This was the question I found myself asking not too long ago after participating in a discussion group on LinkedIn, where some of my colleagues were acting as though we were negotiating some type of high-end corporate merger instead of “discussing” (more like vying for the microphone) the finer points of career transition. After attempting to make a comment to lighten up the conversation (nothing off-color, I assure you) and to engage instead of one-up, one of my counterparts basically reprimanded me!
Now, if this had been the first time I had come across this scenario on LinkedIn, I would have just chalked it up to that, but it turns out to be somewhat the norm when it comes to that environment.
Certainly, it is true that different social media sites have different “cultures,” but exactly what the “rules” are for each culture are still a little murky, if you ask me.
A colleague and I were chatting recently about the LinkedIn versus Twitter culture, and he was telling me why he did not like the Twitter “vibe.” Basically, he felt Twitter was too loose of a forum. Anyone could just participate in a Twitter chat (instead of gaining acceptance into a group, like on LinkedIn), and he felt like from a techie front, it was mostly inexperienced people or posers trying to sound “techie.” On the other hand, he found LinkedIn made more sense to him because it had a more “corporate” feel to him, random streams weren’t whizzing by, and he could take his time to craft a well-written response. Plus, he could look up a person’s profile and get a better sense of his or her experience and background. Basically, he liked knowing who he was talking to, and he liked that it was a more formal discussion, especially if he were looking for advice or direction on a particular project or subject.
When I pointed out to him that some people lie or stretch their credentials on their LinkedIn profiles (see my recent article “Who Says LinkedIn Profiles Are Truthful?“), he still was not deterred. Overall, he felt like it was a more trustworthy environment and that more “experts” hung out over there.
He could be right. I certainly think he brings up some valid points.
In my mind, however, I still find the LinkedIn culture, well, stuffy.
And from a longevity standpoint, I’m not sure how well that will continue to play out as more people become comfortable with social media.
As someone who hangs out in both Twitter and LinkedIn groups, I find Twitter to be more cutting edge, frankly. It is true that it takes some time to get familiar with how things work there. And finding the right mix of followers and people you want to follow can be more time consuming for sure. But whether it is #TCFchat, a Twitter chat hosted by the Tech Career Forum on Wednesdays at 3pm East, or #tchat, hosted by Talent Culture, on Wednesdays at 7pm East, generally I find the discussion, well, more of a discussion.
For all of my LinkedIn discussion groups, I find them more of a lecture, where each participant is trying to impress me with his or her knowledgebase (so I can score them on the “best” answer). I’m not sure how that is engaging exactly…? Especially when it feels like we are constantly in interview mode, 3-piece suits and all.
Now it could just be my rebel entrepreneurial bias showing through, but generally, I am usually in favor of a more structured approach to things. And certainly there is a lot of silliness that goes on with Twitter (even if it is avoidable). However, in the case of LinkedIn, honestly, I just don’t find it an interesting place to be (it’s like one of those jobs where I’m stuck in an endless meeting, wondering “is it 5 o’clock yet?”). Now, if like my co-worker, I want a good lecture and some advice (although I rarely see the quality of the advice as any better, just longer winded), I can see the value, and it certainly is becoming the place to be for social recruiting, but the air is certainly thicker (and you might want to change out of your PJs before logging on).
But whatever you do, and I say this with all earnestness, don’t try and be funny!