With the introduction of its new Stories feature, LinkedIn has invited the internet to its own roast.
LinkedIn is the BlackBerry of social media – stiff, all work, and no fun. So, it now wants to be desperately cool and tell us that working professionals do have fun moments too.
After testing the Snapchat-like, or some would argue Instagram-like feature, earlier this year, LinkedIn launched Stories last month in markets outside India. This week, the Microsoft-owned professional networking site, rolled out the feature in India with ‘localised stickers’ — kitschy graphics of chai, autos, and catchphrases like ‘jugaad’.
After the feature was launched in India, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, the Netherlands, UAE, and the US, most people on the internet seemed to have the same question I do — why?
So LinkedIn are doing stories now WHYYYY
— Regan Forrest (@interactivate) October 7, 2020
LinkedIn has stories lol what am I supposed to do there, beg for job?
— Tanya (@taanyeah) October 6, 2020
Didn't think I could hate LinkedIn any more than I already do but then they added stories
— 🌞 (@misschammko) October 6, 2020
The new feature enables members to publish photographs and videos that are up to 20 seconds long for a period for 24 hours, allowing them to share their ‘professional moments’ with their online community in a ‘fun’ and ‘creative’ manner. “Nothing says ‘fun’ like corporate stories,” one article harshly pointed out. The upgrade is like a gift that no one asked for. It doesn’t seem to add anything practical or useful to the site that has more than 706 million registered users, and is primarily known as an interactive CV platform where one can search for jobs.
Before the market was flooded with cool, easy-to-use smartphones, BlackBerry ads were all about black-suited men. Then they changed their campaign to add women and casually dressed youth. But it still didn’t work for BlackBerry. That is where LinkedIn finds itself today.
The move by LinkedIn to appear ‘casual’ and ‘fun’ also feels disturbingly symbolic of how work-from-home during Covid-19 has blurred lines that remained between work and life. Business executives used to network with each other by exchanging LinkedIn IDs, just like the young share their Instagram handles, but work from home calls for a different and fun SOP now.
Everyone has a ‘story’
Originally, the Stories feature was first introduced by Snapchat in 2013. Instagram “shamelessly copied” the idea in 2016 and made it even more successful, adding a host of new filters and integrating it to its ever-growing platform. Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Twitter soon followed suit. With increasingly identical features, all these platforms and apps are being more or less designed to do the same thing.
It reminds me of a time a few years ago where a friend of mine convinced me to download the messaging app Telegram. He claimed its UI and encryption features were far superior to WhatsApp, so I obliged. Suddenly, I found myself using WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Gmail, Google Chat, and sometimes (rarely) just regular texts, to communicate with my friends, family and colleagues. Not to mention Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and a whole other set of applications to make video or audio calls. It truly made me miss my single-landline childhood.
While one half of the internet is questioning the redundancy of the move, the other half is already coming up with do’s and don’ts, hacks on how to master the new storytelling feature to ‘harness your personal brand’. But the term ‘story’ is so overused by social media platforms and it literally doesn’t even mean telling an actual story.
Snapchat got stories
Facebook got stories
Instagram got stories
WhatsApp got stories
LinkedIn got stories
Twitter got stories
Maybe Kindle needs to rebrand itself as “Hey come check us out, WE got stories TOO!”
— Rashi (@rashi_kakkar) October 4, 2020
Besides, if people really care so much about their professional lives, wouldn’t they spend their time doing their jobs and not fixating over how to show people on the internet what it is that they do at work?
Innovative, or is it?
The Stories feature is not the only new addition by LinkedIn. The platform will also be updating its direct messaging service, and has announced plans to integrate with video conferencing services like Zoom, BlueJeans and Microsoft Teams. All this sounds well and good, but it seems to complicate an already complex platform rather than simplify it and make it efficient. Visiting LinkedIn can often feel like a pain, considering the deluge of sponsored messages that flood your inbox and the host of random people you don’t know who keep wanting to ‘connect’ with you and be part of your network. Its past attempts to dabble in social media formats, having tested features like ‘Student Voices’ that let college students add videos to “campus playlists”, has not fared well for the platform.
It appears that after the phenomena of fashion and lifestyle influencers on Instagram, LinkedIn hopes it can herald a new era of professional, corporate influencers who can share inspiring stories about productivity, efficiency, and work hacks.
How stories on LinkedIn are: pic.twitter.com/6FLSrw11Sc
— Vinayak.KK (@VinayakKK9) October 6, 2020
The India launch has involved public personalities such as Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, Kiran Bedi, stand-up comic Rahul Subramanian, and Boeing’s youngest pilot Anny Divya, using the new feature to show off their work setup and share ‘inspiring’ tips on how to be productive.
But has LinkedIn forgotten that Instagram, Twitter, and even Facebook, have already been utilised for years by people to create professional, public fronts for themselves? Instagram profiles have become so synonymous with curated, edited representations of oneself, that people have been deleting and archiving all the irrelevant or personal content from their public profiles, and instead making ‘finstas’ (fake Instagram accounts), to document and share their ‘real selves’ — ugly selfies, memes, inside jokes, etc.
If LinkedIn wants to innovate during Covid times, maybe, it should start by not introducing features and concepts that have already been done to death, and ask users directly what they do or don’t want.
Views are personal.