LinkedIn followed a classic digital media model — build your audience, monetize your audience — and is now the preferred place to do personal branding.

Having time to actually let my brain wander a bit since launching our strategic communications and digital media firm has been a great thing. These past few months, among other things, have been filled with thoughts about where social media is headed. And that was even before Elon Musk tried to take Twitter private.

My social habits were changing even before I left daily journalism. There was a shift toward LinkedIn and Instagram and a suspicion others were doing the same, so it was time for a data dive. The first question: How many people use social media? Turns out there are somewhere between 4 billion and 5 billion people on social, depending on who’s estimating and how they count active users. Regardless, that’s more than half of all humans on the planet.

Twitter may need Elon to crack the top five, which are reserved for Facebook and its chasers. For now, those include YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, WeChat and Facebook Messenger, depending which rankings you use. 

But LinkedIn is coming. It has become the place where friends and clients are generating the best and most genuine engagement with their content and audiences. There are several strategic reasons, but it’s clearly easier for individuals or companies to do their digital branding while finding their social voice on LinkedIn than any other site.

It’s where 1 in 4 adults go

Long content with its reputation as the world’s leading social media platform for professionals, LinkedIn now reaches 25% of all U.S. adults, according to the Pew Research Center.

The Great Resignation — or Great Re-evaluation as it may soon be known — certainly hasn’t hurt LinkedIn as people take stock of their careers and work-life balance. But LinkedIn was on an amazing trajectory even before the pandemic. This is a team that followed the classic digital media path of build your audience, monetize your audience. And company revenues are taking off as LinkedIn expands its learning catalog and dials up its marketing toolkit.

As a result, LinkedIn has become so much more than a place to park your resume. It is the preferred place to do personal branding, whether you’re in the job market or not. It also is the must-have platform for millions of businesses and schools. For folks like me who do strategic communications, it is the place to find people who have something meaningful to say, whether that’s a long post on launching a business or a little nugget of motivation to get the day started. 

‘We’ the people

Listen to Adam Sherman, founder of Warm Name, a digital marketing consultancy and a longtime follow of mine on LinkedIn.

“I joined LinkedIn in 2010. At that time, the platform was largely about finding a job or hiring for one,” Sherman says. “Now, it has become a hub for redefining yourself and for what it really means to be a professional in today’s marketplace.

“On any given day, it can mean answering for these desires:

– I want to own

– I want to do

– I want to earn

– I want to become

– I want to share

– I want to connect

– I want to learn

– I want to grow

– I want to relate

– I want to contribute

– I want to listen

– I want a new career

– I want to be seen

– I want to be heard

“The above all are well-intended; however, at times, my feed or inbox feels self-congratulatory, myopic, or oily. Maybe in some ways that’s the intent. Or maybe folks just don’t know any better. That said, I believe the true spirit of any social network should be to first lift up others. And, by doing so, you too will naturally climb. Less about ‘I’ and more about ‘We.’”

And that’s it right there, Adam. LinkedIn figured out the “we.”

The future of social

While my social habits still include regular spins through Facebook and Twitter, there’s a desire to keep going deeper on LinkedIn. There’s still a lot to learn, but I now better understand how other people are using LinkedIn. Responses to recent posts also have felt incredibly authentic and organic. 

LinkedIn has become a vast, and important, learning ground for millions of us. I’d love to hear more from you — the newbies and the not-so-newbies, my connections and people who’ve randomly found this in their feed. 

How are you using LinkedIn? And what do you find most valuable and least worth your time?  

I look forward to continuing my LinkedIn education and appreciate your input. If we haven’t already, let’s connect on LinkedIn