughtful writing.
I could have published this on LinkedIn (because they’ll literally take anything)…but I didn’t.
Some of you may point out this article is actually a listicle and a wannabe expert piece itself. The difference here is that I actually got paid to write this article. As part of getting paid, I also have an editor who makes sure I’m accountable for everything I write before any of my thoughts see light of day.
I also have no idea, nor do I care, how many views I will receive for this piece. And lastly, I risk offending all of my friends and contacts who write on LinkedIn. I’ll probably lose out on some juicy advisory or consulting gigs. Yet I’m willing to talk about things that make for healthy public conversation. I’m willing to be called wrong, and I’m certainly not an expert at anything associated with the business of LinkedIn.
So I’m not wearing a tie anytime soon, and I’m not writing or reading on LinkedIn.
Tell me I’m not alone.
Ben is an active investor in VR and digital media, and is based in Los Angeles. Ben was an early Google and YouTube exec, and has founded and led multiple venture-backed video startups. His monthly profiles on “why people are great at what they do” are found here.