I’ve seen more than a few skeptically raised eyebrows in reaction to the news that, through a partnership with Tenor, you can now include GIFs when messaging on LinkedIn. Why, some of these headlines read, would you want to send GIFs in messages on a platform like LinkedIn that’s so geared toward your professional identity.
Those attitudes (which I’ll cop to having from time to time) seem to come from a view of LinkedIn that’s stuck in 2009, when the network was one you only visited when you needed to update your experience on what was then a largely static site. It’s changed a lot since then.
So too have perceptions of what constitutes “appropriate” workplace communication and behavior. A recent CNBC study reported that while Millennials get everyone’s attention, including how they are impacting workforce trends, Gen X (which I’m a part of) is just as digitally savvy and open to less formal structures as those who came after us. We’re actually the ones who have been and continue to push for more GIFs in brand Tweets, who embraced Slack as a communications tool at work and so on.
GIFs are, as many have pointed out over the last five years or so, the language of the social web. They work on most all platforms and have been integrated into many of the communications tools people use for personal and professional purposes.
It behooved LinkedIn, then, to make sure its platform was GIF friendly. While they may not display within updates made to your LinkedIn profile or company page yet (the same can be said for Facebook), bringing them into messaging makes a lot of sense. If your preference is to respond to someone’s message saying they’ve finished a project with a Skeletor GIF, LinkedIn wants you to be able to do so instead of choosing Facebook Messenger.
There are caveats, of course, and professional communications should still be handled with care, particularly by job seekers. GIFs are fairly informal and while that may be fine among coworkers you’ve known for a while and are friendly with, it’s a different calculous if you’re talking with a hiring manager or recruiter. Or someone a few pay grades above you. They aren’t to be used frivolously.
LinkedIn embracing support for GIFs means it has its eyes set not on the past, as many of those who questioned the move seem to, but on a digital savvy future where the lines between personal and professional a bit blurred thanks to other changes in workplaces, social expectations, proximity to family and friends and other areas of life.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.