One of the priorities chosen by the Black Country LEP during its inception was communication. At a meeting with officers from comms teams and regeneration, we discussed different social media platform, and we spoke about LinkedIn, the “uncool older brother” of the social media cast. I’d had experience of using LinkedIn to engage with the business community during the preparation of our Local Economic Assessment – consultants had suggested using it and I had naively assumed that when they said “we’ll set it up for you” that they also meant that they’d do all the actual work recruiting members, driving traffic and gardening discussion threads. I was wrong.
Thus the Black Country LEP discussion group was born on LinkedIn. Most LEPs now have one; I have a hunch that the Black Country’s was one of the first. With 630 members it’s been useful for opening up a window for businesses, public sector and other interested parties on what is a new and unknown entity: what is a LEP and what do they do? Who are the board members and how did they get there?
However, it’s suffered from a particular problem that I feel afflicts most of LinkedIn – I get the impre
ssion that most posts end up there because they’ve been “shared” rather than posted directly onto LinkedIn. As a result, the traffic is often one-way: there can be comments, but the person posting doesn’t respond, presumably because they don’t realise. It also possibly suffers from another curse of LinkedIn: as profiles are so closely connected to someone’s job, people are worried about their professional profile and the risk that any comment could be misinterpreted. As a result, it’s mainly a place for posting news and information rather than opening up dialogue and debate – its original intention.
There’s still hope in it yet – there are lots of strategic people from large employers in the area in the group, but that’s not really matched by high-up decision-makers in the public sector. If those decision-makers can be persuaded to post, they could entice the heavyweights watching politely from the edges. LinkedIn groups have the potential to send mail all members each week – that’s quite a powerful tool to drive traffic and engage members which we’re currently a bit too shy to use for fear of being blacklisted as spammers.
by Dan Carins,
Local Economic Development Strategist at Walsall Council