Since January 2020 I have been publishing daily posts on the LinkedIn platform. These are ~100 words tiny posts, a little bigger than your regular Twitter tweets. But these unassuming posts have given me stellar growth on the LinkedIn platform. 3.5 million+ views and ~10,000 followers in the last few months alone.
These are not mind-boggling numbers when you compare them with a viral Youtube channel reach. However, it is a great starting point for people who have a knack for producing written content over visual content. Moreover compared to Youtube and Instagram, LinkedIn has 600 million+ user base of purely professional users. These are the exact users you may be targeting for your needs, anywhere from getting new clientele for your content writing business, to creating your Online brand for other purposes, etc.
Gaping through the randomness of the 150+ posts this year so far, there is a planned strategy for each post I could draw out. I have been writing on the LinkedIn platform for over 2 years, and in recent months I have become more active and engaged. After trying various strategies I have come to conclude the strategy that works most of the time and is more suitable for the LinkedIn platform. This article is my attempt at sharing that strategy to you.
Before I get started there is an important point I want to highlight. There is a fine difference between Reach and Impact. Most people produce content for reach but my intention of writing content on the LinkedIn platform is for creating impact. The reason is that I like to share my decade worth of professional experience as a software engineer to educate and create awareness among the lesser privileged Engineers by writing posts. I genuinely feel that one doesn’t need hundreds of thousands of views to create an impact. One only need those dozen pair of eyes who needed to see your content and use it to add value to their lives. This creates a long-tail relationship between the reader and the content creator.
Content Writing Strategy:
Deconstructing the LinkedIn algorithm for content distribution: Through various trial and error, I have noticed various patterns in which the LinkedIn content distribution algorithm behaves. In Software engineering terminology this trial and error method I used is called A/B testing model. Which means if you have a content and 2 different ways to present it, then you package the same content in both the ways and see which one sticks. With data on the post engagements, you have solid information to determine which way works better.
- Long-form articles don’t work: The LinkedIn platform currently supports 2 forms of writing. One is called LinkedIn Post which has a 1300 character limit. Another is called LinkedIn Article which doesn’t have any character limit. Also, it allows embedding images, selecting different fonts, etc.
However, LinkedIn Algorithm doesn’t provide enough reach to long-form Articles. For example, the same 1300 character Post which received 20,000 views in a day, once posted as an Article garnered only 97 views over its lifetime.
This clearly shows the LinkedIn algorithm favors short Posts. However since a Post has 1300 characters limit, you have to be smart in putting your message across in fewer words. Breaking a bigger Article into multiple Posts may work here.
- Graveyard of old posts: Unlike other platforms like Instagram and Youtube, LinkedIn posts have 2 problems: a. LinkedIn post doesn’t have a long tail horizon. Meaning the maximum Lifetime of a Post is at around 7 days. This is by design to create a maximum buzz in the shortest possible time, mimicking the Twitter virality strategy. b. LinkedIn post is not discoverable on the Internet from Google search. It lives and dies inside the LinkedIn ecosystem.
Keep this in mind while setting expectations for your next post.
- Why Identifying a niche is essential: Think of Niche as a personal facade that your readers identify you with. There are 2 parts to this: a. Who is your target audience b. How you want your target audience to identify you as
Luckily if you work on one, the other automatically gets done. You have to profile your target audience. While you are at it, write targetted posts. The content in your post should be like a strainer you use to filter/sift who your target audience is. In the initial days while you are experimenting with the topics of your posts, take a close look at the people who are engaging (likes-comments) on your posts. It took me several months to identify that my target audience is “Engineering students from Tier 2 engineering colleges in India”. Notice how constricted the definition of my niche is? Note that “Students” and “Engineering students” are too generic. A niche is always very specific. They are the ones who become your super fan and spread the word about you.
Once you identify the target audience exploit that niche by consistently writing on similar topics. This will give you better reach over time. This is the game of organic growth.
- Diversification of posts content is essential:
Do consider writing with below diversity:
- 25% posts should be about Yourself
- 25% posts should be about Others
- 25% posts should be about Your Work
- 25% posts should be about Your Industry
Content Distribution Strategy:
Once your content text is ready you may use following means to ensure better reach:
a. Tag influencers in your niche: I used to tag influencers in my domain in the starting to get more reach. It works sometimes and you can too try this to get initial eyeballs to your post.
b. Ask imploring questions at the end: To increase engagement in your post, nudging the reader to put a comment is a good way. You may ask a question in the end to do this.
c. Optimize your LinkedIn bio: LinkedIn rewards good posts by bringing visibility to your Profile. This ends up getting high no. of inbound Connection requests from strangers. These may or may not be the people who have read your post.
Therefore it makes more sense that your Profile should clearly speak about your intent of being on the LinkedIn platform. Optimize your LinkedIn bio and put very specific words over there to describe who you are. You have to be very choosy in what persona you want to create. Put the effort in your LinkedIn “Bio” to describe how your audience should perceive you.
For example my LinkedIn bio reads Senior Developer | Storyteller. My About section reads: “My mission on the LinkedIn platform is to connect with fellow Engineers and guide and mentor them to become more employable and productive at work.”
d. Write regularly: I cannot stress enough on this point. It is essential to write regularly. You can’t write 1 viral post in a month and expect to repeat this same magic every month. You have to write regularly. I tried once a week and thrice a week, but I got maximum reach when I write daily.
e. Engage on the LinkedIn platform: Apart from writing posts, you should also Like and Comment on other people’s posts in your domain. These activities are also visible to your target audience and help embolden a certain image and perception about you.
Along with this do ensure that you regularly reply to people who comment on your Post. Be more active but that doesn’t mean you check the LinkedIn app every 30 minutes. I usually give 1 hour every day in the end after all my day’s commitments are over.
f. External links in the post get penalized: I have observed that if you add a link to any external website on your post, then the LinkedIn algorithm penalizes the post by giving it lesser views. If you have to do this, add the link in the comments section.
g. Timing of the post matters: Be cognizant of your target audience and their usual active time on the LinkedIn Platform. Try to post in that window of the day. Reason: LinkedIn will share your post to a narrow set of audience in their feed first. This happens in the first few minutes after your post is published. If LinkedIn sees good engagement on your post among the narrow set of audience then it gradually scales up by serving your post in a larger pool of audience’s feed. The cascading effect continues thereof. Therefore if you timed your post wrong, your target audience may not be online and you will lose out on the golden first few minutes. For example, my window is between 8 am to 11 am and 5 pm to 8 pm to target the regular office going people.
How to deconstruct the LinkedIn virality quotient:
As deplorable as it may sound, even the educated professionals on the LinkedIn platform tend to like low quality viral posts a lot. It is much easier to get them to ‘Like’ your content if it has some shallow Virality quotient.
Here is the result of a few of my experiments:
Content with high viral quotient gets “maximum reach”.
a. Rag to riches story and stories glamorizing self-made men who struggled to reach success sell like hot cake. Pattern to observe such posts: I was nobody, I was a loser, then I put effort and now I am successful.
b. Content which includes polarising viewpoint such as ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’ also falls in this same high virality category. Pattern to observe such posts: Divide people between HR vs Employee or Software engineer vs Software tester or Manager vs Employee, etc.
Content with motivational quotient gets “high reach”. This includes stuff such as motivating others to be a better version of themselves.
Content with imploring component having a strong Call-to-action gets “moderate-to-high” reach. This includes stuff such as exact bullet points to help your readers and add value to their life.
Engagement stats to look for:
I notice there is a
10% - 10% - 10% engagement co-relation on an average on my LinkedIn posts i.e for every 1000 views on the post, 100 people like the post, 10 people comment/share the post and 1 person sends an inbound Connection request to the writer.
Among these 5 datapoints (Views, Likes, Comments, Share, Connection requests), the metric for success should be the count of Likes. Reason: No. of views doesn’t tell you if the reader completely read your post or left in-between. Comments don’t necessarily mean a positive reaction. Share is a very rare occurrence and cannot be therefore used as the metric for success.
How to write sticky posts on LinkedIn, that gets higher engagement:
I choose to use anecdotes and stories to put my point across in the post. This helps the user identify with my posts more cohesively. Now you may choose not to use anecdotes and stories and rather stick to facts and points in your post. Regardless of the presentation you choose, the below-mentioned framework should help drive higher engagement on the posts. I call this the “SUCCES” framework with a missing “S”. Note that a few of the points below are taken from the book Made to stick. This book has been written with intense research done in the field of human psychology.
“S”imple: Your post should be simple and clear; no complex stuff is allowed. Clear message sticks and also helps the readers to easily share them with others. Also, there should be only 1 strong message or point that the post should contain. Focus on this 1 strong message that you want your reader to take home. Based on your target audience you may have to resort to using the oversimplified language for easy consumption. Go for bullet points if you have to.
“U”nexpected: If your post contains a small anecdote then consider using a twist in the plot. The trick is to flabbergast or startle your reader who is otherwise busy swiping through the endless posts. You have to catch his attention so he stops and reads through your post.
“C”ontroversy: Controversy and polarising viewpoints almost always sell. It may sound depraved, but posts after posts, I have observed that a story which divides your audience into 2 polar opposite camps, gets the maximum views and engagements.
“C”redible: There is a reason Nike endorses expensive sportsmen, Toothpaste ads show doctors in Ads. Your post must have some credibility factor so people can feel its veracity. Mention date, city, personal stuff to make it more genuine and credible. You may also leverage Anti-authority. For example, one can show a man with cancer to prove almost effortlessly that smoking is dangerous.
“E”motional: Your readers care about your personal story to connect with you. They don’t want yet another preacher online. Learn to become more “vulnerable” online and get comfortable with that. If you are not vulnerable you are not going to last long.
“S”tory: Storytelling comes naturally to us humans. It is the easiest way to convey and consume a message. Learn the art of conveying your point by writing an anecdotal post where the story is intertwined with the central message.
Why am I sharing this information?
That brings us to the end of this post. Now you may wonder why do I want to share this information? It is a simple fact, if I know a formula that works, I can share it across to let the whole community grow with the shared knowledge. By nature of my personality, I like to share the knowledge I possess to help others grow. It is only through awareness that an individual and the society can strive for better goals and results. Also, it will help my feed get more quality content.
Do leave in the comments section your views after reading this post.
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
Photo by Greg Bulla on Unsplash