The Nuts & Bolts of Writing Successfully On Linkedin (P2)
This is a follow up to my last post, “What I’ve Learned About Writing Successfully On Linkedin.” In that post, I define what it means to write successfully on Linkedin by using a system of objective and subjective metrics. I describe the metrics I use to gauge the success of posts and encourage writers to adopt them or devise their own metrics. In this post, I’ll outline the nuts and bolts to achieve successful results, based on what I’ve learned after writing 50 posts.
A View is not a Read. Views are a misleading indicator of reader engagement. Most people skim posts and some don’t read them at all. Some Views aren’t even human, but search engine bots and the Pulse algorithm. Don’t worry about the number of Views, unless you are getting very few – that’s an entirely different issue. As covered in the previous piece, look at the number of Likes (as a percentage of Views) and the number of Comments and Shares as a percentage of Likes.
No correlation between Followers, Connections, and the success of any one post. You would think that the more Followers and Connections you have, the more Views, Likes, Comments and Shares each of your posts will have. I have found no evidence of that. As far as I can tell, many of my Connections have never read any of my posts and most of my Followers have only read two or three of them. Unless you are a syndicated columnist or an Influencer with a devoted following (who will read whatever you write), each of your posts will stand alone and be judged by readers (and Linkedin Editors) on the merits of each. I am continually surprised when viewing the people who liked or commented on my posts. Most of them are first time readers and have not read any of my previous posts.
Timing of posts does not matter. I’ve read a number of articles suggesting that a certain day of the week and/or time is best to post. In my experience, it does not matter. I’ve posted on every day of the week, at all times, including the middle of the night. I’ve even posted on holidays. I can find no evidence that any particular day/time made a difference in whether the post was featured or that the overall quality of reader engagement was effected by timing. Good content will be featured and read, no matter when it is published, period.
No magic formula for content and style. My best advice is write what you know in your own voice. Readers sense authenticity and originality right away. In my experience, posts that resonate best on Linkedin are professional, not personal, in nature. The exception is relaying a personal story as part of a professional outcome. Posts that are no more than a product or company sales pitch will be ignored. My readers seem to prefer posts that are actionable, educational, and informational, in that order. If they learn something and think they can apply it at work, they will share it. That’s why “Top 10 Things You Should Do…” and other lists are popular on Linkedin.
Bottom line: Every post should deliver immediate value to those it is written for.
Title is super important. My mantra is, “Make a promise and fulfill it.” I try to make the title about the reader, not about me. The title helps the reader decide whether the piece is relevant to them – a match with their professional interests. You will notice that a lot of popular posts on Linkedin have the words “You” and “Why” in the title. The reader instinctively thinks, “The writer is talking about me.”
Format and length matter. This is a matter of the writer’s personal style. For me, I believe people are busy, bombarded, and largely indifferent about the massive amounts of info they are exposed to each day. They skim, they jump right to the conclusion or takeaways. Respect that. I follow the old adage, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.”
The first paragraph makes them a promise. The body makes the argument or conveys the essential points. The summary reinforces the promise was made…that it was worth their time to read. The piece should be easy to read – use bullets, lists, bold highlights – and digestible chunks in paragraph form.
In terms of length, 500-1000 words are ideal, but no more than 1,500 words, or about 6 min to read. (I hope you are a fast reader, I’m slightly breaking my rule with this post!)
Want reader engagement? Take a stand, put yourself on the line. Many posts don’t resonate with readers because they are fluff pieces. There is not a single original or controversial thought in them. Pieces that challenge the reader, illuminate them, or piss them off, will get a response. Most of the people posting on Linkedin work for a company and don’t want to write anything that would reflect negatively on their organization. Who wants to risk getting fired, right? This inherent limitation of writing on Linkedin is good for you. Put yourself out there and establish yourself as an original and bold (if not opinionated) thinker. People will Follow you — just to see others slam you, if for no other reason. 🙂
Establish your credibility, but avoid lengthy bio lines. It seems to be a common practice to write a short bio for attribution and a link to the writer’s website at the bottom of the post. I’m not a big fan of this practice. To repeat, the post is not about you, it’s about them. If the reader wants to learn more about you, s/he need only click on your name or picture at the top of the post to be directed to your Linkedin profile. I always see a bump in profile views and connection invitations after a good post.
Rather than include your bio at the bottom of the post, I suggest you weave your experience and credentials into the post itself. I write a lot about startups and venture investing, so I use short vignettes about my experience and expertise to make my points. My daughter has a PR/Communications degree. She is always admonishing me to use the proven persuasion techniques of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Good advice!
Use headline and inline images. Photos and charts increase reader engagement. The large, headline image (700×400) at the top of the post is the most important to draw people in. The photo should visually convey the essence of the piece. I use a stock photo site called 123RF.com. I often page through hundreds of photos to find the right one. I pay for the rights to use the photo and try to include attribution (though it is not required). Charts and graphs that visualize the message work well for inline images. I typically create my own using Powerpoint and then save them as a jpeg.
Multi-part posts prompt more followers. It’s okay to write multi-part posts as long as you deliver a lot of value in Part 1. If readers think they are being “teased” to Follow in order to see Part 2, they will abandon. Ask the reader to Follow you. I usually conclude a multi-part post with “Stay tuned…” or “Please follow me.”
Prime the pump for reader engagement. No one shows up automatically. It’s likely that your Connections and Followers will not see the notice in their daily feed that you published a new post. You can’t bet on being featured. Use Linkedin’s share icons to announce the post on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin itself. Post the title, short intro and a link to the article on your other social media accounts and web site. Most importantly, post the link to the article with a short, personal intro, on the relevant Linkedin Groups that you belong to.
Like and Comment on reader comments. If you prime the pump effectively, your post should get some Views, Likes and Comments. Acknowledge these comments by liking them and, if appropriate, comment on them to stimulate further conversation. First, this practice acknowledges the people who took the time to read and comment on your post. They will appreciate the fact that you appreciate them, even if they disagree with what you wrote. Second, multi-threaded comments encourage others to comment and, I believe, influences whether the post will be featured.
If you see Likes but few Comments, you can always ask those that liked the post to take a moment to comment on it. Let them know you appreciate feedback, positive or negative! In some of my posts I come right out and ask readers for their opinion or expertise, which overtly prompts them to comment.
How to get your post featured. There are a slew of articles (and theories) on this topic. I can only share what I believe, not what I know for sure, because I don’t think anyone knows for sure except for certain people at Linkedin – and they aren’t talking about it. There are a bunch of channels on Linkedin Pulse. I believe all of them are curated by various editors. Assuming your post is relevant to the followers of one or more channels, you can likely catch the attention of a curator by tagging it appropriately and by posting it in related groups on Linkedin. Article tweets and retweets also seem to increase the odds of being featured, in my experience.
I believe that the editors and the mysterious algorithm also look at engagement, so again, priming the pump is helpful. I don’t know this for a fact, but I believe that reader engagement on your past posts, as well as the number of your followers and connections, might influence whether the post is featured. Nothing, however, can substitute for a thoughtful, original, authentic, and well-written piece. I’ve had posts that were not featured take off organically.
My final advice is to commit to writing and posting regularly. Make it a habit, make it a goal – 1 post per week, or month, or quarter – whatever you can comfortably handle and do well. There is a certain rhythm in writing regularly that boosts your own internal algorithm for creativity and expression.
These are the nuts and bolts as I know them. Have a great year and Best of Success for Writing Successfully on Linkedin!
P.S. There is a good course by Linkedin Editor Daniel Roth, Writing to be Heard on Linkedin.