I tend to think that many LinkedIn users are oblivious to the fact that the majority of the screen space they look at when logged in is occupied by advertisements and carefully constructed marketing content. A very small percentage of a given page contains actually content that isn’t overtly created to get you to buy something.
To illustrate this, I took two screenshots of my LinkedIn homepage feed. The advertisements are highlighted in red. The pieces of content that are really just a part of some company’s marketing campaign are highlighted in yellow. The truly genuine articles are highlighted in green. The rest of the page is functionality. Eye opening, isn’t it? This is a huge part of the reason why LinkedIn generates $5B per year in advertising revenue.
According to most estimates, the typical person is exposed to between 5,000 and 10,000 advertisements and marketing messages on average per day. With websites like LinkedIn, it’s easy to see how this is possible. In a few split seconds of looking at my LinkedIn feed, I saw about 20. However, what interests me isn’t necessarily the amount of marketing messages we’re exposed to, it’s our ability to be cognizant of them that piques my curiosity. From there, additional questions begin to emerge. How often do we realize we’re being marketed to? Where do we draw the line between tasteful marketing and invasive manipulation? How do we as a society progress towards increased savvy and recognition that not every piece of content is just there to help us?
Regardless of where you may fall on the spectrum of acceptance for these emerging forms of marketing, I think most of us would agree that we need to recognize the true nature of what we consume. I’m not saying LinkedIn is doing something wrong either. Obviously they’ve created a platform that has allowed hundreds of millions of professionals to connect. That’s a good thing. I’d just argue that what is also a good thing is to increase our recognition of the true intent of messages we receive in a given site session.