Why It’s Worth Rethinking Your LinkedIn Strategy

Why It’s Worth Rethinking Your LinkedIn Strategy

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but LinkedIn has really hit its stride. I keep hearing from people who are surprised that it’s suddenly ... interesting.

It's the “professional” social network, so in theory we should have been putting our professional content there all along. But in the past LinkedIn was just … boring. It wasn’t sticky. You went to it when someone sent you a message or you needed to find someone, but you didn’t stay there. You didn’t read content there. (Or at least I didn’t.)

But earlier this year, I found myself actively scrolling through LinkedIn and hanging around to read good articles on topics that actually interested me. I even watched a few ... videos.

What changed? The simple answer is that LinkedIn updated its algorithm. Before it focused on showing you what "influencers" — people like Bill Gates — posted, but now it’s set up to focus on showing you content posted by people in your network. You know, the people who actually influence your thinking and behaviors.

LinkedIn is experimenting with other ways to draw people in, including a pilot program in which where users create a series of articles on a topic. My first series on B2B marketing was a dud, but my second series on how to make a living as a writer took off. It has continued to garner more and more subscribers every week.

The lesson? Create interesting content on LinkedIn and readers will follow.

It's officially time to move past the stereotype that LinkedIn is for “networking” and for sales. It really doesn't have to just be sales bros pitching each other. Try this approach instead.

Connect, Don’t Just Consume

Connection is at the core of LinkedIn, so lean into that. We often get stuck in consumption mode on social media, passively reading and consuming content. But using LinkedIn effectively means focusing on building connections with people. And that means actively joining the conversation.

“Our goal on Linkedin is to connect with others,” says Michael Brenner, CEO of Marketing Insider Group. “So there is a higher level of receptivity to those who share relevant and interesting content.”

But to really connect with others, you have to do that actively. Comment on other people’s content. Read what they post and “like” it if you appreciate what they share. Tag them in content that’s relevant to them.

Please don't take this as a "hack" and start tagging rando people to get their attention, though. Tagging has to be based on a real connection, says Jake Jorgovan, founder of Lead Cookie, a service that uses LinkedIn for lead generation. “Tagging is very powerful when done right, but you see people that do it in a skeezy way. You'll see people that post something and then they tag 30 people for no reason. And that's the wrong way to do it.”

What’s the right way? Jake offers an example: “There's this trend in technology called ‘no code.’ When I heard about it I didn't even know this existed. And so I wrote about it and tagged a bunch of my technical friends to get their insights and feedback on it. That led to a ton of conversation and dialogue in the comments.” It worked because he was genuinely interested in the concept and invited others he thought would be interested to have a conversation about it.

Our instinct is often to focus on ourselves — sharing our content, publishing our ideas and consuming other people’s content. But LinkedIn is more helpful if you resist this impulse. Invite people to be part of a conversation, and participate in other people's conversations. Amplify other voices.

Be Yourself

One of the biggest mistakes people make on LinkedIn is being inauthentic. Whether it’s a profile written to sounds like a resume or content that reads like a corporate memo, there’s something about the platform historically that encourages us to resist creating an honest, real voice.

People aren’t looking for official brand statements. So show up as an individual. Professional doesn’t mean "not human"; you can talk about work in a human way. (My friend Mike Carden, one of the best marketers I know, has a saying: Anytime you have to choose between being "professional" and being memorable, pick memorable.)

And the humans behind LinkedIn are trying to drive that kind of authentic sharing. “As editors, we love to see members giving their take about what’s happening in the news or their industry,”says Lorraine K. Lee, news editor at LinkedIn. “We find that this type of content resonates most with our members, and helps creators build a community of people who want to talk about similar topics and who turn to them for professional insights. Members who share their personal stories and experiences in a genuine way also inspire others.”

For LinkedIn, engagement is driven by people. And the people who are going to care the most about your content are your contacts. They want to read content written by a real person, not press releases.

Jake also emphasizes this need for authenticity. “What really gets the most engagement is authentic posts by people,” he says. “When you share something that’s actually real, something authentic or even raw, you put yourself out there. One of the most popular posts I ever had focused on some of the lessons that I learned when I had to lay off six people. It got a huge amount of traction. And that’s because it was this really raw, authentic thing that I don't think most people ever write about.”

Participate, Don’t Pitch

We can’t talk about LinkedIn without addressing the elephant in the room. Everyone has been sold to on LinkedIn in a way that feels forced and intrusive. And Michael Brenner sees this area as a major issue for content marketers to address. “The biggest mistake people make in content marketing overall is being too promotional or self-serving,” he says. “This is especially true on LinkedIn. Write for your audience and you will attract more readers and followers. Write for yourself and you will push people away.”

Profiles are a great example of how you can share without selling, Jake says. “The mistake a lot of people make is they write a resume instead of a profile,” he says. “They make it all about them. Pivot your profile from being about you to being about your target audience. Show them how you help them.”

Have you started using LinkedIn more? What have you learned? I’d love to hear from you ... on LinkedIn! You can reach me here.

Mary Ellen Slayter is CEO of Rep Cap. Before creating her own content marketing firm, she served as director of content development and a senior general business and finance editor at SmartBrief, a leading publisher of e-mail newsletters. Before joining SmartBrief, she spent 8 years at The Washington Post, where she authored the Career Track column and worked as an editor in the business news department. You can find Mary Ellen on Twitter @MESlayter.

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