The Great Un-Following: Why I Unfollowed Men on LinkedIn for Six Months

Ah, the modern age. The internet has not only connected all of us in a Wild West kinda new frontier style, but it’s also opened up the opportunity for the democratisation of content creation and proliferation. 

Call it what you will, but most of what people push out into the vast & unending universe online is akin to unlimited drivel. It’s chatter without reason. Chewing-gum for the ego & the brain. 

The world is awash with opinions right now. As an unshakeable optimist, I’d like to say there’s more good information being shared than bad or banal – but going by gut instinct (no data was harmed in the writing of this assertion) I imagine good content is at peak needle-in-a-haystack alert right now.

Our online world is oversaturated with opinionated people who shout at decibels that could puncture eardrums. Armchair warriors and keyboard enthusiasts with little real-world experience (if any, at times), tippity-type away on subjects that they may or may not know a single thing about.

With the onslaught of social media & the reigning court of our age being a handful of powerful algorithms, I thought I might try to break – or rather, retrain – an algorithm that I still feel an affinity towards in the hopes of becoming more wokethat I think I am. (NB I don’t think I’m all that woke at all, but that’s for another blog post.)

Over the course of the past six months, I’ve been undertaking a very small (sample size of one, ahem, moi) experiment on LinkedIn. This wee experiment is quite possibly the most intentional & focussed ongoing personal challenge I’ve undertaken on social media ever. Yep, ever. My reasons for sticking to the experiment started quite shallow if I’m honest – I simply was getting bored with the platform but saw enough of a tiny glimmer of amazing content amongst the shouting & chest beating that I thought I might be able to turn that glimmer into quite the shining blaze.

I also have to come clean about something. If we all took a ride in a Wayback Machine to some point in time about 9 years ago you’d have heard a younger me saying things like  “I don’t like LinkedIn at all. It’s just a bunch of people shouting about their CVs or looking for a job. There’s no substance.” But, like the tides of time, my stance on the platform has changed as it has changed.

Recently I have come to really enjoy LinkedIn. In fact, the words “favourite social media channel” and “LinkedIn” may or may not have been used in the same sentence many times together. Okay, not “may have” they have been. Right here & right now LinkedIn is really the only major social channel that seems to offer me any value when it comes to learning new things, understanding the business world in a wider sense, & not having to wade through what secondary connections ate for lunch last Tuesday. I mean, you take a good pic of sushi, friends – but I honestly don’t give a fig about it. 

You see, LinkedIn is smart. The folks behind the channel pivoted when they needed to. They evolved their channel without pummelling the platform. And, they have given us an algorithm that seems pretty fair right now – all things considering. The content I’m being served seems fair, focussed, but also allows for exploration without being ballsy in attempting to be way too contextual. Believe me, there’s a creepy side to contextuality sometimes. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of annoying bananas (this is what we call people who grind our proverbial gears at my house) who are only ever trying to toot their own horns, hack the algorithm (remember when spaces between lines of SHOUTY CAPS TEXT was a thing?), & are self-serving jerks who assume a connection means it’s time to sell, sell, sell. But, for the most part, Linked In is a cool space to while away some time whilst scrolling for clickable headlines.

So it was when I started finding myself a wee bit bored with LinkedIn that I realized why I was getting bored, most of the articles & thoughts being shared were those of men. White men, specifically. Now, don’t stop reading here & brand me a man-hating-so-and-so-feminist, I love the fellas for their minds. However I was really longing for more diverse world views, opinions, & topical discussions. 

Thus, my experiment was borne. From the moment I realized why LinkedIn was losing its lustre for me, I started unfollowing almost all of the dudes I’d been following who I didn’t know IRL. My hypothesis was simple: if I unfollow a truckload of guys that like to pontificate whom I don’t know, then I can retrain LinkedIn’s algorithm to serve me more female, LGBTQ, non-western voices & content. 

Fast-forward six months: I haz findings! 

Before I tell you what I found out, I should probably tell you what I thought would happen when I started unfollowing 99% of the men in my newsfeed. I thought that I’d start seeing more and more original content by women. I thought I’d start understanding women in business more in-depth. And, I thought that I’d see a lot more ideas bubbling to the surface in my industry in which I’d be able to network more widely with women who are making change happen.

But, these things didn’t eventuate. More & more I started to see posts by women in my newsfeed outnumber that of men. However, the content that 90% of the women were sharing was that of men. I was (& am still) floored by how hard it is to unearth original content made for, by, and about professional topics that originates from the minds & souls of women. I started to get pretty frustrated with the lack of content penned & shared by women, before taking a deep breath and remembering that, no matter how smart an algorithm or AI is, we cannot take away the human variables to the equation.

Society has told us for a long time that our thoughts aren’t welcome at the proverbial table. We hold our tongues when all we want to do is speak. We look to each other for confidence and sisterhood, but we have very few female role models in the public domain of whom we can learn from & share their stories. To say I was & am still disheartened by a lack of content by women would be an understatement. But, I’m heartened to know that more & more we are putting our voices into the public realm. We’re facing the potential for bruised male egos & the anger that comes alongside the bruising. 

I’d like to use this small experiment to ask all of us to do a few things when it comes to being super cognisant of what we’re sharing online – especially in public forums like LinkedIn. 

When & where you can, ladies, please write more, record more, podcast more, pontificate more, share your unique points of view & your wisdom with the world. Men & women alike deserve to learn from your experience. Women especially are longing for your voice.

Men, whenever you can, LIFT WOMEN. We need you. We really do. Give us space at the table & just as much space online. Also, when it comes to algorithms & re-training an AI system to share content more evenly across diverse people & opinions, why not share twice as many posts from women as men? We’re not even in the running of the race yet, let alone about to lap you or even tie for back of the pack. The more you share our ideas, the better society & LinkedIn can & will be. 

All in all, six months has taught me an important lesson:
We need to fix society before we start can hacking algorithms.

Keen to follow me on LinkedIn, click here.

Forget Hacking Algorithms! Do This ONE Thing & Your Content Will Stand-Out Every Time You Post

I’m Old(ish). Lately I can’t seem to muster the oomph I need to get to the gym 3 x weekly like I used to. Long runs have turned into ambling walks where I look at flowers & other assorted flora. And, though it’s difficult to admit, the pre-internet-era was a time that existed in my lifetime.

Seriously, Team. I’m old enough to remember what it was like to live without phones in our pockets & screens in front of our faces 24/7/365.

Some argue that pre-technological revolution times were simpler. Less complex. Some would even say that we had longer attention spans (that’s right, goldfish, we used to be able to look at something for more than 3 seconds before growing abjectly bored by it).

I’ve also heard it said many times that, before tech became interwoven into our every waking (& some sleeping) moments, that we made more meaningful connections with others than we do today.

In our tech-drenched modern world, the beep-beep-boop of algorithms rule our world. Seriously, they RULE it. Whether you’re hyper-aware of it or not, computer learning & AI-driven platforms are behind almost everything we see, do, eat, buy, & decide.

Everything? Every. Damn. Thing.

And, while I love a nice spicy hit of hyperbole just as much as the next person to help start off an article for me, the truth of the matter is this: The machines aren’t taking over – they already have.

I’d wager big bucks (if I had them) that you’re reading this right now on some sort of device that’s connected to the internet. Desktop, tablet, mobile phone, old-school projector on a wall… whatever your poison. You’re online, aren’t you? If you’re not, let us all take a minute & send a big shout out your way for being hardcore enough to have printed this out on actual paper. Whoa, throwback city.

Beyond the fact that I’m typing this on a laptop & you’re reading it online, I’d also put more cash that I don’t have on the fact that us sharing this moment right now is due to an algorithmic equation. Somewhere along the line a mixture of our browsing history, engagement metrics, keywords, & shared sass levels, a mathematical equation brought us together.

With a plethora of predilections when it comes to the kind of content we consume, the algorithm goddesses that rule our digital universe have matched us up today. Nawww… my heart’s a bit warm & gooey thinking about it.

I’d like you to think about your day – how it begins, what you do in your waking hours, & how it ends.

I bet you the morning looks something like this:

  • Wake up & groggily grab your phone
  • Squint to check the time (Gah! Time to start getting moving already?!)
  • Check a newsfeed on autopilot (probably Facebook)
  • Check another newsfeed – less autopilot (though denial grows at wanting to get out of bed)
  • Browse your Insta (#YassssssFeedTheFeed)
  • Click through to watch something inane on YouTube
  • Check emails – click through the interesting ones, bin the boring ones without clicking

Sound familiar?

I can’t pinpoint when my waking moments (those unencumbered, quiet times when we all move from dream-land to waking reality) became heavily laden with the white noise of over-information & buzzy technology.

All I know is that this is my new reality. A new reality for most of us. A shared experience determined by machines with built-in biases. Biases that aren’t our own, but that have become so by default.

The freaky part? We can’t escape them. They hunt us down. Those AI, key-word, audience vertical, & segment driven content proliferators. Those tricky little red notifications that pop up on my phone, Mac, & watch send our dopamine receptors into outer-space.

Sweetly named cookies consume us instead of the other way around. Sugary-sweet promises of relevance are promised in their name alone. Tracking pixels know us better than we know ourselves. And, the algorithmic super-sleuths of search find us.

They all work in unison with one goal in mind…

They want us to consume more.
Click more.
Read more.
Watch more.
Share more.
Create more.
Buy more!

Which, if you’re in the business of reaching people, puts us digital/social/new-age marketers in a funny spot.

We spend so much time & effort trying to gather data (the kind of data that means something) so that we can then creatively extract true insight. And we go to lengths hiring on ‘experts’ who charge exorbitant rates to expensively dig their way to the bottom of the ever elusive consumer purchase funnel.

There has to be a better way? A more cost-effective way of achieving both reach & relevance. Because, as it stands, we’re drowning in a sea of over-information – without a lifejacket to keep us afloat. And as much as “purists” out there don’t like to admit it… we need to invest in reach to then have deep engagement metrics eventuate off of the back of exposure.

Which leaves us with quite the conundrum.

In an ever-changing & very very busy marketplace how do we find a North Star by which to find our way home?

Easy (kinda): we face the truth.

The truth:
We’re all being punked by algorithms on the daily.

What do I mean when I say we’re getting punked by algorithms? Simply put, I believe we’re being distracted. By the new & the shiny. And, by jargon. We’re all so busy talking around solutions & looking for ‘innovation’ that we forget the basics.

I truly believe the basics are the basics for a reason. To change hearts & minds you need to be seen & heard. To grow, you must know how to scale.

But before worrying about any of this, there’s something every single marketer or advertising bod worth their weight in salt (or organic tea leaves) needs to remember.

After 15 years working as a leader in digital & social media marketing I can say, hand-on-heart, that you only need to do this one thing to create impactful, successful & memorable campaigns:

Tell a good story well.

If you do this, the algorithms will sort themselves out. Promise.

It’s that simple & that complicated.

The hard part is the empty page staring back at you when you start.

You can’t just magic up a good story. You need data, then you need to find a true golden-nugget of insight to build a story upon. There’s no shortcut to creating amazing work, either. Creating a GREAT story, takes time, skill, & a truly human connection.

Remember, always remember, that humans are at the other end of your communications. Not clicks. Not CPM. Not any other digital metric – human eyes, human hearts, human minds.

I promise you, if you invest in the people you’re looking to influence, & spend the required time & effort on your story & your brand, you’ll be so far ahead of the competition that you’ll never have to worry about algorithm changes or channel shifts again.

Channels come & go – they always have & always will.

The basics are the basics for a reason. Humans have been telling stories since time immortal. Learn how to weave a quilt of mixed experiences, prerogatives, & emotions into a your narrative.

Thread your needle carefully, thoughtfully.
Welcome people into the fold.
Have a reason for being – & always aim to add more value than you’ll ever ask in return.

If you do that & if you include your audience in your narrative then your story becomes their story.

And, when your story is built upon shared ownership, others will share it for you freely. There’s literally no app, website, or social channel that could track, re-target, or plan for that.

Keen to beat the AI newsfeed?

Dig deep.
Be real.
And have fun doing it.

And, if you’re keen to learn how to build your brand & campaign stories to ensure impact & success, drop me a line. I’m happy to help you do this.

Click here for more information on storytelling for business, & to get in touch!