“(Insert Name Here) would like to add you to her network on LinkedIn. Register for an account now to connect with her” Remember that message? The one that finally got you to jump on the LinkedIn bandwagon? Mine came on May 12, 2009 from my future husband of all people so I finally figured I’d see what all the fuss was about and join.

I must admit, I was fairly underwhelmed. I went around and “connected” with members of my graduating class and of course some token high school buddies. I added a basic resume to my profile and then left. I probably checked it less than 100 times between 2009 and 2013 which for a social media nut is fairly mind-boggling. I just didn’t “get” it. What was the draw? I was connected to most of these people on Facebook, why would I want to be part of their “LinkedIn network”? Looking back I now realize exactly what was wrong- to use tribal marketing terminology- my “tribe” wasn’t active on the network.

This is an issue that Google+ is now dealing with. The whole “if you build it they will come” thing is much more difficult in the era of Facebook dominance. Social media means forging online connections. On Facebook they tend to be the online manifestation of offline relationships. On Twitter it’s an opportunity to forge online relationships around common interests that can then turn into offline relationships. Social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest provide additional dimensions to these connections. The point is they all fit and make sense to our natural human state as social creatures. I already wrote a post about the steep learning curve to Twitter adoption as opposed to Facebook. But this is nothing compared with the hurdles that Google+ faces.

But I digress- the topic of this post is about LinkedIn so let’s get back to that.

As I said, the issue for me with LinkedIn is that my tribe wasn’t present- and by present I don’t mean that they weren’t users. Rather, they were not updating or active. There were no opportunities to exchange viewpoints. A social network’s value comes from building relationships through conversations so if there’s no one to talk to or if the conversation unfolds over a matter of weeks due to inconsistent usage then there’s very little utility in using it. (once again- Google+)

BUT, as I said- I’ve learned to love LinkedIn. Why? Well, I started a job as a Community Strategist and Social Media Today which plunked me into a new tribe- one that uses LinkedIn effectively and this has made all the difference. I was motivated enough to even change my profile pic. I’ve done status updates for the first time EVER! I’ve shared content and I’ve been building my network.

There’s a clear lesson here and it’s one that echoes my prior post on Twitter. The Social Network must match the user’s needs. No matter how brilliant the social strategy, it will amount to squat if it is built outside of existing social networks and communities. We must be active where our target audience is active.

I talked about this in a recent #SMTnews tweetchat. The topic was Google+ vs Facebook. The general consensus was that Google+ seems like a really cool thing but needs widespread adoption before it will be a viable social alternative to Facebook.

Now don’t get me wrong, LinkedIn isn’t at all my favorite network. But it’s become something that I find myself checking daily and I’m becoming an engaged user. So the lesson of this story? Social media users must feel that the social network offers something for them AND there must be some type of social draw back to the network day after day. Otherwise profiles may be created, groups may be joined, but the power of the network is actually rather empty. 

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