Mathew Lowry

Since trying and half-rejecting Google+ and Tumblr, I’ve been accepted as a LinkedIn blogger. At least I never bothered with Facebook.

[6/6/14: Updated re: LinkedIn stats, below]

[30/6/2014: LinkedIn just lost my most recent draft. Abandoning ship – see LinkedIn: Amateurish tools for professional blogging]

Last summer I rethought my online presence, trying and discarding both Google+ and Tumblr as my central blog, turning the Tumblr into an el cheapo Content Hub, and tying everything together with IFTTT and GTD. But I ended up keeping this blog, as I learnt the hard way just how Faustian the bargain is when you adopt a social media platform for your online presence:

… sure, you get a shot at their audience. But … they decide how you will publish, and who will see it, on the basis of their commercial strategy, not on the basis of what you want to say, or how you want to say it.
Where to find me, October 2013

Thank God I didn’t choose Facebook

A few months later, Facebook’s updates its algorithm and proves my point in spectacular style:

“According to a Social@Ogilvy report that analyzed over 100 brand pages, Facebook organic reach was around 6% in February, 2014 — a decline of 49% from October. For brands with more than 500,000 likes, the fall-off was much steeper, with reach dropping to about 2%. Facebook has told marketers that they should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery” of their messages in news feed. Translation: You must pay to play.”
– What can you do about plummeting Facebook post reach?
, Social Media Today

Of course, the algorithm change doesn’t mean noone will see your posts – if you can get some of your fans to like, comment and share, it’ll spread to more.

But how will that happen if noone sees it? So it does mean that you’re going to have to pay to get that particular ball rolling. As Ewan Spence pointed out:

Facebook is creating scarcity. There are only a limited number of promotional moment in each user’s timeline, and the competition for these spots will only increase as brands bid … to gain enough momentum and likes to be shown organically. When there is scarcity, there is profit….
The Approaching Demise Of Organic Reach In Facebook, Forbes

The reaction of most government communicators in the US was swift:

“For many of us, the whole reason our organizations got on Facebook in the first place was to share information with the public. Well, recent changes to Facebook’s computer algorithm have made it increasingly difficult to reach our audiences, and it’s only going to get more difficult”
We need an exit strategy for Facebook, GovLoop – Knowledge Network for Government

But really, why is anyone surprised? As I noted on my TumblrHub at the time, “Well, duh. They *are* a business – if you want control over your presence, don’t give it away!

The bottom line is this: if you want control over your destiny online, you need your own site. Outsourcing it to anyone else leaves you at their mercy.

So why am I now blogging on LinkedIn?

I joined Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook in 2007, the year we launched BlogActiv. But I never warmed to Facebook, simply posted my CV on LinkedIn, and only warmed slowly to Twitter.

Of the three, LinkedIn is the only one to have evolved in a direction I actually like. It has become both a genuine platform for Communities of Practice (1.9 million Groups!) and a content powerhouse with the introduction of the LinkedIn Influencers program (people like Richard Branson, Arrianna Huffington and others who blog on the site) and high-end publishers (Time, HBR, etc.), all organised into professionally-oriented channels.

This reflects their overriding theme – quality: people contribute to LinkedIn as professionals, so the signal-to-noise ratio blasts other platforms out of the water. No lolcats here.

Earlier this year LinkedIn announced that everyone would soon be able to join as LinkedIn bloggers, and allowed mere mortals to apply to join their pilot programme. Unable to resist kicking the tyres, I submitted an application and to my surprise was accepted. My first four posts are:

As you can see here, these posts have been viewed a total of over 750 times as I write this – much more than I would ever receive in a few weeks on BlogActiv, which occupies the smallest possible niche imaginable. But this is absolutely nothing compared to what some LinkedIn bloggers have been reporting – when LinkedIn’s algorithm decides to promote a post into its channels, the ‘Views’ can climb into the 10,000s – a process akin to God reaching down out of the sky, lifting you up a mountainside, and handing you a megaphone.

Unanswered questions (updated)

And just as mysteriously. Does a ‘View’ mean that a user clicked on the article, or just saw it in their feed? Nobody’s sure (see update, below). How does that algorithm work? Nobody’s telling. Can I get Google Authorship to work on LinkedIn? Fat chance! When will we get decent analytics? Nobody knows. Will reposting trigger Google’s wrath? Possibly, but nobody’s sure. Will we be able to aggregate blog posts by organisation, group, or semantically? Noone’s telling. Will they answer any of these sort of questions? Clearly not. What will happen when all 275 million people can start blogging? God only knows. Does this prospect make them fill their pants? Probably.

Their online community management of their own pilot bloggers, in other words, has a lot to be desired.

[Update: LinkedIn ‘views’ are, as for other social media platforms, a bit of a joke – views indicate only how often your post appeared in someone’s stream, but not how many times people clicked the link and started reading. They are in no way equivalent to a page view, which are not provided. As I mentioned on LinkedIn itself, “until LI provides decent analytics it’ll be difficult to take it seriously as a longform blogging platform“.]

Where to find me, updated

As I mentioned in my first “Double or Nothing” post, the potential is as huge as the risks. I’m going to keep exploring LinkedIn, but I’m keeping my options open.

In practical terms, that means that unless it’s about the BloggingPortal reboot, I’ll blog it on LinkedIn. You’ll see it if you follow me there.

by Mathew Lowry*
* PS Just another Google Authorship link which doesn’t work. BlogActiv’s no better than LinkedIn in that respect.
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Comments

  1. Made the same analysis you did Mathew.
    Good that we met physically for coffee a fortnight ago.
    Am still only consideing blogging, but I am fighting wiht Facebook apps to get to see what “I” want to see, i.e. news from my friends, not of their friends friends or of what others, not so my friends, are listening to, playing at or trying out…

  2. Thanks Mathew for continuing with BlogActiv, albeit by default.

    “As you can see here, these posts have been viewed a total of over 750 times as I write this – much more than I would ever receive in a few weeks on BlogActiv, which occupies the smallest possible niche imaginable.”

    You put a number of good questions on figures from LinkedIn. I would add one, more difficult to quantify but essential: what kind of people will read you? ie what quality and relevance.

    Watch this space over Summer: EurActiv will finally invest some time in upgrading BlogActiv and increasing the visibility of BlogActiv bloggers. Reaching out to its 650 000 unique visitors in 12 languages, mostly professionals.

    Finally: on LinkedIn you don’t often get a reply from the (co)founder: what a thrill! 🙂

    Cheers,

    Christophe

  3. Hi @Christophe, Giorgio, Sorry for the delay in replying, but the investment Christophe mentions is long overdue – you were both in my spam folder, AS ARE MY OWN COMMENTS, even when I make them while logged in!!!

    I tweeted this to @blogactiv, but there was no reply ;(

    Right now, I have to plough through the dozens of spam comments which get past Akamai every day looking for actual comments. Including my own.

    As for the figures, I just updated my post – LinkedIn views are not the same as page view figures provided by website analytics platforms, and so do not tell you how many people actually read your post.

    Now I’m off to my spam queue to approve this comment. I look forward to an upgrade, Christophe, and suggest you release some figures now and then about overall Blogactiv reach.

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