In an experiment, Robbrecht van Amerongen, the manager of business innovation in a technology firm, changed his job description on LinkedIn to “CEO, Shell” for 48 hours. Surprisingly, this small change triggered a significant response from his network on the platform. In just two days, he received almost 400 likes and 80 customized comments, more than 500 personal messages, and 25 text messages. Additionally, ten of his closest co-workers called him within two hours, and he received ten CVs and requests for a job at his new company. Two offshore companies also reached out to him to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
This experiment shows how people tend to trust information they see on social media, although the level of trust varies from platform to platform. On LinkedIn, for instance, people expect others to provide accurate personal information and not play around with it. On Twitter, users can have usernames like @DatDynamicChick and tweet all sorts of facts and lies to entertain or inform their followers. However, the same individual would update their LinkedIn profile with current and correct information. This is what we call the “mode of conduct in a social network.”
On Facebook, people tend to be a mix of serious and humorous. In 2011, for example, I changed my birthday to April 1st as an April Fool’s joke. Some friends wished me a happy birthday through my wall, inbox, phone call, and SMS, while others knew it was a prank. I later clarified that it wasn’t my birthday and used the opportunity to encourage friends to go out and vote during a national election.
According to Robbrecht van Amerongen, his research on LinkedIn revealed a significant difference in trust in the accuracy of content between different social networks. Although the validation of new content is done with the same accuracy across platforms, LinkedIn offers a higher implicit trust in the validity of the content compared to other networks. Most people tend to trust what they read on LinkedIn, even if it contradicts their gut feeling. “When it is on LinkedIn, it must be true,” is a common belief.
Here are some takeaways from this experiment and the broader context of social media conduct:
- Be critical of what you read on social networks, especially if you need that information to make important decisions.
- Companies should conduct background checks on people’s profiles on LinkedIn before hiring them based on their posted qualifications and experience.
- Businesses and individuals should know the conduct on each social channel and flow along. Don’t be too serious where a little bit of humor is expected and accepted, and don’t be too humorous when you need to get serious.
In conclusion, this experiment highlights the power of social media and the importance of being mindful of the information we consume and share. Understanding the conduct and level of trust in different social networks can help individuals and businesses navigate them more effectively.