Sorry, LinkedIn Users: You’re Not All That Special

Good question! If you’re one of the 200 million people around the world who maintain a LinkedIn profile and you have more than, say, 50 connections, then you almost certainly received some version of this recent email: The nice yellow “read more” button leads to a “letter” from the company’s SVP that encourages members to share their new status as “influencers” via every available social media platform. It’s instant, thought-free self-promotion!

We hate to discourage everyone, but you shouldn’t get too excited about this–it’s a clever marketing scheme. How does it work, you ask?

Oh hey, you got one too!

See, here’s the thing: even though a significant majority of the 20 million people who received this email have used it as an opportunity to poke fun at LinkedIn, they’re still talking about the brand on social media, thereby adding to the “buzz”. And quite a few people just straight up re-tweeted the news. Did they not think about it or are they just less cynical than we are? Interesting question, but it doesn’t matter: it’s all win-win for LinkedIn.

While this campaign may inspire us to ponder the fact that social media has turned the most meaningless occurrences into “events” important enough to be shared with the rest of the world, we can’t see too many people deleting their profiles this week. LinkedIn obviously crunched the numbers and determined that the emails, while attracting plenty of snark, would result in more people joining the service (and setting themselves up to receive all kinds of future promo spam from LinkedIn partners).

Can we take any PR lessons from this campaign? Yes, but they’re really just the same lessons social media has taught us again and again: people love to be congratulated, included and rewarded. Never underestimate the power of an “aren’t you special” message.