LinkedIn Switches Favor to Conversations Over Content Sharing
We’ve seen massive changes on LinkedIn this past year. While most of them were right in front of our faces with the new format, the most important change is hidden in the shadows.
Worse yet, since most people haven’t noticed this change, if they’re posting content the same way they’ve done in the past, they’re likely wasting their time and their money.
In March 2017, LinkedIn announced that it was implementing a new system for generating the news feed. This new system is a game changer. In the past, the LinkedIn news feed algorithm focused on the order of the content coming from your connections, those you follow, and notifications. It tried to put the content that you thought would be most relevant and that you would want to engage with at the top and everything else was ordered below it. Theoretically, all of your connections would be able to see your content if they scrolled far enough.
Notice that I said, “everything else.”
LinkedIn is now REMOVING content from the news feed that they deem as spam or irrelevant. Additionally, content that it sees as “low quality” is only shown to a small percentage of your network to see if they engage with it. If they don’t, bye-bye from the news feed.
Of course, LinkedIn doesn’t bother defining “low quality.” Personally, I’m still seeing stuff that I think is low quality and wonder what I could have seen instead.
However, if your update initially gets the “clear” thumbs up from the algorithm, that still doesn’t mean that you’re good to go. In the first several hours, it has another algorithm monitoring its “virality” score based on the amount and velocity of engagement. If you get no or little engagement, the update is then “demoted” meaning that people have to scroll pretty far to find it.
It’s Not Just What You Share, But How You Share It
So, what should you share?
First and foremost, LinkedIn uses the adjective “professional.” But what people see as professional often depends on the view from their own “profession.” Is an article about nutrition professional? What if you’re a nutritionist? We have no guidance on this.
Bottom line is that LinkedIn’s goal is to get people to stay on LinkedIn as long as possible so that they can show ads to you, which generates revenue for them. Therefore, sharing a link that takes people away from LinkedIn isn’t their top preference. While LinkedIn has never said that they demote external links, there is growing anecdotal evidence that they may be. Creating an update that elicits long comments and replies from many people keeps people on LinkedIn for longer periods making LinkedIn happy.
If you want to share a link to an external article, you better make sure that people will want to engage with it; simply posting the link and letting the preview do the rest will likely land you in the land of “low quality.” That means that the update that you craft to go along with that article link must start a conversation – quickly or it will get demoted.
If you’re using an automation service or RSS to auto post curated articles (like Buffer or FMG Suite for financial advisors) that automatically sends a pre-crafted update or that you just pop into a queue and don’t craft a custom update, you’re in trouble – and this goes for plugins that auto post your blog articles. If you consistently post your content via the API and it’s nothing but the link, then LinkedIn will tag your ENTIRE account as “low quality” and it will take multiple high engagement posts to remove it. I know because it happened to me.
It is possible to post a status update that is just an update – link not required. Believe it or not, but a LinkedIn Post allows up to 1300 characters. It allows for paragraphs, blank lines, and even emojis. You can essentially write a mini article directly in the update.
A status update should be crafted to address a point that you want to make and start a discussion about. It needs to tell a story. The first couple lines have to make people click on the “read more” link to open the entire update up. Yes, that means you have to be a good writer or hire a good writer to get the best results. To learn more about how to craft an effective status update in this new paradigm, please check out this article by Josh Fechter of BAMF who goes into so much great detail, I’m not going to try to duplicate it: http://www.bamf.media/linkedin-views/
LinkedIn’s Paradigm Shift
This change signals a major paradigm shift. Before this change, LinkedIn’s stated goal was to be the place that people came to find and read news and professional content. That’s the entire reason why they created the Article Publishing and Influencer platform (previously known as Pulse).
What they got was a link pushing fest that became extremely noisy and made it difficult to find high quality content that led to actual engagement (keeping people on LinkedIn longer). Further, when people followed the links, they didn’t always come back. What they thought would keep people on LinkedIn longer, didn’t actually happen.
Now LinkedIn wants the news feed to be a place of discussion. Since they’ve essentially killed Groups with the changes over the last couple of years, there aren’t as many good conversations happening on LinkedIn. By encouraging conversations in the news feed, they’re essentially creating a public square as opposed to members only club houses.
Instead of demonstrating your expertise by writing an article (whether on LinkedIn or your own website) and pushing it into your news feed, LinkedIn wants you to demonstrate your expertise through discussion.
Time to Change
This means that your entire LinkedIn content marketing needs to change. The advice that I’ve given in the past is to post something every day. Find a relevant article from the news if you don’t have anything original and share it to stay visible to your network and remind them what to do.
If you continue to do this, you will be put into low-quality jail. Practically no one will see your updates. Even more painful would be if you were paying a company to push this type of content out for you; you’re wasting your money.
It is now better to craft one long, high quality discussion post per week and follow through by replying to comments in the discussion to keep it active through the week. This means strategically tagging people whose opinions you’d like to hear and who you know would enjoy participating. But, be careful to not constantly tag the same people as it can get annoying and they may disconnect from you. This strategy is important, but it must be used judiciously.
Timing is important. Getting significant engagement in the first 4 hours of the post is what sets it up for possible virality. The running definition of a viral LinkedIn post is when it has more views than you have Connections & Followers. The best time to post is the best time that your target market would be active on LinkedIn. I tend to focus on the 8am and noon ranges of whatever time zone I’m targeting.
I know that many people may see this change as a bad thing; I don’t. Yes, it is going to take more time and thought to craft an update to get the amount of visibility you want, BUT the return that you get from those updates will be much higher. Those who are trying to spend as little time, effort and money to get the benefits of LinkedIn without truly using the platform will be out of luck.
LinkedIn has made it very hard to “game” the system. If LinkedIn is the platform where your target market is and that will help your business grow, then you will have to bite the bullet and truly invest in it.
If you have a well-developed strategy and system, then the time and/or money you invest in LinkedIn will return exponentially.
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