If You Use LinkedIn, This Is the Dark Side of the Platform

A female thought leader with 700,000 followers gave me a behind-the-scenes look at LinkedIn.

Tim Denning
Jan 25 · 10 min read
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Photo by Ana Itonishvili on Unsplash

I accidentally became the LinkedIn police.

A friend of mine was sharing videos daily on LinkedIn that weren’t hers. The credit for the video was typically something like “credit: whatsapp message a friend sent.”

She’s a bright light in a dark world right now. Her posts lift me up. I didn’t want to see her get banned from LinkedIn for sharing videos, as if they were hers, from famous news outlets.

I dropped her a short message on LinkedIn. As I suspected, she had no idea there was any problem. What happened next took me by surprise.

She replied to my message with a wave of emotion. She was ready to give up on LinkedIn. I could see the dark subtleties of possible suicidal thoughts. It scared the shit out of me, and simultaneously woke me up.

There is a dark side to LinkedIn. Here’s a behind the scenes look.

Womanizing Is a Thing

As a man, I had no idea. I even had to google the phrase womanizing to refresh my memory on what it was.

She told me that her and many other women had experienced womanizing on LinkedIn. They would develop a community around their content, using a group chat like WhatsApp, and then have it turn into something else.

Men would pretend to make them feel good and leave nice comments on their LinkedIn posts to get their attention. Then they would try and do anything to meet up with them in person so they could, hopefully, get them in bed.

I spoke to two other female content creators last year who told me something similar. They said they fielded daily messages from guys telling them they looked hot and asking if they were single. I had no idea LinkedIn had this sort of behavior — it’s supposed to be a professional networking app after all.

My understanding of LinkedIn was that you treat the opposite sex the same way you would in an office environment. It turns out people can morph into different human beings when they hide behind an encrypted group chat.

Neither Likes nor Followers Ever Paid Any of My Bills

This one sentence she told me explained exactly what I had discovered. Who cares how many likes or followers you have. She told me she started posting content on LinkedIn so she could find business opportunities.

She told me after 5 years of posting on LinkedIn she only received one business proposal. Her business has currently been hit hard by the pandemic and recession. She desperately needs work.

With 700,000 LinkedIn followers she has the “open to work” (unemployed badge) on her profile photo.

If this reality doesn’t make you stop and think about social media vanity metrics, then I don’t know what will.

But I disagree with her point of view when it comes to business opportunities.

How to Find Business Opportunities on LinkedIn

Posting content and expecting instant business opportunities is an unrealistic expectation. That’s not how business, networking, or LinkedIn works.

See, I have got plenty of business opportunities from LinkedIn over the years by thinking differently.

  1. Start conversations rather than pitch yourself or a product.
  2. Be genuinely interested in what people do.
  3. Set up video calls to get to know people.
  4. Get good at spotting generic messages that were sent to 1000s of people. If you get a direct message and it’s not personal, then it isn’t worth your time.
  5. Don’t try so hard. Sounding desperate for business is a turn off. Tell people what you do. Tell people what you like about the work you do. Talk to people from LinkedIn like they’re your friends — not robots who want to place a business order with you for $1 million.

To find business opportunities on LinkedIn you have to use some basic sales skills. You need to know what problem a person has. You need to know if they want help. You need to be able to spot buying signs, like “can you send me more links on that?”

A lack of business opportunities on LinkedIn is due to a lack of sales skills. It’s easy to develop sales skills when you talk to people like friends and ask permission to help with problems.

“There Is Nothing Here for Myself”

This line from her cut deep. It’s a deeply selfish motivation. When you expect to get something for yourself, you end up with nothing.

Removing expectations from your life frees your mind to think clearly. When I publish a piece of content my first thought is “I deserve nothing.” It sets the bar for disappointment. Most of my content is one giant flop. About 5% of the time something I publish is helpful to a few people beyond my circle of friends.

If you use social media and keep asking “what’s in it for me” then you will find nothing. How you can help people on social media is the objective. When you help people with their problems you may find a few small rewards for yourself. But I promise you this:

The helping people part will be the best bit. You won’t expect it. It will light you up and supercharge your energy levels.

Only Sharing Other People’s Content Will Leave You Empty

“I’m tired and disappointed. I lose my energy and my time. I never had any target to hit millions of followers or to become an ‘influencer’, top voice or whatever else.”

This is how she feels and I can relate. I’ve been there too.

Curating other people’s content is cool. If that’s all you do, though, you will burn out. At some point, you have to unleash your own voice. You have to dare to write, film, or record the audio of your own content.

My friend feels empty because she has been sharing other people’s videos for 5 years and never posted a single piece of original content. Can you see how that would become dead boring? I went through a phase like this. Most of my time was spent curating content I enjoyed. I didn’t feel like myself. I was adding zero value.

The 80/20 rule works wonders.
80% original content.
20% curated content from other people (giving credit).

The Viral Video Trap

My friend posted nothing but viral videos from news sites.

Many people that use social media platforms fall into this trap. They chase viral. They are obsessed with what’s trending. They try and ride on the coattails of viral videos.

They think if they attach their name to a viral video, and it gets 10,000 likes, then they’ll be able to quit their 9–5 job and sit on a beach publishing one video per day. This is the daydream bullshit fantasy of social media. It ain’t gonna happen, pal.

Being original is how you succeed on social media. The rest is semantics.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

My friend was giving false credit. They were pretending they didn’t know the source or were too lazy to look it up.

The fastest way to lose credibility on social media or in major publications is to ignore giving credit to people you borrow from. We all borrow from people. That’s okay. All you need to do is mention who you borrowed from. And guess what? Everyone is borrowing from everyone. Unless you are Genius Turner then you probably aren’t sharing many totally original thoughts.

People quote me all the time and give me credit. It makes me appreciate them when they do. I do my best to say thank you, because after all, I’m a nobody.

Don’t cheat the system. Mention where you get your quotes or videos from.

The Sponsored Post Wild West of LinkedIn

You’ve seen it on Instagram. A chick in a bikini holds up a bottle of tanning oil and says “this is how I stay looking so fresh.” Then they tag the sun tanning company of broken dreams. The company behind the secret promotion hopes everybody will click the link and go to their page to buy a bottle of oil that will make them look like the obsolete, American, orange man, dictator.

This phenomenon is called “sponsored posts.” Instagram has implemented rules to stop people taking advantage of users. You have to mention when you are paid to talk about a company. The same applies on Youtube.

On LinkedIn, they have sponsored post rules, but most users are not abiding by them. Influencers are sharing discount codes and joining platforms where you get paid to tag companies in return for the depth of engagement your post gets. This type of marketing is similar to network marketing. It’s unethical. It feels cringeworthy.

If you’re getting paid to mention something then all you have to do is acknowledge you are. With that said, many social media platforms still don’t allow these types of posts.

Pro tip: save affiliate links and sponsored posts for your private group chat communities and email lists. That’s what podcaster Tim Ferriss does, and it works, while keeping his credibility intact.

The LinkedIn Growth Coach Movement

There has been a surge of nobodies offering LinkedIn Growth programs. To be clear: these are not online courses.

They involve monthly calls and SMS motivation. They are completely fuelled by the number of likes and comments your posts get. The objective is to game LinkedIn and solely optimize for the growth in your following.

The tactics they use are unethical. They involve using LinkedIn Ponzi Schemes to promise people they’ll get a job by engaging with their post. They involve gaming written words to exploit people’s insecurities. They involve following trends. They involve one person writing a successful post and everybody else sharing the exact same post to build their following.

Attention on LinkedIn has become addictive. LinkedIn growth dealers are offering to feed the addiction through subscriptions that promise more attention.

The problem: attention won’t make you happy. Fame is miserable. Fame makes you do dumb stuff. Fame ruins most people’s lives.

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” ― Jim Carrey

Anyone trying to sell you the false idea that you need lots of followers on LinkedIn is full of it. Learn how to create content that helps people. The rest of the social media game will leave you feeling depressed.

“I Feel Sad!”

“I’ve worked days and nights? in the end, what for??? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I have 700,000 followers so what? It’s a useless and meaningful number. I’m seriously thinking of either closing my account or taking a break or not posting anymore and only viewing other people’s posts.”

That quote from my friend is the dark side of LinkedIn.

That’s what can happen when you lose perspective on social media. All you can do when you reach this point is to take a break. Reassess why you want to be on social media in the first place. Better yet, don’t publish on social media until you can answer “But why?”

Positivity Turns into Comments Full of Hate

My friend with 700,000 LinkedIn followers shares content designed to lift people up and inspire them. She gets comments full of hate in return. This makes her want to give up posting content.

I have experienced a similar reality. Most of my content is designed to inspire people, not bring them down. There are enough people who refuse to admit they need a psychologist for their mental health problems and spend their whole day telling people the world is spiraling out of control and they need to give up on life and join the downer movement.

Ignore the comments of hate.

The Solution to Hate

Be empathetic to the hate comments. Honestly, I’ve been a hater on social media too. It was at the peak of my mental health breakdown. It has taught me to react to these comments differently.

Sometimes hate comments warrant a reply. Sometimes they warrant a private message with “hey, I read your comment. Is everything okay?” Sometimes they warrant no reply, as it will only make the situation worse.

Expect negative comments if you publish on social media. There are a lot of people who have had a tough twelve months. Perhaps, you can relate?

Almost the Entire Planet Is Trying to Find a Way to Earn an Income

When she said this line to me I had an aha moment.

The dark side of LinkedIn has been amplified by the current state of the global economy, and the effects of a prolonged pandemic. We are more alike than we think. All of us are trying to put food on the table and a roof over our heads.

It’s easy to hate the influencer movement. It’s easy to trash LinkedIn as a platform and call it stupid.

LinkedIn is just showing us the current state of humanity. It’s hurting, financially. Empathy, once again, is the answer.

How to Unlock the Bright Side of LinkedIn

  • Don’t harass women on LinkedIn. It’s not a dating site.
  • Give credit where credit is due.
  • Focus on creating your own content 80% of the time. Curate other people’s content 20% of the time.
  • Be kind to every person you meet on LinkedIn. You never know what they’re going through. (I had no idea my friend in this story was hurting so much until I sent them a disrespectful message. Thankfully, we bonded over the discussion and it deepened our friendship.)
  • Expect negative comments on your posts.
  • You’re full of wisdom when you switch on your selflessness. Make your social media posts about more than yourself and your awesome life.
  • See yourself in the LinkedIn posts that make you cringe.

Through the dark side of LinkedIn you are able to see the problems of humanity more deeply. The dark side of LinkedIn is like looking in the mirror. Many of us are suffering. Be the tiny light shining in the darkness.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Tim Denning

Written by

Aussie Blogger with 100M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship — timdenning.com/wc

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

Tim Denning

Written by

Aussie Blogger with 100M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship — timdenning.com/wc

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join thousands of others making the climb on Medium.

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