LinkedIn has changed from a stuffy professional platform into one that encourages personal sharing and funny videos. Is this getting worse? And is it a bad thing?

Remember when LinkedIn used to be just about professional matters? It wasn’t that long ago. Users were quite happy to discuss business-related topics and offer valuable insights into all sorts of areas of work and professional life. It was what LinkedIn had set out to be, and people appreciated that.

Things have changed. It started in a subtle way, but it has now become quite common to see a post about a personal matter, or one completely unrelated to business. If you check your feed right now, you are pretty much guaranteed to see a poll asking people what their favourite colour is (yes, we’ve seen one) alongside a post about hiring the best sales team for your business.

What was it before?

Right back in 2003, LinkedIn had a very specific mission statement that you could find on its website. This mission statement read as follows:

The mission of LinkedIn is simple: connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.

There was nothing complicated about it, and it set the course for the platform from the outset. This was a place where professionals could meet, network (keyword there) and benefit from insights and ideas. Looking even closer, the word ‘professionals’ pretty much said it all.

Time passed, and LinkedIn soon earned a reputation for being professional. Compared to something like Facebook, it was an older sibling, one that had taken a job with a successful firm, and didn’t have time for messing about on the Internet.

That reputation sometimes worked against it. Some people saw LinkedIn as stuffy and boring. Microsoft bought it (a perennially conservative company) and this reputation was cemented.

Then everything changed.

No cat videos (yet)

Locowise hasn’t seen any cat videos yet. However, like the aforementioned poll, LinkedIn is simply becoming more personal. People are discussing their feelings and describing the mundane aspects of being human, rather than those business insights that LinkedIn was once famous for.

Some people have even talked about LinkedIn becoming the ‘new Instagram’. That sounds a little extreme, but when you see a post that discusses how hard it is to resist the chocolate in an advent calendar on a platform that is for ‘professionals’ it does ring true a little.

Another recent post shows a man in India trying to help a cow out of a muddy ditch. This is an admittedly heartwarming thing to see, but completely unrelated to business.

However, there is a possible reason for all of this personal stuff. But before we get into it, let’s just talk about Stories.

Stories and its impact

Stories was phased out last year, and now LinkedIn is making video easier to create on the platform. But Stories was perhaps the most ‘Instagram’ thing LinkedIn has ever done, and it’s legacy will be around for a long time.

Stories allowed creators to develop high quality videos and publish them on LinkedIn in a fun and exciting way. It actually felt a lot like Instagram, and many people argue that Stories was the first nail in the old LinkedIn’s coffin. By bringing fun, personal videos into LinkedIn with Stories, the platform changed forever.

That is not strictly true though, at least when we’re asking why LinkedIn is what it is today. There was one other big thing that could likely have caused LinkedIn to move towards pleasure more than business.

The pandemic

When the pandemic happened, people all around the world had to go into lockdown. That meant they were in their homes all day, and could only access their office and their professional life virtually.

There is a school of thought that suggests lockdowns make people more reflective when it comes to LinkedIn. There was a general softening of approaches and expectations in the workplace, because people were not seeing each other, the connection was missing.

LinkedIn became a place for professionals to connect outside of video calls. It became a place where heartfelt messages could be sent that reminded others professionals were human beings. Of course, that was not a bad thing.

However, this has spilled out into a situation where people are polling others on their favourite colours. Now, LinkedIn has become a place where business and pleasure are intermixed. Whether this is a bad thing is probably entirely subjective.

Seeing a heartwarming video of a cow being rescued from a ditch is great and all, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the budget forecasts you might really want to talk about. At the same time, there will be some users who feel the video brightens their day. We can see why people become a little annoyed at seeing what, quite frankly, are pointless polls in their feed every two minutes. But as long as it is easy to ignore them it isn’t that big of a problem.

Of course, it will become a problem if the personal stuff keeps on growing. Right now, it just pops up now and then (depending on who you follow). Soon, it could be everywhere on the ‘platform for professionals’.

Then we might have a problem.