What Works (and What Doesn’t) When Publishing On LinkedIn
A Look Back at What I Have Learned About The Platform…
Roughly a year ago, I decided that I would make a point of publishing new content on (what was at that point) the fairly new LinkedIn Publisher platform, and try to do it on at least a semi-regular basis. I had been on the LinkedIn platform since 2005 and was a big fan of it’s potential as being more than a simple online resume tool, but rather as a powerful marketing tool, and I was excited to try my hand at doing a personal blog (or sorts) that already had a built in audience…Publishing on LinkedIn saved me the HUGE task of chasing down an audience!
It’s been a little over a year (as of today…July 30 2015) and I’ve posted 16 pieces in that time. Some of them have had considerable success, and some have landed with a resounding thud (well…that’s not true…most of the bad ones actually produced SILENCE). The experiment was to see first hand what works and what doesn’t work, as well as to see what effect it would have on my personal brand.
So that you might be able to skip over some of the ramp up I have had this year, I give you my own personal findings as well as some info from the experts along the way. None of this stuff is what I would call “scientifically proven”…it’s a cross between anecdotal and a fair amount of evidence based assumptions, but it should give you a good jumping off point for figuring out what content performs best on LinkedIn Publisher!
1. “How To” Posts Are The Surest Path To Views.
This should come as no huge shock to anyone who does content on a professional or even semi-pro level, but articles that teach people specifically HOW to do something tend to be some of the most popular and are definitely the safest best to catch on. You can do a piece about how to set up a Facebook cover photo in Canva, how to cut your computer’s boot up time by using a few readily available online tools, or how to do a Gmail mail merge and you are almost certain to get some interested views/engagement (Assuming you have at least a respectable network of connections). The trick is that you have to show some real detail; skimming over steps in the process is a sure way to lose the interest of your audience.
Some of my favorite how-to pieces are from Neil Patel off Crazy Egg/KissMetrics fame. Whether on his blog or when he is publishing on LinkedIn, his articles are always very in-depth (with some great visuals) and always packed with valuable and specific How To content. The image below was taken from his recent “How to Generate Leads From Content Marketing” article and it show’s the clear and approachable way he does things. It’s a great template for how to create fantastic and relatable How-To content that is share-worth!
2. Humor Posts Can Work Well For You, But They Can Also Work Against You.
The second article I ever published was a tongue-in-cheek piece entitled “”I Think I Need to Break Up With Your Email Newsletter”. It was written over the space of about 45 minutes, and it was a farcical Dear John letter to a corporation where I dissolved a floundering romantic relationship with an increasingly abusive email newsletter. It had a real point, but it was definitely written to be lighthearted and a bit ridiculous. I figured I would see a couple of hundred views, but instead it went on to drive more than 11,000 read, nearly 500 likes, 73 comments, and several hundred shares. I was elated! This was the power of well directed humorous writing, and I was hooked.
The problem was that I misunderstood what had happened. I made the mistake of thinking that humor was the key to the article’s success. It certainly helped of course, but the real reason it caught on was because it was relateable and gave voice to a problem (or at least an irritation) that most of us have. By focusing strictly on trying to be clever, I completely missed that important piece of the puzzle when I latched onto the ha-ha’s.
My next several pieces were all humor laced rants about issues that I was facing. Honestly, I still think a couple of them were some of my funniest work to date, but none of them really caught on. Why not? Because I wasn’t delivering real value or giving voice to my audience. I was ranting about business issues that irritated me and using a string of one-liners to do it. I made it about myself and my circumstances and ignored the larger audience, and they responded by not responding.
It took me another 6 months to fully realize where I had gone wrong and then use that knowledge to write another piece that would actually get some legs under it.
The lesson I learned was that humor can be a very powerful tool when publishing on LinkedIn, but it has to be used to accentuate the content, and not to actually BE the content. Value first- laughs second.
3. Long Form Content Get’s the Most Shares…and Respect.
This is the one that flies in the face of what so many people have assumed to be the truth over the past few years…
We live in a “BuzzFeed” culture where people have short attention spans and are always looking for small “snackable” nuggets of content, so well intentioned but misinformed people have been telling anyone who will listen that your posts should be quick fly-over pieces…no more than 500 words so that you don’t lose your audience.
The problem is that this isn’t true.
Oh, sure it’s true that people really do have shorter and shorter attention spans and that they do like quick “snackable” bites of content, but they also want quality and in-depth content, and study after study shows that long-form content performs best.
Noah Kagan (the entrepreneur who brought us AppSumo, which is awesome…if you aren’t already on their newsletter, get on it…some of the writing is amazing) did a study of 3000 LinkedIn Publisher posts last year for his blog OkDork, in which he pulled apart what posts on the platform performed the best. There were several characteristics that the most successful posts had, and one of the most telling of them was that people DO perform long posts (specifically, those that range between 1900 and 2000 words).
“Okay, but I thought you said they want quick and easy to digest content…”.
They do. You need to make sure that your content is broken down into bite sized snacks by using bold headings, bullet points, and images to break up the content (sort of like I have done here). That makes it simple for people to pull small chunks of information out of a larger and deeper piece of content. It’s easier on the eyes, it’s easier to take in, it’s easier to retain, and it still allows you to go in-depth with the larger article and provide the kind of information that people will pay attention to!
4. Use BuzzSumo to Find Well Performing Topics.
For those not yet acquainted with BuzzSumo, this free-mium product is an awesome research tool for finding out if a particular topic is already getting traction on line, as well as to find out who is already sharing information about said topic. This info is VERY useful for deciding what topics you will select to write about, as well as to find out who you may want to reach out to when sharing your posts. This works for getting more views on your blog, articles, and yes- for LinkedIn Publisher pieces. Simply go to BuzzSumo and type a topic into the search bar. The tool will then (on the free version) show you the top 5 pieces of content (based on shares) in regards to that topic, and by clicking onto those share numbers, you can also see WHERE those pieces were shared.
This will allow you to pick topics that already have a proven audience, but it will also allow you to make sure that you aren’t getting into a massively crowded swimming pool if you don’t really have a new and fresh angle to add to the topic when you are publishing on LinkedIn.
I’ve recently begun using the tool when doing client blogs to make sure that the topics we write about are relevant as well as to know who I can share the content with. Chances are, if someone already shared a few articles/posts about the same subject, they may be interested in sharing (or at least reading) a fresh take from you as well!
I’m not saying that you should ONLY write about things that are going to get big shares, but when you are putting together “Tent Pole Posts” (the “big gun” pieces that you plan to build your reputation around), knowing whether or not the topic already has an audience can save you a lot of time and heart break!
5. End Your Posts With A Call to Action.
I’m still going back into my posts and doing this one…
If your post does well, and people find it…start interacting with it, sharing it, all that good stuff…do you have some sort of end goal in mind for what you want them to do? Chances are you want them to connect with you, to follow you, or (gasp!) buy something from you. Do they KNOW what they are supposed to do though? If you don’t have a clear call to action, chances are that they don’t!
See the screen cap below for an example of how to add a call to action as well as how to link to previously existing content (which is #7 if you were curious)…
6. Link to Your Other Posts (Once You Have A Few).
For anyone that does SEO on any level, the concept of internal linking is pretty common and basic stuff. It’s just linking from one page to the next on your site so that visitors (and the search engines) can move from one piece of content on your site to the next. It helps them find further information that might benefit them and it helps you keep them engaged and on your site longer.
The same basic principle applies to LinkedIn Publisher. Once you have a small handful of posts published, it’s a good idea to go back into your posts and start cross linking as much as you can. Besides helping you spread the messages you have already written to a new audience, you also increase the chances of adding these people as followers once they see the wealth of your knowledge.
7. Share Your Post on Twitter and Facebook With a Link Back To Your Post.
Linkedin Publisher gives you the option to push your piece directly to Twitter during the same step where you confirm posting the article to LinkedIn. To say the least, this is never a bad idea. It’s been my experience that having your post shared on Twitter will only get your post in more hands, and that -if LinkedIn sees the piece starting to get a lot of views- they will often give it a bump themselves and maybe even feature the piece in one of their Featured Categories, or even on their Pulse platform. If you can get your post featured on those, you’ll definitely see yourself get some quick traction!
So, while it should go without saying that you want to share your posts on other social networks, remember that there is a strategy of a larger pictures as well: to get LinkedIn to notice the additional traffic!
8. Opinion or Philosophy Pieces Don’t Generally Catch Fire As Often.
The problem with Opinion or Philosophy posts is that a.) They are subjective…what you see as sage wisdom might not fit the truth others experience, and b.) these posts are really about you and not about your audience, so you have a far smaller chance of them resonating or even being read.
That’s not to say that I don’t think you should ever write these types of pieces. Sometime we all have to put a piece of ourselves out there for the world to chew on…it’s therapeutic, but just understand that -generally- you might be speaking to an audience of one.
9. Results Are Not Always Consistent- Don’t Take It Personally.
My first post has- to this date 706 views. I’m pretty lucky to have gotten that many since it was pretty rough. No pictures, no links, and it was based on educating a very small selection of niche of people. That’s fine though- it was a jumping off point, and most articles don’t get that many views. The real problem came with my second post…It got over 11,000 views, 481 likes, and 73 comments. The post was picked up by Pulse and became one of the top 100 posts that month. I was in writer heaven!
The issue of course is that I got a tiny little taste of online fame right at the beginning of my LinkedIn Publisher career, and that created a monster.
I spent months afterwards trying to re-capture lightning in a bottle. I obsessed over the the counter on each subsequent post, and to this day I haven’t been able to get that kind of engagement again. About 6 months later, I did end up back on the weekly top 100 list, but it wasn’t the same.
I’ve come to realize since then that there is no real consistency. There is no formula for sure-fire success with the platform other than to consistently publish amazing content so often that people get upset when they don’t see you post for more than a week. Neil Patel is the most immediate example of this.
The lesson though is that you can’t take this stuff personally, and if you are expecting to go “viral” every time you write a new post, you are inviting a world of ego-hurt onto your self. Post because you have something to say. Post so that people can get to know you. Don’t post simply for the glory- nobody hit’s a home run every time they are at bat.
9.5- Tweet your post to “Tip@LinkedInPulse”.
This is a very cool tip that I picked up from from several of the biggest names (or at least the biggest numbers) in the LinkedIn Pulse game…By tweeting your post with “Tip@linkedinpulse” youpass the article under the nose of the editorial team for LinkedIn Pulse, and drastically increase the chance they will actually see your article and give it a coveted seat on the LinkedIn Pulse bus!
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