By Alina Dizik
After writing a post on her LinkedIn profile about "dealing with big relationship shifts" in her personal life, Kathy Caprino wasn’t prepared for the reaction. Caprino’s post — discussing her divorce and subsequent cross country move — was her most widely read, even though it did not focus on her career in the way her previous posts did. Three years later, she says she learned a valuable lesson. "When you show vulnerability it’s what actually resonates most," says the career and leadership coach.
While Caprino says there’s no simple way to quantify results of opening up, she credits her personal post with helping her add followers on social media and expanding her circle of opportunities. "It unlocks the ability to be real," says Caprino. "I got more followers, more work…more of everything."
Caprino is not the only one veering away from an all-business-all-the-time approach on LinkedIn. While the social media platform launched its public profile capabilities in 2006, many users are only now evolving their posts to include information about their personal lives. That means divorce, illness, parenting, and other personal topics are suddenly a part of the conversation. "Showing a little bit of that person behind that professional profile does actually help you," says Louise Brogan, a LinkedIn consultant who works with a roster of female executives and entrepreneurs. At times, divulging personal details helps you strengthen online relationships because it allows you to connect to your network on a level that goes beyond the surface, she adds.
At LinkedIn, where engagement numbers have grown quickly throughout the pandemic, this kind of shift bridging the personal and professional worlds of its users seems inevitable. "We aim for the conversations on LinkedIn to reflect real-life conversations in the workplace, and that includes topics that deeply affect our members' lives," the company’s Senior Director of Product, Liz Li shared. Recently that’s meant women opening up about unemployment, the challenges of returning to work, and working from home with children. In addition to users typing 49% more messages to one another, the number of content updates shared on LinkedIn increased 29% in 2021 from 2020, according to company data.
The Right Content Mix
For those trying to mix in more personal information, Brogan recommends taking a 1-in-10 approach, allowing a single personal post for every 10 career-focused posts. "Most of your posts should be a bite of whatever you’re the expert in," she says. But personal posts or those that show more about your life outside of work can help bring in a new audience, elicit empathy or help you connect with professional connections in a deeper way, she says. The result is a longer-lasting connection that can benefit career goals.
Brainstorming the Topics
But nailing the tone of a personal post can take time. For those that want to start slow, Brogan tells clients to post "conversation starters" that don’t require too much personal info to be divulged. When brainstorming topics, she asks clients to pretend they are attending a day-long industry conference and consider the conversations they might discuss in the line for coffee — asking their LinkedIn network to weigh in on movies, books, and other cultural references that get people talking. Avoid bringing up contentious topics including politics or religion, just as you would with industry acquaintances in-person, she adds.
What Shouldn’t Make the Cut
Another trick is to share while tying the subject back to a work lesson of sorts. For instance, rather than posting a vacation photo like you would on Instagram, Brogan tells clients who want to share a travel story to do so under the context of taking a much-needed work break, promoting self-care, or paying more attention to their own work-life balance. "People do relate to others’ stories," she says. "But it’s a fine balance."