Secondly, it’s become a place for news, for human stories to be shared, for polls to be carried out. From a Today sites point of view, we’ve found that polls carried out on LinkedIn now perform much better than any we run on Twitter. Similarly, the levels of engagement and interaction with stories and features is pretty much on a par.
Perhaps LinkedIn was always doing these things, and I just wasn’t noticing, but it does seem to have become a far more vibrant and exciting platform to be on in recent years. It’s still good for the business and recruitment side of things, but it’s also become something much more than that.
To understand whether LinkedIn has changed over the years, and whether it’s now a must for any self-respecting property person or company, I checked in with three prolific users of the site for their perspective.
Sam Hunter, COO and co-founder at Homesearch and a prominent mental health awareness advocate
Has the purpose of LinkedIn now changed?
“LinkedIn was perhaps seen as the duller ‘social’ media network for most of its existence. However, that now appears to be changing with more digital natives entering the full-time workforce and seeing LinkedIn as a way to catapult their personal brands and careers.
I don’t believe the purpose has changed. It’s still very much a professional networking platform, however what it means to engage has changed. It’s not enough just to connect to people anymore, LinkedIn is now about connecting with only the relevant people and adding value to their experience too.”
Not everyone is a fan of LinkedIn becoming more personalised and humanised - what would you say to them?
“I'd say that's okay for them to feel that way, but people do business with people. We encourage our own team at Homesearch to show off more of their personalities online as that is the reason why we hired them in the first place.
We feel the care factor and personal touch we demonstrate with our clients and commercial partners gives us a real competitive advantage and is something we actively encourage our team to embrace on Linkedin.”
Was it a conscious decision to make more use of LinkedIn, or did this happen organically?
"Homesearch is a B2B business, working with estate agents of all sizes, so it makes sense for us to leverage LinkedIn’s own network for that purpose. You want to spend your time on and offline where your best customers are and for us LinkedIn is one of those places.”
Are there any potential pitfalls that come with using the platform?
“Like any social media platform, you can waste time easily on it. And it’s also easy to think that connecting with someone on LinkedIn is a real relationship. It can help start the dialogue or set the relationship off on the right path, but it should not replace more meaningful interaction.
“I also often ask agents if they are posting on LinkedIn for the right audience and posting content that is relevant or useful to them. Are they trying to educate, inform and entertain their audiences; or are they merely trying to one-up their competition? That is a real pitfall.”
Is it now much better for engagement and interaction than Twitter?
It depends on your audience and your customer. For Homesearch, I would suggest that yes, it is. For our own client base, estate agents, I would suggest no. Facebook is going to drive far higher meaningful engagement with buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants (your real audience) in your local community than LinkedIn will.”
Rowan Waller, managing director at Wallers Estate Agent in Oxford, who has made something of a name for himself with his witty, inventive and creative posts on LinkedIn, as well as developing a reputation as the #LyricalAgent
Is LinkedIn changing?
“Yes and no; I’d more say ‘evolving’. At its heart it is still a platform for professionals and for the world of business, as it intended to be. But the way people use that platform has definitely changed. I never used it in the way it was intended!”
Is it now more than just a professional network and business platform?
"I would say it is becoming more of a social media platform than an online networking platforming, which – as I alluded to before – is what I think it set out to be years ago. There is a lot more content for content’s sake – and I don’t think that is inherently a bad thing, but as with all content some of it is good, some of it is poor, some of it is relevant – some of it is absolute pish."
Do you welcome this change? Some people don’t believe it should be so personal - what do you say to that?
"I don’t care what anyone else thinks, never really have. Whatever they think is in their own head, if they voice their opinion about it some will agree and some will disagree. There are no rules about how to use it from that point of view that they can ever wave at you in some sort of ‘a-ha!’ moment; it’s not a secret society.
"I think you see a lot more fun stuff on LinkedIn now, and there does seem to be much more ‘personal brand’ stuff around – but then again, the notion of personal brand is only just starting to bed in and become recognised beyond a marketing industry buzzword.
"I don’t mind it necessarily – but if I did, nobody should care. It’s none of my business what other people want to do. From a Grumpy Old Man point of view, I do personally get the hump when I see a post about, whatever, let’s say about the economy… and then to accompany what may be a perfectly reasonable, business relevant post about the economy, instead of getting a relevant image under it, you get a selfie of the OP posing in a field/on a beach/on a boat/in a restaurant. What’s with that? I was interested in your take on interest rate raises… but why do I care if you are walking your dog, whimsically staring into the mid distance?"
"If I want to know what you look like, I’ll click your profile picture. So personally, I think there’s too much of that. There, I’ve voiced my opinion and some people will agree and some people will disagree. Actually, one more thing…frankly there is way too much virtue signalling, but you’ll never stop it, so I just scroll on. Rarely worth commenting on."
Was it a conscious decision to use LinkedIn more? Or did this happen organically?
"Bit of both. I’m a B2C business, and so I always thought, in terms of social media strategy, that my customers were on Facebook, not LinkedIn. But that was misinformed. I would say that a greater proportion of LinkedIn users are potential estate agency customers, because they are more likely to be landlords or homeowners as a percentage of usership than those using Facebook – for example.
"However, I had already become a pretty happy LinkedInner by the time that dawned on me. I was using LinkedIn to voice my opinion about stuff, talk about what we were doing, share a bit of success and failure – and then people started engaging with me, and as a business owner that also wants to generate new business that engagement is usually only a good thing."
What are the pros (and any cons) of using LinkedIn for agents?
"Mostly it’s all pros if you focus on using it to share what you want to share. There are a couple of downsides. You could be stupid enough to post something career-ending, for example. Don’t do that. But the main downside is that you can easily measure yourself unfavourably against other people’s success.
"Genuinely, I wallow in self-pity frequently, seeing how well other agents are doing compared to me, because most agents post about their new listings, sales agreed or exchanges. And when I think about that, maybe that is their intention – because I am not sure the homeowning public care.
"To be honest, as a homeowner, rather than seeing a post about ‘JUST EXCHANGED – Acacia Avenue’ (boring), I would find much more interest in reading a post along the lines of ‘just left Sarah [name changed – GDPR], our Acacia Avenue buyer, after dropping off keys to her at her new home (along with a well-deserved bottle of Moet!). It was such a great feeling to be able to put a face to a voice, after so many hours on the phone to her during what turned out to be a tricky conveyancing process (my colleague Kelly did the initial viewing, and we only realised today that we had never actually met until today!). Well done Sarah – and I can’t wait to see what you do to that kitchen, it’s going to look fabulous!’.
"Tell a story, guys, not a headline. As long as you don’t then follow that with a random picture of yourself walking your own dog in a field somewhere…See where I’m going with this theme? Stop it."
Do they need the premium/business account to make the most of the platform?
"I think I might have Premium…accidentally never stopped after some 300-day free trial. Probably something I should look at – what are the benefits, again…
Christopher Watkin, property expert, video interviewer and volunteer mentor at industry charity Agents Together
LinkedIn seems very different from four or five years ago - has it changed for the better?
“LinkedIn looks different, yet basically it’s the same, in fact the same as Facebook. Connect up with people, post great content or make great comments on other people posts, get noticed and vendors and landlords are attracted to you.”
Has it become more user-friendly and easier on the eye?
“It looks prettier, a bit like Nat Daniels’ hairstyle. Yet fundamentally, deep down, it’s just the same good network social media platform - in essence, Facebook for people with ties.”
How can agents and property professionals make the most of it?
“Connect up with people in your town/city (using the search function), 10 mins a day for the next six months. Whilst doing that, post great content and reply on other people’s content.”
You post quite a lot on the platform, and regularly carry out polls - do you find it more interactive than other social media platforms?
“Polls get the eyeballs, yet I find they don’t get the business. Again, just post great content, that doesn’t talk about your agency, what you have listed or sold, but useful stuff like what is happening to local property prices, comment on other people’s posts and eventually you will win big. In terms of: is it better than Facebook? It’s a bit like Star Trek and Star Trek the Next Generation. They are both good, just different.”
Not everyone is on board with the new, more human iteration of LinkedIn - has it become too similar to Facebook in that respect?
“Social media and people evolve, and I see LinkedIn as part of that evolution. Again, it’s quite simple. If you want to succeed and get business from any social media platform, it’s all about:
1. Connecting up with people who you want to be your potential client
2. Post great content that is valuable and useful to them (and doesn’t talk about you or your agency)
3. Reply on other people’s great content
4. Rinse and repeat for 18 months and you will start to see the results.”
Fantastic insight, guys! Thanks very much.
Until next time…
*Nat Daniels is CEO of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.