Social Media Strategy

6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

Assuming that writing is “leadership at scale,” a writer’s greatest ally is re-publishing — previously written words can often find a whole new audience.

With that in mind, from June 2nd – July 2nd I started a little experiment. I put LinkedIn’s new publishing platform to the test.

The execution was simple: Monday through Friday, I would post 1-2 previously published articles of mine on the site and gauge the response. I was primarily concerned with audience quality, overall reach, and deducing which topics worked on LinkedIn.

The results have been excellent: I amassed over 255,262 total views in a month.

Since LinkedIn publishing is a new feature for the site, all of my results are from a starting point of zero:

  • From 0 → 255,262 total article views
  • From 0 → 35 published articles
  • From 0 → 3,022 LinkedIn followers

See everything I published here.

Dividing total views by number of posts yields an absurd 7303.6 average views per post — however, a single article contributed to 212k of the views all by itself.

Taking that anomaly out, we’d have 42,674 total views with 34 articles, for an average of 1255.1 views per post.

When you consider the workload — picking out former “winning” posts and correctly formatting them — you’re talking about an average of 10 minutes per re-publish.

Well worth the effort, but sharing my numbers with you isn’t exactly helpful by itself.

Below I’ll break down the foremost lessons I learned in this 30-day publishing experiment.

Industry Insights Resonate More With the LinkedIn Audience

As one might expect, all things related to business, careers, entrepreneurship, hiring and government/finance can find a place on LinkedIn. It is generally considered the “professional” social network and is thus populated by a professional userbase.

I was, however, quite surprised at the popularity of certain channels — LinkedIn’s version of categories — and how they managed to attract such huge communities on LinkedIn.

I ranked every top LinkedIn channel by total followers. Here’s a list of channels #11 – 22 to showcase the variety that appears.

You can also use a site like BuzzSumo, input LinkedIn.com, and then filter the content through a specific keyword (ex: “customer service”) to find the most popular articles on the site that contain that phrase.

Generally speaking, the thing to remember is LinkedIn is primarily used by people looking for industry insights.

Whether they are entry level and want to learn “skills for ____” or “how to find a job in ____”, or they’re at a managerial level and want to learn about “hiring for ____” and aspects of leading a great team, the content that seems to convert is industry-specific content around professional skills.

Audience Quality is a Major Benefit

Although it is somewhat common for people to exaggerate their job titles,  my data suggests that putting out quality writing in professional topics will attract a high-level audience:

kUTK0H8 6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

Perhaps more importantly, it’s easy for people who don’t consider themselves “writers” to break into topics that generally struggle to find an audience elsewhere. The sort of people (and articles) that get traction on LinkedIn have a lot more variety than your standard business fare:

WlaZWKP 6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

Where else would one find a community of 107,000 people online that are interested in the construction business?

It gets even better if you’re in a more general business topic that usually doesn’t have the “social currency” to get much lift on social media — I’ve found the million follower customer experience channel to be a godsend for Help Scout content.

To be perfectly clear, you should still always post on your own, self-hosted site first. It’s never smart to let someone else own your words.

But re-publishing on LinkedIn might become a key part of your distribution if you’re in an otherwise un-sexy topic.

Stack Different Topics to Increase Readership

The main way that an article will get traction on LinkedIn, outside of your own promotional efforts, is through getting featured on a particular “channel” within LinkedIn.

When your article is featured on a particular channel, followers of that channel will see it, can comment on it, and you’ll have the option of being featured in the channel’s slider.

Here’s what that looks like:

vWX3W8s 6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

Once you’re featured in a channel, you will generally not be featured again until your first post runs its course and is removed.

This means that if you write about a variety of topics, you should stack your articles using a strategy that spreads them out. Posting two articles about the customer experience in two days might result in one getting picked for a “channel feature,” but it will also guarantee that the other won’t get featured.

On the other hand, if you had posted about two different topics, it is possible that both will get featured — my articles have.

T1Dxtfl 6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

Two channel features in the same week will definitely get the ball rolling.

An important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t actually “select” a topic when you publish on LinkedIn. Instead, it appears that someone will manually decide which channel your article fits in. You’ll know it has been featured by checking the bottom of the article.

AR1SpNK 6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

zlt4FWl 6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

Put out your best work, give it a little “push” with some personal promotion, and make sure that you diversify your topics enough so that you can get multiple channel features in the same week.

Headline and Image are Critical to Success

A strong or mediocre article headline and image can be the difference between a piece taking off and in it falling flat. This is nothing new, but it deserves to be mentioned here. The way LinkedIn is laid out places an inordinate amount of importance on your article title and headline.

On both the sidebar and in content navigation pages, the only preview available for any article is the title and the image.

1wwJ2rP 6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

I’ve certainly seen people get away with generic stock photos, but generally these folks already had large followings (or were Richard Branson), and often the topic was just fluffy enough (“9 Ways to Be Successful”) for the headline to do most of the heavy lifting.

For the rest of us, I would select your headline and image carefully, making sure both play into the theme of the article and complement one another — this is LinkedIn, so “You Won’t Believe What Happened Next” is to be thoroughly avoided, but all of the classics (numbers, strong words, curiosity) work just the same.

Always Include a Relevant Call-to-Action

Syndication’s main goal is the spread of your ideas and the building of more awareness, links, and of course, traffic.

The interesting thing with self-syndication is that you control the promotional aspects of the article. 

With this in mind, publish your LinkedIn pieces with an obvious CTA.

For many of my articles, I add a simple byline that I copy and paste along with a final section that brings attention to one of Help Scout’s free guides:

yNkPX5C 6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

Some of these have directed up to ~1000 unique visitors to individual pages on our site, and they all follow a simple formula.

  1. Simple, compelling headline
  2. Question (a “how about you?”)
  3. Description and link
  4. Image aligned right
  5. Explanation of what you get
  6. Final CTA

The thing to consider is that all of our CTAs point to open resources. I imagine the results would be great for those seeking to grow their email list if they pointed to an opt-in.

Publish During Normal Work Hours

Frankly, most “data” on the best time to publish that I’ve seen is useless.

Everything around LinkedIn says “during work hours,” and drills down to the super-specific times of 7am – 6pm. Wow, so incredibly helpful.

I unfortunately don’t have much to add myself as I’m relying on anecdotal evidence and don’t have a great way to track how time is affecting anything, but my gut tells me that any “down time” around work hours probably works best:

  • Right before work, 7-8am
  • During a lunch break, 11:30am – 12:30pm
  • Right before leaving work, 4pm

LinkedIn definitely shuts down after traditional work hours, and I’ve yet to see any meaningful traction on the weekend.

I’ll keep tabs on this as I publish, and hopefully in the future someone will gather meatier data on this topic.

LinkedIn Publishing is a Career-Booster

Here’s a last little note I’ll add for people who actually use LinkedIn for their job hunt — you should definitely be writing.
Profile views tend to skyrocket if you publish a piece that gets any traction:

5PEUoBg 6 Content Marketing Takeaways from 30 Days of LinkedIn Publishing

In my connections, I’m in the top 1% of profile views — and the only thing I currently use LinkedIn for is to write!

If your profile is even the least bit optimized, you should be able to get job offers, get people back to your site, or get people to explore your company (if you’re already employed / are a founder).

Basically, there is no better way to currently put your LinkedIn profile to work than by publishing under it.

I believe publishing is still invite-only, but there seems to be an application page here.

What’s Next?

This is just a preliminary exploration of LinkedIn publishing for now. What do you think of what I’ve covered so far? Will you start writing on LinkedIn?

  • http://cindyking.biz/ Cindy King

    Thank you for sharing, Greg! This is the information I’ve been looking for. Do you have any recommendations on the size of the image to use in the article your publish?

    • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

      Happy to Cindy!

      I’ve been using our custom images, which are 563 x 315.

      I think a rectangular image works best just because that’s how LinkedIn crops the images on their navigation (sidebar, etc.)

  • http://www.bikestylespokane.com/ BarbChamberlain

    Very thought-provoking. I’ve occasionally shared posts from our site at WAbikes.org (bike advocacy) in my own profile and in relevant groups (in which I am also active so I’m not just dropping our links). That brings in a little traffic but nowhere near the volumes of Facebook or Twitter, but then it’s also not as widely available or promoted as this channel would be.

    This will make me go mine our topics with this audience in mind and see if I can publish on LinkedIn. Our work in public policy, the business value of bicycling, and the growing world of bike tourism are all topics where we have expertise that would be relevant. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Arnie Kuenn

    Hi Greg – I’ve been publishing on LinkedIn for several months now. But just once per week. I see similar views per article, but I am disappointed in the amount of traffic actually making it to my site. Have you done any analytics to see if you are getting traffic or other measurable rewards for your efforts?

    • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

      Hey Arnie, that’s interesting as I’ve been pretty happy with the traffic being sent over — obviously, it’s going to be a fraction of the people who “viewed” the post.

      I would say looking at your articles, it’s because your bio contains 6+ CTAs.

      As you can see from my CTA example, there’s only *1* thing to read next. The Steve Jobs post sent something like ~2000 visitors to our eBook about email support, which isn’t bad considering I just copy + pasted the article.

      I’d try making your closing CTA more focused — I’d love to see how an opt-in page performs with LinkedIn traffic.

  • bobscheier

    Great article and thanks for sharing! Any ideas on how to get the coveted “featured” spot on a channel (besides having great content?)

  • Harrison Kratz

    Thanks for sharing, Greg. Great to see how LinkedIn publishing has worked for someone who doesn’t already have a massive following.

    I’m interested to hear how it was working out for you before the Steve Jobs post though. As you mentioned, that’s a major outlier and is tough to duplicate. Can you share how many followers you had before that article / what your steady growth was like?

    Also, to follow up on Arnie’s question, did you see tangible results on your other articles?

  • http://www.strategyaudit.com.au Allen Roberts

    I had a similar experience. I republished only 4 articles, and for me, garnered very useful added eyballs. The numbers were nothing like yours, but neither was the starting point.

  • http://www.keydifference.com/ Devin Thomson

    Hi Greg
    Thanks for sharing. Its a grt article and will helps me a lot. Need more on Marketing and Social Media.

  • Nick Beaumont

    Hi Greg,

    My only concern is that if I republish posts on LinkedIn, my regular blog it will lose some Google juice from being counted as duplicate content. do you have any thoughts on this?

    Nick
    @nickbeaumont

    • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

      Hey Nick, as I shared with Melissa above, you can deal with this pretty easily.

      Read this post: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/my

      It’s very easy to add a rel=“canonical” Tag and republish without fear.

      • http://www.seo-doctor.co.uk/ SEO Doctor

        But you cannot add this to Linkedin posts, as seen on all your published articles

        • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

          My mistake here — I scanned Nick’s reply, saw “republish” and immediately answered; knee-jerk reaction as it’s a common question I see with traditional republishing.

          Yes, the LinkedIn editor is unfortunately a bit janky, so rel=“canonical” is out.

          As a precaution, I will rename headlines that come close to any of our keywords; for headlines that have no intended keyword (Steve Jobs post), I will leave it as is.

          I’ve seen it argued that extensive republishing this way (on multiple sites, never using rel=“canonical”) can end up hurting the original; we have yet to see any drop for any keywords, as I do take precautions when able.

          This is an interesting part of the LinkedIn convo, as I mentioned this was just a preliminary test — what do people think, worth the risk to republish without being able to correctly reference the original source?

      • http://markvang.com/ Mark Vang

        Gregory, does LinkedIn let you modify the rel=canonical tag? I was reading a post that indicates this is an issue. (I can provide the post link if you want to see it.)

        Also were you aware that when LinkedIn opened the publisher platform to everyone, they were also adding 1st level connections as followers – automatically – so that would account for your quick rise in followers. They have stopped that now and created an un-subscribe option (which didn’t exist before either).

  • http://experientialcommunications.com kevinanselmo

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Greg. I see great potential for the LinkedIn publishing platform for my audiences within higher education. Quick question for clarification – is there anything you can do to get featured in a category (besides pushing a piece on your channels)? Do you know how pieces are selected for channels? From what I understand from reading your post, it is kind of a random selection based on views? Thanks!

  • Melissa Agnes

    Great information. However, I wonder about duplicate content. If you repurposed your original content, did you make changes to it or just republish what was already written and published elsewhere? If so, were you worried about being penalized by Google for duplicate content?

    • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

      Melissa, you should read this post: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/myths-about-duplicate-content/

      It’s very easy to add a rel=“canonical” Tag and republish without fear.

      • B

        Greg, are you sure it’s easy to implement cross domain canonical on Linkedin? You didn’t on your Steve Jobs article and now the Linkedin reprint is ranking above the Helpscout one in Google when you search for the title. The Huffpo reprint is also ranking above the Helpscout one, although that is in News results.

        If you care about organic search engine traffic, I wouldn’t republish on Linkedin unless the article you’re republishing isn’t getting you any organic SE traffic on your own site. On the other hand, you did get a lot of exposure on Linkedin and some referral traffic so that has advantages, but there is a tradeoff, so there is no one size fits all.

        • http://www.sparringmind.com Gregory Ciotti

          This can be easily circumvented if you simply change the article headline, I always write different SEO titles vs. what actually appears on the article.

          For the Steve Jobs post, there was no intended keyword or search traffic. So overall, great points, there’s always that risk in republishing, but it’s easy to get around as long as you don’t use an “SEO title” that contains your keyword when you republish off site.

  • Bill Belew

    Greg,

    This is great stuff. Thanks for being so generous in sharing actual numbers with real strategy.

    If you lived in the Bay Area, or visit sometime, I’d like to invite you speak to my Meetup groups.

  • Richard Stuart

    Greg. Thank you. Your insights and pragmatic approach speak volumes on how to market your marketing.

  • http://www.pammarketingnut.com PamMktgNut

    Excellent article and recap. We have found the publication feature to be valuable as well. I agree the quality of the audience is high and we have seen decent ROI and conversions on our call to actions because of such. Thanks for this great summary and sharing your numbers!