You’ve seen the same things, I’m sure.

A quick scroll of LinkedIn yielded:

  • “I was honored to moderate…”
  • “I had a fantastic time Tuesday…”
  • “I can’t wait to present at …”
  • “I’m humbled by…”
  • “I’m so excited to share this…”

Here’s why I’d never write a post like that. People who see it may be my friends; more likely they’re business acquaintances. They may not know me at all. Why would they want to take my emotional temperature?

Quick answer: They wouldn’t. They’re not a bit interested in my level of honor or enthusiasm or humility.

There’s a better way to use social networking. And part of the key might be calling it networking.

It’s not just a semantic difference.

Most people who aren’t professional marketers use “social media” and “social networking” interchangeably. People who are professional marketers would say they’re very different. I kind of fell down a research rabbit hole trying to sort it out.

Here’s the long and short of it:

The experts say social media are electronic channels where we post information, ideas, and the vaunted “content” we’re all supposed to produce. Blogs, videos, white papers, whatever. On social media, you’re doing all the talking.

When they talk about social media “engagement,” they mean that people are interested in what you post, they want to know more about you or your business. They “consume” all that content you’re churning out and come back for more. 

Social networking creates and maintains, maybe even deepens, relationships. That means you’re not just talking, you’re listening too. Social networking focuses on the exchange between you and your “friends,” “contacts,” “followers.” The label varies with the platform; the point, on any platform, is the interaction.

Social networking gives people a chance to ask questions or disagree with your viewpoint. To offer their own opinions and insights. To tell their stories too.

There’s a lot of overlap of course. Plenty of pixels have been devoted to the distinctions between social media and social networking

What’s important for those of us who use a social media platform to do social networking is this …

There’s a place for churning out content in the quest to establish our personal brand, become known as an expert, be recognized as a “thought leader” or an “influencer.”

And none of that is enough by itself. In the same way conversation involves listening as much as talking, social networking means dialogue or two-way communication.

That’s why the LinkedIn posts I quoted fall flat. They don’t start a conversation or invite dialogue. And if we don’t already know you and care about you, we’re probably not that interested in how humbled/excited/honored you are.

My advice for my clients: Think of LinkedIn as a conference call, not a megaphone.

Instead of shouting your news at us, engage us in an online conversation. Get us commenting on your posts. Think social network rather than social media.

Wondering how to do that? LinkedIn experts offer webinars and workshops and, of course, LinkedIn articles about how to increase engagement. I’m not one of those experts. And, I can tell you three things that have worked well for me.

  • Ask a question. It’s not unlike a conversation IRL—if you want your LinkedIn connections to comment on your post, give them something to comment about. Ask them a question. Some people will scroll right by, but those with an interest in the topic will stop to post a response, especially if it gives them a chance to exhibit their expertise.
  • Take a position—the more polarizing, the better. “Too many meetings are too long and too boring” is a position, but not particularly polarizing. We might comment about an especially boring meeting we just attended. More likely, we keep scrolling.

Imagine a post that said, “No meeting should ever go more than 30 minutes. And everyone should have to stand up for the whole thing, so they have an incentive to keep it short. So we’re taking the chairs out of our conference room.”

Okay, that might get some reaction.

  • Start with “you” instead of “I.” This is my best suggestion for anything you write. When you frame your message from their point of view instead of your own, you instantly make it more relatable. You draw people in and make them want to keep reading.

Back in my radio days, my co-anchor and I did a lot of human-interest type interviews. Light, sometimes fluffy, we called them the “If-Yous.”

That’s because our program director was always nagging us to start with, “If you have pets…” “If you hate winter…” “If you’re concerned about your health…”

Turns out the program director was a genius.

Years later, as a consultant, I read The Agile Manager’s Guide to Writing to Get Action.

It said this. “Always, always, always write from the reader’s perspective. To keep yourself focused, use ‘you’ instead of ‘I’.”

And this. “One good way to develop the You attitude is to begin your opening paragraph with ‘You.’ It is a can’t-miss reminder that what interests the reader might be far different from what interests the writer. You need the reader’s interest if you are going to be successful.”

If you read my LinkedIn posts, you know I took that advice to heart, and it has served me well. It will serve you well too.

Maybe you’ve cracked the social code? Or maybe you think all this posting and engaging is a big waste of time.

Post a comment about your social networking experience.