Did you know that you can have content go viral on LinkedIn? The business-oriented social networking giant is known for being an excellent place for connecting job seekers with employers, and this year it dips its toes in media by integrating with Pulse and rolling out a brand new publishing platform in 2014 to take its services a step further. Today, LinkedIn Pulse is both a mobile app and desktop featuring offering business news, typically of opinion and editorial format, written and read by professionals of all calibers, from top execs to interns. If you or your business constantly publishes new blog content, especially relating to business and self improvement topics, you’ll want to read on and see if LinkedIn’s service will be beneficial for you. It certainly has been for me!
Going Viral on LinkedIn
When it comes to going viral on popular sites like YouTube or Facebook, famous content like Psy’s “Gangnam Style” or photo memes like Grumpy Cat might come to mind, and for good reason as both were cultural phenomenons with millions, even billions of views and shares. Truly, the idea of going viral is actually pretty straightforward: “When something goes viral, it is viewed by a very high number of people in just a short period of time.” Under this definition, you don’t need millions of views and shares, and this is the case with content on LinkedIn Pulse. The top posts of all time on Pulse have only amassed up to 3.1 million views and several hundred likes and comments. Not in the ball park of say Taylor Swift’s lastest music video, which gained over 150 million views in less than a month. But given the audience on Pulse, comprised mainly of CEOs, executives, and other business professionals, LinkedIn is definitely not a network to be overlooked.
While there are many obvious benefits to posting to a new online platform, LinkedIn’s publishing tool differs from the rest in many ways. There are many strategies to viral success on LinkedIn that are extremely different than say what works on other channels such as Reddit or Twitter. Of course, there is still no formula to going viral that will be guaranteed to work, but here are some important key points to enhance your chances of doing so. Without further ado, here’s a quick intro to LinkedIn long form posts, along with some tips on how to make your posts succeed.
Introducing LinkedIn Long Form Posts
I first found out about this service, known as long form posts, through a marketing client who asked me to try and make sense of it and see if it would benefit his business. When it first debuted in summer 2014, long form posting was by invitation only, but as of today pretty much all LinkedIn users should have access to this publishing tool. At the moment, the publishing tool is pretty basic, allowing for the writing of text and embedding/uploading of photos and videos. There currently is no image drag-and-drop feature to upload, and there is no section specifically for inputting tags, keywords, or categories, which may sound a bit dubious since LinkedIn uses a proprietary formula to determine how relevant your post is and categorizes it automatically. Unfortunately, there is no way to override this automatic categorization, which can be good or bad: good in that only quality posts will get pushed through, and perhaps frustrating if you cannot catch on to LinkedIn’s formula for successful posting.
Why Post on LinkedIn?
There are several incentives to post on LinkedIn:
- Any long form posts you publish can be linked and displayed on your professional profile, which today serves many people as their online resume. This can be extremely beneficial for wordsmiths who want to show off their written skills, a feat that can be pretty difficult to achieve in the visuals-centric world of the Internet.
- Long form posts are automatically shared with your connections on LinkedIn, and you of course have the regular social media share options to proliferate the post on other networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Your post will also automatically be searchable both on and off of LinkedIn.
- Any members of LinkedIn, regardless of if they are connected to you or not, have the option of following your long-form posts to be updated when you publish a new post.
- LinkedIn members can freely comment on your article, stimulating debates and discussions. The great thing about this is that every member on LinkedIn has the incentive to remain courteous as their profiles contain their professional information. In general, LinkedIn commenters truly do aim to be helpful and supportive, unless the topic of the article is divisive in nature.
Where Long Form Posts End Up
Before you begin posting on LinkedIn, it’s important to understand where your posts will end up. Pulse is an award-winning news application that was recently fully integrated with LinkedIn. The result is a nice stream of news pieces (long form posts) tailored to professionals that is available as both a stand alone mobile app and accessible through your LinkedIn profile on a desktop computer.
There are several ways to find articles on LinkedIn Pulse:
- Follow Influencers, or top executives and professionals.
- Follow Channels, or topics.
- Follow Publishers.
Two out of three of these methods cannot be influenced by most LinkedIn members–there is no (easy) way for your long form post to show up under the Influencer or Publisher list. That leaves Channels. There are over 50 Channels on LinkedIn, and these serve as collections of topics. The way that LinkedIn’s “intelligent and evolving tagging algorithm” works is that each long form post is automatically evaluated by the algorithm and then sorted into one of these 50+ Channels. There is no obvious way to influence the algorithm other than to make your long form post extremely targeted and full of relevant keywords.
*Update: As of February 2015, LinkedIn is now allowing for tags to be added to each new long form post. At the moment, you can only add three tags at a time, and it’s uncertain as to how this affects where the algorithm will ultimately sort your post since you still cannot specify which category your post belongs in. But it’s a step in that direction! The tag section is available at the very bottom of your new post window.
What to Write About On LinkedIn
Based on the above observations, it is crucial to study the 50+ Channels on LinkedIn and make sure all of your long form posts have obvious connections to one of these topics. LinkedIn currently sorts all of its Channels based on how many followers each Channel has. Note that the top 5 Channels have millions of viewers, which is a good incentive to base your posts on these topics to gain maximum exposure. At the same time, don’t forget about Channels at the bottom of the follower list. Even though they have fewer followers, these Channels are important because that means there is likely less competition among long form posts vying for spots in these Channels.
Marketing professional Justin Mares put together this nice visual summarizing the key topics that tend to perform the best on LinkedIn:
The bottom line is that LinkedIn is generally not the best place to post super technical or niche articles UNLESS they can be obviously and directly tied to one of LinkedIn’s Channels. Also, breaking news articles may or may not do well; it all depends on your ability to take that news story and be able to spin a version that relates to a Channel on LinkedIn. For example, I’ve had a couple of really big hits on LinkedIn when I took the breaking news of Foursquare switching over to Swarm and Airbnb’s new logo when I added additional analysis relating to the topics of Social Media and Marketing, respectively. Basically, don’t just report on what happened, but offer your insights and opinions.
Your best bet for LinkedIn content success is to stick with what LinkedIn is already known for: career advancement and professional improvement.
What NOT to Do with LinkedIn Posts
Always keep in mind that a machine, not a human, is evaluating and categorizing your content, and as a result, there are a couple hidden rules to keep in mind:
- While LinkedIn encourages users to publish long form posts frequently, it also notes that posts can only fall into one Channel per week. That is to say, if you write a post on Monday that falls into the Technology Channel, you can’t write a post on Tuesday to go into that same Channel; the second post will need to be of another topic.
- If you’re familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics, many of those basics will apply on LinkedIn as well. Never stuff long form posts with too many keywords or over-share your posts on too many Groups at once. Space out your promotional activity on LinkedIn, otherwise you’ll be flagged as a spammer.
Gain the Most Visibility By Doing:
LinkedIn does not offer a ton of specific advice on this topic other than:
- Make sure every long form post you publish is targeted to resonate deeply and obviously with your intended readers.
- Carefully consider not only post content but post images and headlines as well. Seriously, there’s an art to a catchy headline, and the science behind it is pretty fascinating!
- Fill long form posts with keywords relating to the topic or Channel of your choice, but do not over stuff keywords.
- Build a follower base of your LinkedIn posts by sharing your post on as many channels as possible (but again, do not overdo this or you will appear like spam).
- Respond to any comments that others leave on your post.
- Actively read and comment on other users’ long form posts to get your opinions out there and gain more traction and visibility on LinkedIn by appearing like an active, contributing member of the community.
Start Posting on LinkedIn!
To find LinkedIn Pulse, go to your profile look at the menu bar under search; hover over the “Companies” and click on “Pulse.”
To write a long form post, head to this link here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/new
Have you had success with LinkedIn long form posting? I’d love to hear your stories, experiments, and any other questions you might have on the topic. Let me know in the comments below!