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Should You Join LinkedIn's Expanded Influencer Platform? Under most circumstance, you would never work for free. So why is being an Influencer so important?

By Steve Tobak Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

LinkedIn has something called the Influencer program. So you've heard of it? Of course, I should have known. Who hasn't, right? I've heard the average Influencer post gets tens of thousands of page views and tons of social media and comment engagement. And Influencers get hoards of followers.

Sounds like a win-win, right?

Not exactly.

All those page views and eyeballs are tremendous … for LinkedIn. Likewise, all that social media and comment engagement benefits the good folks at LinkedIn. The Influencer followers are also all on LinkedIn. And the ads on the page bring in tons of revenue for, well, you probably know what I'm about to say. That's right, LinkedIn.

So where's the other side of that win-win equation? Why be an Influencer?

A few months ago, the world's largest business network site opened up its publishing platform to tens of thousands of members with the promise of expanding to all its users in the future. The question is, should you take advantage of that opportunity?

Related: The 10 Most Shockingly Untrue Entrepreneurial Myths, Exposed

Nearly everyone I speak with thinks it's a no-brainer. Why wouldn't everyone want to be part of a media site that includes the likes of Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Richard Branson? I'll tell you why, but before you flame me for blaspheme against your beloved business network, at least hear me out, OK?

You're not actually an Influencer.

You and the other 277 million LinkedIn members will not, actually, be Influencers. Many of the articles I've seen on the subject, including this one from USA Today, were a bit misleading about that, at least in their eyeball-catching headlines.

I understand that algorithms will determine which lucky posts are distributed beyond the member's own personal network and profile page.

Nobody gets paid.

Call me a capitalist pig and I'll say guilty as charged. In any case, hear me out. There's an industry called publishing that includes everyone in the media. It's an important part of our society, not to mention a lot of careers for a lot of people and their families just like you and yours.

While social media sites have taken advantage of free, user-generated content since the advent of Web 2.0, at least tweets and Facebook posts point users to the site of origin, so whoever generated the content benefits from the click-through. LinkedIn's long-form content is self-contained. Nobody makes money but LinkedIn. In case you didn't know, the same is true of LinkedIn's groups – those who manage them do it out of the goodness of their hearts … or for some reason I've never quite understood.

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Are you a thought leader and does it even matter?

Are you a thought leader, an opinion leader, a subject-matter expert, or does it even matter anymore?

As with all online content, there's so much of it that the quality is all over the map. Since much of the Influencer posts I've read are, to put it bluntly, self-serving fluff, I can only imagine what will happen to the quality once it's open to anyone pitching a resume, pushing a product or just feeding their ego. It sends chills down my spine, actually.

That said, if you are an expert in your field, by all means, go for it. But you might want to read the next few paragraphs first.

The ROI is questionable, to say the least.

Marketing departments have been promoting company executives as thought leaders since the beginning of time – or at least since the beginning of public relations. For that purpose, LinkedIn is a media outlet like any other, albeit with lots of engaged users. And that's why the Influencer program made sense for executives and leaders.

As for your resume or small business, you might get some eyeballs and social-media engagement, but once the floodgates open up to all those millions of members, the odds that your efforts will translate into click-throughs and any meaningful return on investment are probably slim to none. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it.

One more thing. I've been posting articles on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for years. But those are just links to the media sites where my columns are actually published. That's a world apart from posting long-form content on a site that doesn't pay for it. That, I would never do. I would never work for free. Would you?

Related: What to Do When You Screw Up

Steve Tobak

Author of Real Leaders Don't Follow

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at stevetobak.com, where you can contact him and learn more.

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