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
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.
- Healthcare — 1,368,704
- Recruiting & Hiring — 1,247,329
- Your Career — 1,041,381
- Customer Experience — 1,150,290
- Green Business — 1,016,656
- Finance & Banking — 869,740
- Business Travel — 758,824
- Big Data — 784,811
- Law & Government — 702,558
- Editor’s Picks — 628,879
- Social Impact — 648,971
- Career Curveballs — 641,420
- Retail — 602,560
- If I Were 22 — 236,855
- Online Advertising — 174,016
- Design — 168,125
- Apparel & Fashion — 128,572
- Automotive — 109,456
- Construction — 101,109
- Entertainment — 100,106
- Mobile — 79,655
- Airlines & Aviation — 91,964
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:
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:
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 1 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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Some of these have directed up to ~1000 unique visitors to individual pages on our site, and they all follow a simple formula.
- Simple, compelling headline
- Question (a “how about you?”)
- Description and link
- Image aligned right
- Explanation of what you get
- 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:
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.
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?