Checking my LinkedIn feed, I enjoy seeing the accomplishments, insights, and work of people I know. People also share their ideas that give me inspiration. I like, comment, and share posts from my feed all the time.
At the same time, the LinkedIn algorithm is watching.
Take a look at your feed. What patterns do you see?
Have you noticed you are seeing many of the same types of articles and posts? And certain people show up more frequently than others?
That’s the LinkedIn algorithm watching your every move and “feeding” you more of the things you like.
That’s a classic example of confirmation bias. You may have heard it called all kinds of things — filter bubble, echo chamber, rabbit hole, cognitive dissonance, wishful blindness. Whatever you call it, it’s an information stream that is constantly reinforcing your beliefs.
Facebook and LinkedIn are two different types of bubbles. And this isn’t about Facebook. Facebook is a free-for-all of people sharing their opinions about anything and everything — posting misinformation, spreading “fake news,” airing dirty laundry, sharing political views ... and fighting about them. Your friends typically share similar ideas, you seek out news that matches your beliefs, and the Facebook algorithm reinforces it all by not providing opposing ideas. And don’t get me started on Twitter. Oy vey.
LinkedIn is NOT those networks. This is the forum where we business people share our ideas, experiences, and observations about our industries. We seek new opportunities, look for partnerships, and find and nurture leads. We keep it professional. Period.
Inside the Echo Chamber
This doesn't mean you're escaping a filter bubble.
I have three main bubbles in my feed a) digital marketing, b) Walton College of Business, and c) supply chain management.
It’s great. Really. It is.
I’m seeing a fair bit of marketing industry news. Walton College has been our biggest client for the past two years, so I see news from all the people we’ve worked with in the college.
We had a hugely successful one year campaign with the Supply Chain Management department. That, plus the region where we are located, means the algorithm has me seriously dialed in to a significant network of SCM and retail professionals.
The downside — I'm trapped in these bubbles. And it's limiting my ability to grow my network beyond these areas of experience.
My LinkedIn feed is dominated by these bubbles.
And the LinkedIn algorithm keeps feeding me more.
I want to learn more about entrepreneurship, diversity, higher education marketing, technological advancements, leadership advice, B2B marketing, and thought leadership marketing. Alas, the majority of new requests I receive are from other marketing professionals, and LinkedIn has decided to keep feeding my current affinity bubbles.
Bursting the Bubble
To break out of the bubble you have to make a concerted effort. It won’t just happen.
You have to seek out new networks, and you have to “tell” the algorithm (does it bother anyone when we anthropomorphize Google, Amazon, and LinkedIn algorithms?).
Here are three techniques I use to break the bonds of my future robot overlords:
- Unfollow but Stay Connected - If you are connected to someone, you’re following him or her by default and vice-versa. Look at the posts that show up in your feed. Look at the posts that aren’t really giving you value. Check out that person's activity — if the bulk of their posts aren’t providing you insight, go ahead and unfollow them. You’ll still be connected. You just won’t be receiving all of their updates. AND your signaling to the LinkedIn algorithm to curb similar kinds of posts from others.
- Seek Out New Hashtags - When we use a hashtag, we are associating our content with that specific topic. Duh, right? Well, beyond that, your feed is heavily influenced by the hashtags you are following. Not only does it impact the content you will see on your page, but LinkedIn will also tailor notifications to you based on the hashtags you follow. If you are not following diverse or unique hashtags, think how easy it is for LinkedIn to create a bubble based on practically synonymous hashtags … As easy as this bubble is to create, it is just as easy to pop. Think of areas that you have a tendency to neglect seeking out new knowledge in and find hashtags based on those to start following. This will start bringing new, fresh content types into your bubble.
- Connect with a Mix of Thought Leaders - Read a good book lately? Post about it. At the same time, seek out the author of the book and connect with them. Yes, this is reinforcing your biases, I grant you that. If you’re growing your knowledge, you’re probably seeking out topics that are expanding your ideas. On the other hand, is the author writing just about your current thought bubbles? Not likely. By following them (and as I said above, them following you) you’re getting into new networks of people to share with and learn from. Don’t get your hopes up for Gary V to personally reply — he has a huge following and can only do so much. Most thought leaders are excited to hear from you. Who knows? You all might connect and next thing you know you’re collaborating on a new book or project.
When you do make that connection with a thought leader, don’t just accept the connection. Start a conversation. Two of our clients have been doing this for some time now. Cindy Moehring regularly connects with writers and researchers and invites them onto her LinkedIn live posts. And Dean Matt Waller regularly seeks out authors from his favorite books and invites them on to his Be EPIC Podcast. Again, you’re tapping into new networks, expanding your horizons, and learning about new things.
Each of these techniques increases the number of pathways you can take to discover new people, topics, and perspectives. Give them a try.
The more innovation, perspectives, and ideas you come in contact with the better. A LinkedIn post can influence the article you are writing. A thought leader you connected with could become a mentor or advisor. A video on your feed could influence what project you decide to dive into next.
As your feed diversifies, so will your approach to your business.