All About Your LinkedIn Followers

Who your LinkedIn Followers are, how following works and how to take advantage of it. This is a revised version of an article I wrote in the Spring of 2016, updated to account for changes in the desktop user interface.  

Summary: following people on LinkedIn doesn’t really work, but here are some tips on what you can do about it.

How you obtain followers

You tend to pick up followers when you publish on LinkedIn. On each article on the   LinkedIn longform publishing platform, a light blue “Follow” appears right after the author’s name at the top of the article. Another opportunity to follow appears at the bottom of the article with a “Follow” button to the far right of the author’s name. I don’t know LinkedIn has two places to “Follow” on each article. The one on the bottom makes more sense , as I decide I want to follow someone after I read their article, not before.  

You can choose to follow someone from other places on LinkedIn such as the “recent activity page” which makes sense, or from the drop down menu behind the “connect” button on their LinkedIn profile, which doesn’t.  

So who are these people and what do they want?

Followers are your ephemeral connections. They are interested in what you have to say. They are not interested in connecting with you; at least not yet. They are fans of what you write, but not necessarily you yourself. They may have liked or commented or shared one of your posts and are interested enough that they have chosen to follow you to see what else you come up with. They are so intangible that LinkedIn doesn’t even give them a relationship designation like a “1” or a “2”.   

The benefits in following someone

LinkedIn tells us that the advantage to following someone is that you will be notified when they post or publish on LinkedIn. This is both 100% true and 100% misleading. This is because the “notification” you will receive is not one of those that appear under your notifications tab. Instead their post or article will get tossed into the salad that is your homepage feed, along with everybody else’s, where the chances of you seeing it are extremely low. And that was it, that was your notification that someone you followed has published something.

So if someone signs up to follow you they will likely never see the content they signed up to see. You used to get some “real” notifications for posts and articles if you had a high “connection strength score” with another LinkedIn user, but that seems to be a thing of the past too.

How to find out how many followers you have

 

Go to your Profile and your number of followers will be the first thing listed at the top left in your recent activity section. This is your total number of followers. In my case when I wrote this article I had 6,273 followers. But this number includes your connections. So next, go your “Settings and Privacy” page. The new Settings and Privacy page has your number of connections displayed quite prominently. In my case, I had 5,297 connections when I wrote this article.

 

 

And now for some math that could only take place on LinkedIn:

Subtract your number of connections from your number of followers to get your number of followers.         

Or to put it a little more clearly, your total number of followers minus your number of connections equals the number of people who have “signed up” to follow you.

For most LinkedIn users, this number will be zero. For people who are active on LinkedIn – sharing, liking and commenting on other people’s posts – this number may be in the dozens. For people who write and post often on LinkedIn, it can be in the hundreds or thousands (in my case it was just under a thousand when I wrote this article). And of course the LinkedIn Influencers can have hundreds of thousands of followers.

How to see who your followers actually are

There are two ways to do this. LinkedIn will notify you if anyone new has started following you in the last day. This will come through in the notifications under your notifications tab. I have found this notification to be really flaky since the new desktop user interface came out; that is I will see I have three new followers today, go back to see who they were later in the day and find that the notification has disappeared. It usually comes back, but several days later, which is frustrating.

To see all of your followers, go to any post of article in your homepage feed and click the three dots at top right. Select “improve my feed”. Then click on your number of followers.  

Some observations:

  • Your “true” followers are listed before your connections begin to be shown.
  • This is the only place I can think of on LinkedIn where people’s photo, name and headline appear, but without a superscript number to identify how they are related to you on LinkedIn. You can’t tell if they are a “2” or a “3” for example. You have to click on them to go to their profile for that.  
  • If you do click on a person to check them out, then go back to the list, LinkedIn takes you back to the top of the list and you have to scroll down all over again. If you have a hundred or more followers this is a pain.

What are the benefits to the person being followed? (the “followee?”)

I suppose in theory, the more followers you have the better, as these are people who have indicated an interest in your content. But as your followers will be largely unencumbered by the knowledge that you have published, I kind of question that benefit.

But this is where you can take matters into your own hands. You can see you have followers, but not necessarily why they followed you. And while there are a couple of tricks like the free group message hack, you can’t send your followers a message unless you have a premium account with InMail privileges.

I am fortunate in that I do have a LinkedIn Premium account and my followers are a go-to place for me to look for people that I may want to connect with. I will send such people a message explaining the notifications conundrum and telling them I will accept their invitation to connect if they would like to send me one. Seventy percent of them do, so this is a very effective strategy.

Or, if you find one or more followers that look interesting, you could just ask them to connect yourself. Don’t forget to customize your invitation. These are people who took an interest in you, so I like your odds.

Why did LinkedIn put in followers in the first place? An extension of following Influencers? Probably. But then the idea of followers conflicted with people complaining about getting too many notifications, so LinkedIn put limitations on notifications and the followers idea is left drifting in the wind.

So do like I do. Contact your followers and turn them into connections instead.

To set up a ten minute call to talk about upping your LinkedIn game, just go to https://bruce-johnston.youcanbook.me/