Dear readers, this is my last column. After five years, 256 columns and 150,000 words on sales and social media, I am hanging up the keyboard. Why? Well, when I first started this column, I had a lot of relationships in the PCB industry, and this figured to be where work would come from for me. And it did—for a while.
But then I started to build a following on LinkedIn, based on my weekly posts there. And business started coming my way from that following. I started a program of introducing my LinkedIn connections to possible business partners and they started sending prospective customers to me.
Before writing this, I looked through my books and found that 100% of my new clients in the past year were people I did not know one year ago. They either found me on LinkedIn or were referred to me by one of my LinkedIn connections.
So I am proof that this social media stuff works. And I still firmly believe that social media—in particular LinkedIn, but also YouTube and Twitter—can work for manufacturers out there. It allows you to show, very inexpensively, that you are a company—or a person—to be taken seriously. Guy Kawasaki said it best a few years ago, “Social media is for people with brains, but no money.”
To everyone who has read my columns over the past five years, thank you. And now to the column.
I have been publishing on LinkedIn for eighteen months now, and have written a hundred or so posts. I was looking at some of my posts and the engagement they had generated and wondered if any of the obvious factors really had any bearing. So I compared how my posts had done with other people who publish on LinkedIn and I compared their statistics with mine to see if there were clues that were precursors to success.
I concluded that the following have little or no bearing on how much engagement a post gets.
1. The total number of posts published on LinkedIn do not matter.
Your total number of posts published seems to have no bearing on the success of future posts, that is, people who have many more posts than I do don’t seem to average more views and engagement with their posts than me. Of course, their aggregate views may be higher. If I have 20 posts at 200 views and they have 40 posts at 200 views, they have more total views.
Lesson learned: Don’t be deterred from publishing your own posts on LinkedIn because you can never catch up to someone who has posted every week for the last two years. You are starting with a fresh page, but so is that prolific person who posts each week.
2. Engaging with other people’s posts and updates has no discernible effect.
I looked through the activity for 10 people who publish their own posts on LinkedIn. More engagement with other people’s posts and status updates does not necessarily appear to lead those people to your posts. Several people I looked at have three and four times the number of status updates and comments on other people’s posts as I did in the last month, yet seemed to average the same post statistics as I did.
Lesson learned: You don’t need to strive to be visible on LinkedIn for your posts to be successful.
3. Monster posts don’t have much, if any, spillover effect on future posts.
Having a monster post with tons of views and engagement doesn’t necessarily help with the next post’s reception. I have even seen this with the influencer posts:
- Jeff Haden’s November 17, 2015 post: 546,000 views
- Jeff Haden’s next post on December 3, 2015: 23,000 views
Lesson learned: Don’t think that a monster post is necessary to be successful. And if you have a monster post, don’t think you can cruise from now on based on that post. You are guaranteed no views or comments on your next post—just ask Jeff.
4. Post frequency has no impact.
Publishing more often doesn’t seem to change the results on a per-post basis, even if you post once a month, twice a month, every week, or multiple times a day! I reviewed several people who post a lot less often than I do and much more often than I do and our statistics were very close.
Lesson learned: Post on your own schedule, not someone else’s.
5. People with larger numbers of followers do not get more views per follower.
I have 5500 followers. Jeff Haden has 890,000 (between the time I wrote this and published it he may have picked up another 5500). I did some calculations based on the last nine posts we have each published (Jeff has only published nine times in the past year). Some interesting results:
Jeff’s number of followers is more than 160x mine. Here are three observations:
- Jeff has better statistics than I do (that was the easy observation).
- My stats might be comparable to Jeff’s if I took the time to increase the size of my network 160x.
- Jeff’s views and likes per follower are slightly higher than mine, but his comments are much lower. This argues that there is no exponential engagement accelerator with a larger following (for example a following twice as big doesn’t yield two and a half times the engagement).
Grand Conclusion: You can’t “game” (or trick or deceive) the LinkedIn algorithm with any of these things.
However, based on my own experience, here are five factors that do seem to affect overall engagement:
- Writing quality: Not as big a factor as you would think, but being able to write in an interesting and engaging style helps.
- Photo or illustrations: Having no photo is bad. Using a stock photo is better than nothing. Using something original beats using a stock photo. How much better stock and original photos are is open to debate.
- Headline: Better headlines lead to more views and engagement. I know this from my own experience.
- Post topics: On LinkedIn, a post on social selling will do better than a post on coal mining in Armenia (now I have probably offended all the Armenians).
- Luck: LinkedIn has decided to put my posts in Pulse channels a few times. I usually tweet at them to feature my post (except when I have been skeptical of something LinkedIn has or has not done) and have been successful maybe one in ten times. Considering LinkedIn has 130,000-plus posts to choose from every week, I consider myself lucky to have been featured at all.
And one last point on your number of followers. Regular readers who like, comment and share your posts should help. I have a pretty good following (thank you), but ironically, due to the nature of LinkedIn’s lousy notifications algorithm, only a very few of them actually do get notified when I post.
Hmm...looks like I won’t be notifying LinkedIn about this post either.
Bruce Johnston is an authority on using LinkedIn to increase B2B sales. He has more than 30 years’ experience in high-tech sales and management and more than 10 years working in the PCB industry. To read past columns or to contact Bruce, click here.