Gen Z isn’t fazed by the site’s most popular users


Where there’s a social media platform, there are influencers. LinkedIn, though it is Facebook’s more buttoned-up cousin, is no exception.

That may strike you as surprising, as LinkedIn describes itself as a site to “manage your professional identity [and] build and engage with your professional network,” and influencers are often associated with selfies and self-centered posts.

They’re also frequently associated with younger, easily influenced people — and you’re not going to find many of those on the site. According to data from statista.com, 66 percent of LinkedIn users are 45 and older. Only 16 percent of members fall into the 15-25 age bracket influencers often target.

The oldest members of Gen Z are just 23 years old, and most do not have much work experience yet, which partially explains why there are so few of them on the professional social media network, but there’s more to it than that.

As of now, there really aren’t that many influencers on the site that would pull Gen Zers in the way that top YouTube and TikTok personalities have. Of LinkedIn’s top influencers in 2019, the youngest was 39 years old — that’s not even remotely the same stage of life that 23 year olds are in.

With these factors in mind, let’s take a closer look at why this kind of influencer just doesn’t appeal to younger generations.

What does a LinkedInfluencer look like, anyway?

LinkedInfluencers are notorious for sharing dramatically-presented stories and words of wisdom. They’re meant to be motivational, and as they tend to take on a sort of tough-love tone, often draw contrast to the aspirational posts shared by influencers on other platforms.

A typical LinkedInfluencer story may be best described by this post that pokes fun at them. A motivational story first grabs your attention by getting you invested in a relatable anecdote, takes you to an emotional low, then shocks you with a twist ending.

LinkedInfluencer stories often read as “copypasta,” or copied-and-pasted blocks of text that are shared around the internet like chain emails. This can make viral posts come across as fake, even if they aren’t.

Chantelle Marcelle, a marketing consultant, explained why so many of these posts sound the same.

“People see something perform well, and they automatically copy because they want to ride that wave of popularity,” she told In The Know. “People copy and retweet jokes on Twitter like they were the originator all the time. Social media content just tends to encourage copycat behavior.”

These dramatic posts don’t work with members of Gen Z because Gen Z craves authenticity.

According to data reported by CNBC, authenticity is key for Gen Z, with 67 percent of those surveyed agreeing that “being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool.”

Jane Kovalkova, CMO for the collaboration tool Chanty, told In The Know that Gen Z is “pretty much desensitized” to the usual LinkedIn content that works on older generations.

“They do prefer authenticity above anything else and these posts just seem fake, right from the very first line,” she said.

Eric Sachs, CEO of the digital marketing agency Sachs Marketing Group, agreed that Gen Zers aren’t fooled by hype posts.

“Society is more and more jaded toward empty promises with each generation it seems, so these cheesy over-the-top posts can seem very unrealistic and spammy,” he told In The Know.

When you’ve spent your life on the internet, it takes something truly interesting to grab your attention.

Members of the younger generation have been online for most of their lives, and they’ve seen so many things happen over the past few decades that it takes something truly special to influence them.

“After seeing millions of products on various social media platforms sponsored by ‘influencers’ over the years, Millennials and Gen Zers are not easily impressed,” Sharon van Donkelaar, CMO of the LinkedIn automation tool Expandi, told In The Know.

Stories of petty office tension aren’t going to grab their attention like, say, footage of a teen’s hair catching on fire or a video of a woman taking a bath in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Sharon Geltner, a digital marketing expert who was once a professor at Palm Beach State College, compared LinkedInfluencer posts to “chicklit.”

She said they work well on older generations because they’re nostalgic for slower days before they were “buffeted” by an internet-first society.

“That lasting desire (and dimming hope) for a human touch, fairness and justice is what explains the viral and enduring popularity of these newfangled fables on LinkedIn,” she told In The Know. “The business sector also needs fairy tales and myths. That’s what we’re seeing with these LinkedIn stories.”

There’s no need for Gen Z to engage in that kind of nostalgia because their entire past is right at their fingertips, for the most part.

Even with its most viral posts, LinkedIn is too slow and buttoned up for Gen Z.

As we’ve discussed, LinkedIn is considered to be the most professional of all the social media platforms. To many, that means it’s best to keep your personal life to yourself and focus on posting content that will further your career.

According to Marcelle, that means a lot of people will be even more “buttoned-up” than before. This contrasts the authenticity and openness that Gen Z values so much, as we see so often on youth-focused sites like TikTok.

At the same time, older generations tend to gravitate toward LinkedIn because the pace is so much slower and the features are easy to understand.

“The algorithm doesn’t seem to require you to be as active all day like with Instagram or Twitter,” Marcelle added. “LinkedIn had a simpler, more user-friendly [user interface] as well.”

This directly clashes with the earlier point that Gen Z is constantly craving something new and exciting that they haven’t seen before.

Gen Z is facing a more uncertain future than ever before, so tried-and-true career advice might not even help them.

According to Sachs, job options are way different for younger generations than they were just a decade ago.

“For one, creatives have more options to start their own business than ever before,” he explained. “On the other hand, the economy and the future, in general, are uncertain for the younger generation.”

It’s hard to focus on growing your career when you don’t know what industries will exist in a few years in the first place.

Perhaps the most tangible example of this is the sheer mass of LinkedIn posts about office etiquette that are now essentially meaningless as most white-collar offices are closed indefinitely due to the pandemic.

“Before this, people just held onto what works. Gen Z doesn’t have that luxury, things are constantly changing,” Sachs concluded.

Gen Zers who have chosen to go to college are either still there or navigating their post-grad experience in a pandemic. You won’t see many LinkedInfluencers reminiscing on things they can relate to in that regard.

Based on how quickly things change on all social media sites, it’s safe to say that the way LinkedIn looks will change as a new generation enters the workforce. If influencers on the site hope to reach them, they ought to make their content impressive but authentic — and keep it fast-paced.

If you enjoyed reading this, check out this story about how exposure to highly edited Instagram posts affects your mental health.

More from In The Know:

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