A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to hear two editors from LinkedIn, Daniel Roth (Executive Editor) and Caroline Fairchild (New Economy Editor), speak at a lecture series organized hosted by Index Ventures in San Francisco. The topic? How to write LinkedIn posts that cut through and start discussions. At the risk of running into trouble with LinkedIn’s SpamBot (which frowns on any post under 250 words), I’ll try to summarize the key points:
1. Writing long form posts (500-2000 words) a month is recommended to start generating a regular cadence of content, while sharing half a dozen status updates (quotes, photos, promotion news, etc) throughout the day is fine.
2. Write about a newsy professional topic with which you have direct experience. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be some acknowledged leader or have a huge amount of institutional expertise, like a NYT opinion page contributor. Think – why me? Why now? What am I uniquely positioned to offer? It can be an issue that you’ve had challenges with, and arrived at some sort of solution that you think others may find helpful. Sharing internal memos on workplace issues like meetings, PTO, benefits and company culture is often quite popular.
3. Write about the kinds of things that you would generally discuss during the first 10 to 20 minutes of a professional conference of associates and colleagues. The kind of situation where you’re in the lobby of a hotel and everyone’s wearing name tags. Keep it friendly, authentic, and informed, but stay away from politics and religion.
3. If you want to start developing a dedicated LinkedIn audience, now is the time to start posting regularly, not next year. The reason? Today all the posts that you write are shared directly with your followers. The company isn’t deploying any dubious Facebook-style algorithms that selectively share posts to a fraction of your followers. Yet.
4. Headlines are insanely important. Caroline Fairchild, who has spent some time at Huffington Post, knows a lot about this (Huff Po A/B tests their headlines relentlessly) . Before you post, send out half a dozen headline pitches to your friends asking them which one they would click on first. Which one represents the most immediate professional return on investment to them. We’re all struggling in our own ways to better understand our hectic professional spheres. Don’t be cute. Don’t be clever. Be clear and direct.
5. Write as a person – not a brand, company, etc. Don’t repurpose press releases. Don’t overly promote yourself. Instead of banging the drum about some new product launch, write about the lessons you learned along the way to bringing it to market. Avoid anything that feels incubated and compiled by committee. That material is dead on arrival.
6. The most important point – start a discussion. Those of us in content marketing are used to talking about CTAs, or calls to action. In LinkedIn’s case, the concluding CTA should be a smart question. The point is to prompt a lively series of responses. LinkedIn’s algorithms pick up on pieces with high comments to view ratios, and will bump those up to human editors for possible promotion to Pulse.
My CEO’s most popular post, for instance, was called “What Was The First Book You Ever Bought on Amazon?” The context was the massive disparity of consumer insight between Amazon and Walmart, but it inspired lots of people to go digging through their Amazon order pages and proudly proffer up their first book. Mine was a travel memoir about Patagonia, while my CEO’s was “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” So there you go.