Did you even know LinkedIn has a ‘Follow’ button?

I’ve written before about how requesting to connect to strangers on LinkedIn is likely adding to the value of LinkedIn much more than it adds to the value of your professional network. I’ve also shared my default reply template for when a stranger asks to connect to me on LinkedIn. Now it’s time to suggest a third improvement to the way you use LinkedIn: the hidden but powerful ‘Follow’ button.

Screenshot of the Follow button, which is hidden away behind the More button, to the right of the Connect and Message buttons under someone’s LinkedIn profile.
Yes, Twitter and Facebook aren’t the only social platforms with a Follow button — LinkedIn has one too. How about we all start actually using it?

What’s that, you say? Why would I want to use some hidden secret Follow button on LinkedIn when what I really want is to connect to someone?

Well, first, consider whether who you’re connected to on LinkedIn reflects on you positively or negatively whenever an investor, a recruiter, a potential cofounder or landlord checks your profile. Particularly remember that unless you’re paying LinkedIn for one of its premium services, you may have no idea how much LinkedIn shows those premium service customers about you.

If you don’t really know the people you’re connected to on LinkedIn, how do you know whether they’re an asset to your social graph reputation score or a liability?

Next, think about the other social networks and how they manage the difference between a Follow and their equivalent of a Connect. On Facebook, you can follow someone, or you can add them as a friend. Both options make sure you’ll get some of their updates in your newsfeed, but only adding them as a friend makes other people wonder why you’re connected to so many conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers and anti-vaxxers.

Thankfully, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram only have Follow buttons. You can’t be connected to other people there. It’s not because LinkedIn “is all about work” and the others are “about your personal interests” — that’s unspeakably naiive. Do you think the marketing data lake cares about where the data was harvested from, or in what context? It’s all marketing data, sifted, sorted, packaged and sold mostly to marketers. So LinkedIn also has a main revenue stream coming from the recruitment platforms that pay to get it, but it’s vastly more valuable when combined with what those platforms can learn from your ‘personal’ socials. There are no Connect buttons on those ‘personal’ social platforms because their function is consumption; the role you play is to tell the marketers what you like by lingering longer on the stuff you like, scrolling back up once you’ve scrolled down, hovered over the heart button, watched more than one thing.

LinkedIn’s Follow button still tells the marketers and recruiters a lot about you, but it doesn’t say “I actually have had a working relationship with this person”. It gets their updates into your feed, without you having to awkwardly ask a stranger whether you could pretend to know each other so you can be connected on LinkedIn, and without waiting for them to respond.

So don’t ask me to connect with you on LinkedIn if we don’t know each other, please. I won’t accept your request. Look a little deeper into how LinkedIn works and start using the Follow button.

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I’m Alan Jones, coach for accelerators, partner at M8 Ventures, angel investor. Earlier: founder, early Yahoo product manager, tech reporter.

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Alan Jones

Alan Jones

I’m Alan Jones, coach for accelerators, partner at M8 Ventures, angel investor. Earlier: founder, early Yahoo product manager, tech reporter.

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