I’ve been showing people how to use LinkedIn for over a decade. And one of the most consistently maligned pieces of functionality has been the job anniversary notification. Over and over I hear some form of, “Why is LinkedIn gumming up my feed? Why should I care if Bill Jones has been at Company XYZ for 6 years? Does “liking” that really mean anything?”
Well, yes it does.
The Science of Online Small Talk
To explain the value of liking job anniversaries, we have to look at something else that people don’t really enjoy: small talk.
It’s easy to bash small talk. We think that it’s an awkward and superficial conversation with people we don’t know well. It’s something we try to avoid. I’m not trying to sell you on sticking to nothing but small talk with people, but there are some powerful effects of small talk we need to be aware of.
When linguistic experts look at how people interact with each other, they often look at something called phatic communication. It’s defined as verbal or non-verbal communication that has a social function as opposed to a content function. It’s communication that’s not meant to convey information, but rather to show that the lines of communication are open. It reinforces the social bond between two people.
Examples of phatic communication include waving hello, smiling, or saying “How are you?” when you first greet someone. The content of the question “How are you?” would seem to indicate that you are looking for the other person to describe their mental and physical state. But really, you are just indicating that you are ready to engage that person in a conversation. You’re saying that you are ready and willing to connect.
Why I Love to Like LinkedIn Job Anniversaries
Hyper-connected selling relies on creating stronger human connections. So using LinkedIn for phatic communication allows us to build relationships more easily and efficiently. With just a few minutes and your smartphone or laptop you can strengthen your relationship with any of your contacts.
One of the complaints about social media is that a lot of the interaction is shallow and therefore a waste of time. But you can use that to your advantage. Just because there isn’t a lot of depth in every post doesn’t mean that those posts aren’t meaningful. A lot of them have a social function separate from their actual content.
“Liking” a job anniversary on LinkedIn is just one example of how this phatic communication can play out online. Even liking or commenting on a post has a phatic effect. You’re showing that you are engaged in the relationship and that the lines of communication are open. The other person might not take you up on it right then, but they know it’s available.
It’s like waving to a friend when they come into the conference room for a meeting. They might not start a conversation with you right away, but they know they can later on. Imagine what would happen if they walked in the room and you ignored them. That would close off the possibility of interaction.
Use LinkedIn to Reinforce Your Social Relationships
This doesn’t mean that you have to go on a bender and push like on everything you see. But don’t dismiss the power of reaching out to your contacts online and reinforcing the relationship. Even if it doesn’t lead to a conversation right then and there, you’re poised to have a better conversation down the line.
Social media is there to help you be social if you are ready to use it.