When LinkedIn first launched the Influencer program in October of 2012, it was a highly selective platform. LinkedIn only invited certain people to contribute original content to the blogging platform, and many of the invitees were marquee names in various business sectors. The original Influencers were people like Bill Gates, Arianna Huffington, and Richard Branson – the kind of leaders who need no introduction.
Back in February, LinkedIn announced its intentions to make the club less exclusive by allowing 25,000 more members to join the elite ranks of the Influencers. What’s more, that same announcement also revealed that, over the coming months, LinkedIn would be steadily building toward a day when any LinkedIn user could publish original content to the site.
While an expanded, all-inclusive blogging platform seems like an unequivocally good move on the surface – and, for the most part, I think it is a positive change – it does come with the unintended consequence of delivering a glut of content. When everyone can post on LinkedIn, how will you know what’s worth your time?
LinkedIn promises an algorithm that will identify popular posts and distribute them more widely across the site, and that will definitely help us in our search for the best content. Still, finding your personal favorite LinkedIn authors will take some digging – after all, what grabs the crowd’s attention may not have yours.
So, in preparation for a democratized LinkedIn, I’ve gathered three of my favorite Influencers below. You may like some of them; others, you may find terribly boring. But that’s life: there’s no accounting for taste. My purpose, really, is less about convincing you to like the Influencers I like, and more about helping you on your way to finding the writing that really resounds with you as LinkedIn opens itself up to more and more voices.
And, hey, who knows: maybe when everyone has the ability to post to LinkedIn, my current top five will give way to an all-new lineup. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Human Workplace describes itself as “a publishing firm, a think tank, and a coaching and consulting business” dedicated to re-emphasizing the human aspects of the office. This big, bodacious organization could really only be founded by someone like Liz Ryan, who has the business acumen of a veteran HR executive and the artistic nuance of a professional opera singer (yes, she really is an opera singer, and she’s quite good). Ryan is also the artist behind the charmingly quirky drawings that accompany all of her articles.
In fact, these drawings are what first caught my eye – how often do you get to see artwork on LinkedIn? Though I came for the pictures, I stayed for the posts: whereas so many of us make the requisite references to the importance of “humanity” in the workplace, Ryan goes beyond the vague buzzwords to really dig deep into what that means and looks like. I made it a point to mention Ryan’s artist alter ego because I think it is what gives her the ability to really understand how our complicated human existences fit into the (sometimes) unnaturally tamed world of the workplace. Art deals with the messy emotional experience of being alive – so maybe more human resource professionals should nurture their artistic sides.
My favorite Ryan post is “How to Quit Like a BOSS,” which spins Joey DiFrancesco’s highly unorthodox musical resignation – and it’s attendant viral video – into a positive thing. Whereas many of us would decry DiFrancesco’s bombastic method of leaving his job as a bad career move, Ryan sees it for what it really is: a genuine moment of beautiful being erupting in the generally beauty-averse space of employment.
“There will always be people around you telling you to hush, suck it up, deal with it, and keep the brass brand out of the hotel break room,” Ryan writes. “Take a tip from trumpet-playing Joey, and speak your truth when the spirit moves you.”
Is there anything more refreshing to hear from an HR expert?
Whereas Liz Ryan is heavy on humanity, Slate columnist, author, and head of global strategy at Envestnet Zachary Karabell is heavy on reasoning. Not that this is a bad thing: Karabell’s knack for mounting persuasive arguments and carefully inspecting all the research that comes his way are what make him one of my favorite Influencers.
“The Obsession with CEO Pay Won’t Help the Middle Class,” one of Karabell’s most recent posts, is a good example of the sort of thoroughly vetted thinking he brings to LinkedIn’s publishing platform. If you go by the title of the piece alone, you’re probably expecting some sort of pro-income-inequality think piece – something that would make the Occupy set vomit out of sheer rage. But that’s not what Karabell does here.
Instead, Karabell considers the opinion that cutting CEO pay will save the economy, examines the facts, and draws what turns out to be the only logical conclusion: “The focus on compensation has the virtue of a neat explanation for a real challenge. CEOs are paid egregiously; many, many people barely earn enough. But no amount of tweaking executive compensation will generate a vibrant, innovative economy.”
With Karabell, readers get the sort of nuance that many socio-economic commentators sorely lack. If you read Karabell’s article on CEO pay, you’ll find that he doesn’t end on a note of black/white finality. Instead, he offers an outline for more comprehensive steps that need to be taken. Karabell makes valid arguments – he doesn’t cite talking points.
Author and CEO of Hearsay Social Clara Shih hasn’t posted anything in a couple of months (at the time this piece was written), but I’m hoping she comes back soon. Shih offers a lot of unconventional and highly creative thinking, which really isn’t surprising, given her background: back in 2007, when Shih helped create an app that integrated Facebook profiles with Salesforce’s system, she was credited with “kickstarting the social business app movement”
As a representative post, I’d point to “How I Hire: Look Past the Obvious.” In that piece, Shih talks about the truly innovative way in which she approaches recruiting. She has cultivated an eye for identifying transferable skills that may not, on the surface, seem readily applicable to her business. For example, she describes how Hearsay Social’s product manager on the analytics solution was a marketing consultant before he joined the team. Shih saw that he “was great with data, intellectually curious, and endlessly creative,” and so she brought him aboard to build out a data science team – not to be a marketing consultant.
(Wishful thinking: Shih sees this list and decides to pick up her pace in the Influencer game. Fingers crossed.)