In a normal year at this time, a typical LinkedIn feed might be full of posts about year-end reflections on leadership and professional goals and suggested lifehacks for the year ahead — possibly with a few posts from CMOs offering tips on brand strategy, for good measure.
Those posts are still there. But mixed in are many others about job hunts, offers of support for laid off friends and colleagues, and advice for coping with career hurdles in an uncertain economic environment.
Some LinkedIn users affected by recent layoffs have formed groups on the site aimed at providing assistance, coordinating around signing exit paperwork and aiding with connections for new jobs. One LinkedIn group of employees affected by the November layoffs at Facebook-parent Meta, for example, now has more than 200 members. Even bosses who are doing the laying off have turned to LinkedIn to explain themselves and seek support or advice, as one marketing CEO did in a post alongside a tearful selfie last year (to mixed results).
If the first year of the pandemic was marked by widespread layoffs in lower paying retail and services jobs, the past few months have been defined by something different: the prospect of a white-collar recession. Even as the overall job market remains strong, there has been a wave of recent layoffs in the tech and media industries — which just so happen to make up a core part of LinkedIn’s user base. Suddenly, the normally staid professional network has become both a vital lifeline for recently laid off workers and a surprisingly lively social platform.
The LinkedIn mobile app was downloaded an estimated 58.4 million times worldwide in 2022 across the Google Play and Apple app stores, up 10% from the prior year, according to research firm Sensor Tower.
The number of posts on LinkedIn mentioning “open to work” were up 22% during November compared to the same period in the prior year, according to data provided by the company. LinkedIn says it also saw a steady increase in the rate of users adding connections last year compared to the year prior, a sign that users were more active on the platform.
The uptick in use appears to have been good for LinkedIn’s business. The platform posted 17% year-over-year revenue growth in the three months ended in September, according to parent company Microsoft’s most recent earnings report. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told analysts in the October earnings call that LinkedIn was seeing “record engagement” among its 875 million members, with growth accelerating especially in international markets.
Some of LinkedIn’s momentum may predate the wave of layoffs. “There’s been an uptick in [LinkedIn use] since the pandemic,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an associate professor and social media expert at Syracuse University. “You had to do social distancing and we were quarantining and people were working remotely so there was a shift in real-life networking possibilities.”
LinkedIn rose to the occasion — and now it may be rising to another one.
Layoffs and upheaval in social media industry
Even apart from the layoffs, the social media landscape has been through a volatile year. Facebook and Instagram have been criticized by users for racing to turn their services into TikTok. TikTok has been criticized over concerns that user data could end up in the hands of the Chinese government. And after Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter late last year, the platform has been criticized for morphing into a possible haven for its most incendiary users.
But LinkedIn remains, as ever, LinkedIn — and at this moment, with fears of a looming recession and career concerns top of mind, LinkedIn may be just what the digital world needs.
Grygiel said many people working in media or academia are likely now looking for somewhere to build and engage in professional communities other than Twitter. And while upstart Twitter alternatives like Mastodon have experienced a surge in growth, they still don’t have the same sort of network effect that comes with a legacy platform’s broad user base.
LinkedIn in recent years has leaned into courting influencers who regularly post content to the site, potentially giving users more reasons to visit. And the platform has been growing its “learning” section, which provides video courses taught by various industry experts and which the company says experienced a 17% increase in hours spent as of November compared to the year prior. But lately it appears users have more than enough reason to use LinkedIn amid a wave of thousands of layoffs.
Perhaps the clearest and most public examples of LinkedIn’s new centrality came from rival social networks like Twitter.
In the wake of Twitter’s November mass layoffs — in which half the company was terminated, followed by additional firings and exits — many former and remaining employees took to LinkedIn, rather than the platform they had built, to seek support, community and new opportunities.
One group of Twitter employees created a spreadsheet of laid-off workers from the company alongside recruiters hiring for other firms, and used LinkedIn to help facilitate sign-ups. Another pair of former Twitter employees set up a system to connect job hunters with recruitment professionals open to volunteering to provide free resume review and interview prep services, which they promoted through LinkedIn.
“We completely understand how the job-hunting process can be scary and overwhelming … While we can’t guarantee where your next opportunity will be or when it will come, we can offer guidance, so you will be ready for that opportunity when it arrives,” Darnell Gilet, a former Twitter senior technical recruiter who helped coordinate the effort, said in a LinkedIn post.
Gilet, who was affected by the mass layoffs at Twitter in November following Elon Musk’s takeover, told CNN last month that around 28 different recruiters and talent acquisition professionals had agreed to participate in the system, and that he himself had spoken to nearly two dozen job seekers since shortly after he was laid off to offer advice and support. He said LinkedIn seemed like the obvious place to promote the service.
“Chaos creates opportunity for somebody, right?” Gilet said. “People are getting laid off and you have this recession that’s looming, the ideal place … that would have the greatest growth opportunity from that would be a platform that’s focused on careers like LinkedIn. So it makes perfect sense.”