From The Straits Times    |

Veronica Tay

As a user on a quest to understand LinkedIn’s algorithm more intimately, meeting Feon Ang is akin to meeting a rockstar. With 10 years of experience under her belt, first as LinkedIn’s director for Talent Solutions and now as APAC managing director, I was ready to absorb the wisdom Ang can share. I’m ready to rumble, and, judging by Ang’s open laptop dutifully adorned with bulleted responses to the few questions I’ve sent over for context, so was she. 

I start my knowledge-finding with a surprise question: What is LinkedIn’s role in the world of work today? Ang looks up at me and smiles. She realises that I am not about to stick to the order of questions I sent over a few days before (because how fun would that be?), but Ang hardly falters. She is, after all, the authority on all things LinkedIn.

“We want to connect professionals and help them be more productive and successful,” she shares without skipping a beat. “The objective is for people to consume meaningful content that improves their skills and knowledge.” It all sounds very corporate-speak until Ang throws in a zeitgeist-ey curve ball. “It’s not about posting something viral just for the sake of attention and likes,” she adds, both in acknowledgement of the dire state of social media today and as a way to properly differentiate LinkedIn’s value proposition amongst the online chatter.

To learning and beyond

Daniel Roth, editor-in-chief and VP at LinkedIn, concurs. In an interview with Entrepreneur, he shares: “When things go viral on LinkedIn, usually that’s a sign to us that we need to look into this because that’s not celebrated internally.” Ang elaborates that LinkedIn’s north star is to “connect professionals and help them be more productive and successful”. For her, that translates to consuming meaningful content that improves users’ skills and knowledge, which, if I’m reading correctly, a viral post does not make.

Two strategic content changes rolled out this year allude to this. First, users will now see more posts from those they follow. “People tell us that they find it most valuable when content is grounded in knowledge and advice,” Alice Xiong, director of product management at LinkedIn, shares in the same Entrepreneur interview, “and they find it most valuable when the content is from people they know and care about.”

The second significant change is that posts steeped in learning, knowledge, and advice are prioritised. “For us, the most important part of the equation is: Do we believe we’re helping our members be and feel more productive and successful?” Xiong adds further in the article. 

For Ang, the bigger objective of all these content strategies goes beyond impressions — creating precious economic opportunities. She references the invitation-only Top Voice program which features a global group of experts on LinkedIn covering a range of topics across the professional world. “It opens up plenty of opportunities — connecting with more like-minded professionals, increasing business or sales leads, or getting invitations to speak at major conferences. It can change your life.”

The mantle of trust

There’s one other thing that Ang is concerned about today at LinkedIn and all other social media platforms, by and large: safety, trust, and authenticity. She shares that there’s a heavy investment from the company in ensuring that users trust the brand and platform. “It involves a combination of AI and human intervention to proactively remove fake information and malicious users before they can go viral,” she tells me.This surprises me, especially since it’s the first time I’ve heard of LinkedIn taking such proactive measures to combat disinformation. I wonder why it’s something I never gave much thought to and if many others like me take the sanctity and accuracy of LinkedIn’s information for granted. This is not achieved through sheer willpower alone. “We also work with influencers to educate our members on recognising and reporting such content,” Ang adds. 

Influencers? AI? At LinkedIn? Colour me impressed. “Authenticity is the bedrock of meaningful interactions on LinkedIn,” Ang elaborates in response to my surprise. She explains why the platform devotes significant resources to this cause, utilising algorithms, AI, and human intervention to swiftly remove inappropriate or harmful content. “We think how we curate content through these technologies can influence user behaviour to some extent.”

Compelled to kindness

Discussing influencing user behaviour through content curation was not the place where I imagined this conversation would go. But, in no small way, Ang has a point. Social media makes it incredibly easy for users to create multiple accounts without much identification, which can lead to a lack of accountability. Anonymity, Ang adds, allows some people to express themselves more freely and without much consideration for the consequences or impact on others. 

“On LinkedIn, how the environment is set up does not favour such behaviours. Even I find myself taking a different approach when responding to something I can’t entirely agree with.”

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Photo: Veronica Tay

Ang recalls a time when she wanted to engage a colleague who shared a post about her note-taking acumen, a skill that Ang and her other team members greatly appreciated. 

“I wanted to ask her whether extensive note-taking might impact one’s presence in meetings.” Ang wasn’t planning on being combative, but she understands how such a line of inquiry could be misconstrued. “I took a moment to consider how to phrase it constructively, concerned about finding the right balance.”

It’s a feeling I share during the hours I spend on LinkedIn. With the platform being less invasive than Facebook and yet as casual as Instagram or TikTok, finding the right tone when commenting has become an exercise in intentionality. “That is the feature of the platform where it encourages people to be more respectful and more kindly with the words they use,” Ang adds in response to my commiseration. 

Still WIP

As my interview with Ang draws to a close (she’s a busy high-flyer, and time is of the essence), I decided to make good use of the remaining time for a quick-fire round of questioning.

On the unexplored potential of LinkedIn in the B2B space, Ang is hopeful: “Being associated with a trusted platform like LinkedIn is vital for brands as it enhances their credibility and reputation.” 

When asked which LinkedIn features Ang finds most valuable, she points me in the direction of training and learning. “LinkedIn has plenty of valuable features, but skills insights are undoubtedly a significant aspect worldwide. The wealth of training modules and LinkedIn Learning courses can help organisations evolve and adapt to the ever-changing demands of the workforce.”

I, of course, had to ask the golden question: “What do you say to people who think LinkedIn Premium is too expensive?” In Singapore, it’s priced at a hefty $39.99. “If you make full use of LinkedIn Learning and explore the range of courses available, you’ll be amazed at the value it provides. It’s like having access to an entire library for the cost of just one month’s subscription.” 

Ang likens it to paying for a streaming service: “If you’re a Premium member but not effectively utilising these resources, it’s like subscribing to Netflix and not watching any shows for months.”

On LinkedIn’s core values that she wants users to understand, Ang elaborates: “Being open, honest, and constructive.” For her, these values place importance on creating a trusted, caring, inclusive, transformative, and fun environment for everyone on the platform. “We acknowledge that this is an aspiration, something we strive towards, knowing that we may not have fully achieved it yet. But we’ll get there.”

This article was originally published in The Peak.