LinkedIn: What’s its potential for an open data community?

Pauline Roche, a librarian and journalist, who has been coming to Open Data Camp since 2015, suggested this session. “For the first time, we have opened a company page on LinkedIn,” she said. “That’s because Twitter has become… less reliable… and we need another place to gather.

“As of this morning, we have 106 people following. So I wondered how people are using LinkedIn and what we could use it for.”

One participant said they had been on LinkedIn for a long time, but that was because they had a background in financial services. “I always see it as part of that formal, business culture, whereas I see Open Data Camp as more part of the counter-culture. So, I am interested in whether we can get over that.”

Pauline said she had a sense that people are using LinkedIn more like Facebook, and sharing personal information. Another participant sort-of agreed. They said they had a LinkedIn profile, but only for their CV and “if I see members of my team updating their CV, I think ‘oh dear, they must be wanting to leave’.”

However, she said that more recently she had missed Twitter and had started to use LinkedIn more like a social network. And, she pointed out, if people want to do that, they don’t need to share more information than they want to.

Other participants said that while they didn’t use LinkedIn like Facebook, they did use it to keep in touch with former colleagues and professional contacts. So Open Data Camp might find a home on the network.

There was a sense, though, that people were less familiar with how to tag-in people, use hashtags, or share posts on LinkedIn than on Twitter or other platforms. LinkedIn is trying to help out here, by adding in more Twitter-like features.

Even so, there’s no doubt it prefers long-form content and video over short posts, so it can come across as more formal, less conversational, and more broadcast than other social media.

Plus, it’s roots lie in recruitment and contact making, and it makes money by promoting paid content. Which makes it important to understand how posts will be shared, how groups operate, how the first, second, and third level contacts can be leveraged, and when it’s worth using paid services to extend a post’s reach.

Overall, it’s probably fair to say there was was some scepticism about whether LinkedIn can escape its business roots: but there was interest in finding a new space for the open data community. As one participant said: “Having more ways to interact with each other has got to be a good thing.”