Has your LinkedIn feed been looking a little different lately? Is there more . . . stuff in it?
The professional network has adhered to a more staid, information-driven feed governed by a careful code of professional conduct through all the ups and downs that have roiled the social media ecosystem for the past 20 years. Over the past few months, it’s increasingly become a community-driven multimedia content portal.
Last October, LinkedIn announced a $25 million investment in creators and its first Creator Accelerator Program (CAP). The 10-week incubator-style course, which wrapped up on March 18, is designed to coach and develop an initial cohort of 100 participants, each of whom would be awarded $15,000 grants to put toward their endeavors.
This month, LinkedIn began rolling out creator tools to users on the platform at large. In addition to short-form, in-feed posts, users who activate Creator Mode on their accounts can upload videos, podcasts, documents, and articles, schedule events, deploy newsletters, and host and participate in video and audio livestreams. While direct monetization tools, such as programmatic or revenue-sharing campaigns, are not yet available, creators who are part of the LinkedIn Learning community are paid directly through the platform and other publishers are free to capitalize on independent brand deals.
The synergy between LinkedIn users and content creation felt natural, says LinkedIn’s global head of community and creators Andrei Santalo, and the accelerator program received thousands of applications.
“When you create content on LinkedIn, when you start relevant conversations that span the world of work, you’re increasing the odds of opportunity across the board for yourself and other people,” Santalo says. “When you pair those conversations with the types of audiences that are on LinkedIn, opportunities abound.”
CAP participants were assigned to sub-cohorts and community managers, provided with a suite of creator hardware and software tools, attended programmatic sessions—on topics ranging from content creation planning to video tips and best practices—and participated in roundtables with LinkedIn executives and product teams to help develop and hone the brand’s creator offering ahead of their release to the general public earlier this year.
For entrepreneur and CAP participant Melani Carter, founder of Made for the W, a media platform dedicated to the promotion of women in sports and sneaker culture, building a content-driven presence on LinkedIn has helped reach new audiences and spark conversations.
“I think we look at LinkedIn as very professional—you have to be on your best game and put your accomplishments forward,” Carter says. “For creators, CAP allowed us to be intentional with our content creation while focusing on key topics—for us, that was sports, branding, lifestyle, and sneaker culture.
“I loved our group sessions with our project managers where we’d get together with all the other creators who are into sports and we’d talk about what’s working, what’s not working, and what we need help on,” she says. “Connecting with other women and men in this space was a great way to introduce our work to new audiences.”
LinkedIn’s investment in cultivating creator communities could not have come at a more opportune moment. Launched in the midst of a global pandemic, in the throes of the Great Resignation wherein an increasingly isolated remote workforce is engaged in reckoning with the meaning and value of conventional employment, CAP and the recent public roll-out of the platform’s Creator Mode feel like a newfangled iteration of networking and professional community-building for the 21st-century.
“Opportunity isn’t just getting a job or applying for a job—opportunity comes from learning a skill or connecting to the right person at the right time,” Santalo says. “Creating content and starting conversations on LinkedIn—when you scale that out, you’re increasing the likelihood of opportunity not just for yourself but opportunities for other people.”
For ex-Goldman banker Tiffany Yu, CAP provided both the skills training and support she hadn’t previously found elsewhere. Paralyzed in one arm following a car accident at age nine, Yu worked in investment banking and media finance for years before venturing full time into advocacy and education, launching Diversability as an external employee resource group (ERG) in 2017. And while Yu had been a longtime speaker and, since 2020, a digital creator on TikTok, she found that, unlike other multimedia and content distribution platforms, such as YouTube or Substack, where algorithms and audiences tend to favor niche content and segmented reach, LinkedIn provided a more holistic representation of her professional experiences.
“Over the past five years, so many of my conversations have been so disability-centered—people had forgotten that I was a banker,” Yu says. “Being on a platform like LinkedIn, I’m able to bring in all my different professional experiences, and it’s been so fascinating to see what’s resonated. I thought that everyone expected me to post disability content all the time, but the posts that resonate the most with people are around creator pay transparency or trying to become a creator and how to make it work.”
For LinkedIn’s owner Microsoft, this pivot to social-first original content and programming represents an new modus operandi for the parent company—which has, previously, focused its social media endeavors on enthusiast and niche audiences, such as the Xbox community and the GitHub platform.
As to whether LinkedIn will take off as the next big original content platform? Well, that remains to be seen—although it does bode well that the company reports it already has 810 million users in more than 200 countries. It’s rare, in 2022, to witness the inception and large-scale shift to a new content platform, especially one that has the potential for such broad intergenerational and global reach. LinkedIn has already announced its second Creator Accelerator Program cohort in India later this year.
“We care deeply about finding [our creators] business opportunities, and monetization is one of those opportunities,” Santalo says. “[One creator told me that] 10,000 eyeballs on TikTok is not the same as 10,000 eyeballs on LinkedIn—on LinkedIn, that’s 10,000 people who will potentially hire me.”