As the platform formerly known as Twitter becomes increasingly hostile for news organisations to use, journalists are looking for new spaces to share, gather and publish news. Is LinkedIn, the once uncool jobseeking site, the answer? Marketing guru Ralf Ressman warns there is no such thing as a free lunch. Not even on LinkedIn.
Elon Musk’s feed on X, as he renamed Twitter after buying the social media platform, provides a snapshot of his war against the media. There is a particularly crass meme of two dogs labelled “Elon” and “media” among an assortment of manchild memes, regular insults, and relentless punting of X as a platform for “citizen journalism” as a counter to mainstream media.
He has, in effect, declared “legacy news” as dead in a post and called on publishers to post content in long form on X. Headline and other text – including social copy – are now stripped from news articles on X. Posts with links to articles therefore only feature the story’s lead image, reducing traffic to news publishers.
“This is coming from me directly. Will greatly improve the esthetics,” Musk wrote on X in between posting bizarre memes taunting Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, a video of himself firing a semi-automatic sniper rifle, and rambling posts about immigration, Tesla, and Space X.
The media industry – journalists, publishers, marketers – are among X’s hyper-engaged, obsessive users. Twitter was the place to build your profile, argue, engage, and break news. It was an addictive, heady mix and helped shape how we digitally publish news.
But Musk’s erratic behaviour, and the return of hordes of xenophobic, homophobic, and racist accounts, have added to fears of the platform’s demise.
Cue a scramble for an alternative news platform – and enter LinkedIn, long considered too nice, too bland, too slow, and too boring.
Giving away free content
The 2023 Reuters Institute report on journalism, media and technology trends found LinkedIn is the most popular alternative to media leaders from 53 countries. Granted, LinkedIn has long been popular with networkers, marketers and job seekers – the platform says it has 950 million members in over 200 countries and territories, and 61 million people search for jobs here each week. But it has also expanded its newsroom, pushed out more resources for journalists, and added a newsletter feature. The Financial Times Editor’s Digest newsletter has more than 1,6 million subscribers, and The Economist’s week ahead has over 3 million subscribers. (LinkedIn also creates its own newsletters.)
So, it seems like a no-brainer to flee the Twitter chaos and embrace the tranquil waters of LinkedIn.
Not so fast, says Ralf Ressman, a strategic marketing consultant and former journalist from Frankfurt, Germany, who specialises in LinkedIn strategies for national and international clients.
While LinkedIn has long changed from an online CV showcase to a content platform, Ressman warns news publishers should learn not only from what happened at Twitter but also Facebook. The Meta-owned company’s changes have slashed referral traffic to media outlets as lawmakers want to force big tech companies to pay publishers for content. Meta is undoubtedly moving away from the news.
“Let’s look back at the last few years,” Ressman says. “Where did we have a real benefit when we started giving away free content on third-party platforms?
“For LinkedIn, I can clearly say [to] forget about every strategy that goes into a direction of I want more readers, I want to generate more reader revenue and want to have this as part of my funnel. Because if you post something with an external link, you have the same problem as with Facebook. You have around 50% less reach. And the AI will just cut the visibility of your content with external links.”
He would never become dependent on a single platform, Ressman says.
“Who knows what will happen on the platform tomorrow or the day after?”Ralf Ressman
While LinkedIn is not as toxic as Twitter, the platform’s popularity has come with an increase in cyberbullying and extreme political views. “It’s still small, but it’s a mirror of the internet,” Ressman explains.
How journalists should use LinkedIn
But LinkedIn is an essential platform for news publishers if they use it right and see it as one instrument in their orchestra. It’s about branding and networking
“The thought leadership part, the valuable content part, is still better [than Twitter] and you can regulate it.
“For the publishing scene, I see a big value in the whole employer branding discussion. We all know it’s harder to find good people, and you have to position yourself on such a platform.”
LinkedIn is valuable to generate new story ideas, and for salespeople to demonstrate their knowledge.
“If you are not able to manage a platform like LinkedIn, how can someone believe that you are able to manage other digital things in your business or life? So it’s proof of your digital readiness as well, if you do a good job on LinkedIn.”
You can watch highlights (and view the key timestamps) from our interview with Ralf below:
Key time stamps
02:40 > It’s a good platform to generate new ideas for stories because there are so many discussions where you can learn from what topics people really drive.
03:05 > The interest of LinkedIn is, again, to have valuable content to attract people. I mean this is a stock index company with its KPIs and we can be sure one of these KPIs is not only the amount of members it’s also about the number of logins, the daily logins, these members generate and how long they stay once they have logged into the platform.
04:56 > If I talk to publishing houses about their LinkedIn strategy, I’m more about their branding effects, about networking effects, and when we look back, at what we saw with Facebook for example, people don’t want the same experience again. I think we should take our learnings out of this.