A quick chat with TCS’s new Head of Creative, Internal Comms + Social and Ogilvy’s former senior creative director on his astounding success as a writer on LinkedIn.
There are writers at large and writers at large. Nikhil Narayanan is the latter. Who’s that? He is the dropper of truth bombs, the scourge of bad ads, the annihilator of useless polls, and the plagiarism-checker-in-chief. All this at his kingdom called LinkedIn India.
Phew. Writing that paragraph almost felt like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson cutting a promo at WWE’s biggest pay-per-view ‘WrestleMania’.
With over one hundred thousand followers and the ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ of each post in hundreds and thousands, it is hard to miss Nikhil Narayanan on LinkedIn despite your best attempts at hiding under rocks and behind polls which he loathes.
Narayanan has been a career advertising man with fifteen plus years of experience. He’s had stints at Ogilvy, Origami Creative Concepts, Grey Group, and McCann. Now, he’s helming the creative, internal communications, and social duties at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Add countless awards and a book to his name and you’ve all but summed up the guy.
His adventures on LinkedIn need a whole new story and that’s why we’re here. For the past two years, we’ve seen his posts tackle industry practices that seriously need a rethink, his views on advertising and marketing that are right-in-your-face and yet we fail to catch them, and quite often, he introduces us to stuff that makes us feel smart.
What’s surprising is that Narayanan’s prolific work on LinkedIn was nearly non-existent two years ago. “I was not active on LinkedIn and I’d post stuff once every four months,” he tells us.
That is not the speed you’d have expected from one of LinkedIn India’s most popular ‘content creators’ or chroniclers of our times. He tells us that during the initial stages of the lockdown, he lost a former colleague to cardiac arrest. “The night before it, I was on a Zoom call and a colleague friend glorified advertising’s toxic culture. The next day when I heard about her demise, I was livid at my friend.”
Narayanan tells us he wanted to vent and make the industry take notice. “It only affects you when it hits close to home.” At that time, he didn’t know much about LinkedIn and its ability to garner readership. “I didn’t know much about its social media function, and I thought it was just a networking platform,” he reveals.
The post for the lack of a better word went viral. It has, as of today, over 31,200 likes, 1,200 comments, and 1,600 shares. Seeing the response to the post, Narayanan felt LinkedIn could be a platform “where people can read and express concerns about the industry. Another beautiful thing about LinkedIn is that it’s a place where people still read.”
It is not just LinkedIn where his writing prowess is on display, he writes on Instagram too but he accepts that “only a few people have managed to crack the code” of the Meta-owned social media app. LinkedIn worked for Narayanan because of its “algorithm and the support for long-form writing. People were making an effort to read on LinkedIn and I leveraged it.”
Be it a marketing move, a great ad, a tale on relatable office culture mishaps, a scroll through his posts and you will notice a healthy number of present-day happenings.
“I don’t plan on what to write,” reveals Narayanan and then goes on to tell us about how he works. “If something strikes me, I first ask myself if it is acceptable on LinkedIn because I don’t believe it is a platform for everything. I am not being LinkedIn police but some things need to be sacred.”
He is not a fan of kids being used in content and detests polls because people can use them for anything and make it sound and appear LinkedInish. What Narayanan likes about LinkedIn is the company’s attitude toward being ready to learn from its mistakes. “They saw how ineffective stories were and rolled it back. The same is with polls because their frequency has decreased.”
Narayanan has moved on from the agency world to the brand/client-side, this does not mean the guy will start buying suits and his creative juices will make way for spreadsheets. His LinkedIn universe too, like time, will not end just because of this change. There’s no stopping this ‘writer at large’ except himself.