With his distinctive horseshoe mustache and penchant for talking about slab leaks and sewer and water testing, Wakefield doesn’t look or sound like your typical social media influencer. But after four decades of working in plumbing on and off, Wakefield has emerged as an unlikely personality on an unlikely platform for social media stars.
“I had people coming up to me in the hallway [at VidCon], saying ‘Oh my gosh, you’re the plumber’ and ‘we see your videos,'” Wakefield told CNN Business. “It’s just a crazy feeling.” One fan asked to take a selfie with him.
And yet, on this sometimes overlooked corner of the internet, people are making a name for themselves and earning money — whether it be through sponsorships, going on tour and selling LinkedIn bootcamp courses — even if some are skeptical or question what they’re doing on LinkedIn.
“People don’t actually think of us a place to form community, to be a creator and to really grow,” Kiran Prasad, LinkedIn’s head of consumer products told CNN Business. But he said more than 2 million posts, videos and articles run through the LinkedIn feed each day — and engagement is increasing 25% year over year.
“We’ve been investing very heavily in our creators,” he added. “It’s definitely been a focus for us for a few years, and we’re just starting to see it really take root right now.”
LinkedIn influencers argue the audience is what makes the platform more powerful than other social media networks. “On LinkedIn, people are in a business mindset,” Rowbottom said, arguing that many YouTube and Instagram followers may never convert to a sale or buy an influencer’s products or services.
Terry agrees. “It’s different than going viral on Twitter or Facebook because of the depth of the network you have on LinkedIn,” he said. “These are business decision-makers, HR people. … The audience you’re getting in front of is a lot different.”
And when people share your content, it often results in messages to your inbox. “From a viral tweet, I’m going to get very little inbound action,” he said.
LinkedIn also removes metrics such as view counts from posts after a certain amount of time, which makes it impossible for content creators to evaluate the performance of old posts. (LinkedIn said it’s working on making view counts available indefinitely, and offering more tools for creators, including the ability to schedule posts and have more insights into their audience.)
“I can see how a 25-year-old or a millennial or someone who is social media savvy could log on for a bit, explore around, experience some of the glitches or just lack of built-out features … and I can see how people could just be turned off, and be like ‘Dude, this platform is whack,’ and then they leave,” Rowbottom said. “It’s also good for me because there’s no competition.”
For Wakefield, at least, none of those issues seem to dampen his enthusiasm for the platform. He’s found success on LinkedIn translates to success offline with his plumbing company.
“It helps my business grow,” he said. “I get calls all the time that say, ‘We watch Roger on LinkedIn. We have a plumbing problem, and we want to get you all to come look at it.'”