Some Thoughts On Going Viral On LinkedIn

 

While you should publish on LinkedIn with a goal of getting engagement, there is no doubt that getting a lot of views is good for the ego. Just don’t let the Holy Grail of going viral drive you batty.  

If you have ever had an article you published on LinkedIn go viral, or even one that did really well in terms of views, it is easy to get caught up in trying to go viral again. But if the odds of it happening once are pretty low, then the odds of it happening a second time are very, very low. Note that I am talking articles that require clicks here, not the “drive by” views that posts get.

My LinkedIn articles tend to get in the middle to high hundreds of views each week. Once every every six weeks or so, one will get over a thousand views, once every three months one will get two thousands views and once I got over three thousand.

And then there is the article I published back in early 2016, over a year and half ago. It has forty-five thousand views, and is actually getting stronger, pulling in an extra thousand or twelve hundred views every week.

Every week I get an email from LinkedIn telling me the three articles that got the most views in the previous week. Almost every week that old article is on top, handily beating out the ones I have published in the past couple of weeks.   

The upside is that  eighteen months ago I wrote something that readers really liked. And apparently they still do. The downside is I have had around 80 shots at publishing new articles and replicating that success. Not so far.

But I don’t worry about it and here’s why: I have no clue why that article went semi-viral and why none of my other couple hundred articles did not. I think you can write as well as you can, hit publish and then it is out of your hands. If it goes viral, enjoy your moment in the sun. I published one article that got one hundred times the views I normally get. I don’t know what was different about that one from others I have written. I don’t know the secret.

And no one else does either. Anyone who writes that they know how to go viral is full of it. Otherwise they would be viral every time they published…and wouldn’t have to write articles on how to go viral.

And while views are good for the ego, engagement from those views is the real deal. LinkedIn doesn’t tell me who my viewers are, so I have no way to identify and contact them if I wish to. People who like, share and comment are identifiable so I can contact them. I consider an  article with three hundred views and sixty people engaging with me to be more successful than having three thousand views and thirty people engage with me.

How Are LinkedIn Articles Different From LinkedIn Posts? Which Is Better?

Warning: potentially snooze inducing content follows. Skip this article unless you are interested in publishing content on LinkedIn.  

You can publish articles on LinkedIn and you can publish posts on LinkedIn. So what’s the difference between the two? And does one get better results than the other? I decided to do a little investigating.

How do you write an Article versus a Post?

At the top center of your homepage is the little publishing box:

 

If you want to publish a post (which LinkedIn will also refer to as an update), you just start writing in the publishing box at the top of your homepage.

But if you click “write an article”  you are taken to LinkedIn publisher and you will see something like this, where you can format and write your article.

The major difference between Articles and Posts: how views are counted

 

You need to click on and open an article to have it counted as a view. LinkedIn even calls them “clicks” instead of “views” in a couple of places. The good news? All your article views are “legitimate.” Someone had to take a specific action to open your article.

Posts views are completely different. From the LinkedIn help section:

When you share an update, a “view” is counted when the update is loaded on the viewer’s screen. Viewers do not necessarily need to click or read the update to count as a view, but rather have the update loaded on their Homepage.

This also would imply that if you open your homepage and page down a few times, you have just “viewed” a half dozen or a dozen posts. This would go a long way to explaining how posts get so many more views than articles.

The easiest way of thinking about views is that an Article view signals a person’s intent to read your article, while a post view shows that the person had the opportunity to read your post.

By counting views differently, posts appear to get a much larger number of views than articles do. For example, my last six articles averaged just over 800 views each. My last four posts averaged over 8,000 views each.  

Posts: more views, but less engagement per view

So posts get a lot more views, in my case about ten times as many. Very good for the ego. But views are a relative indicator of how one post did versus another post, or one article did versus another article. Because LinkedIn doesn’t provide us with lists of our post or article viewers, you can’t do anything with views.

Engagement, on the other hand, you can.

On those six articles I cited above, I averaged 129 people engaging (like, share, or comment) with each one. One in every six people who viewed my articles chose to engage with them.

On the four posts I averaged 72 people engaging (like, share, or comment) with each one. Less than one in every hundred people who viewed my posts engaged with them.

The quality of engagement was also higher with my articles as a lower percentage of the engagement was “likes”.

I am sorry if this bursts the bubble for people who like bragging they got a ton views for their posts, but look at it this way: if you sent an email campaign to 8,000 people, would you measure your success as having had 8,000 people “see” your email?  Or would you measure your success on the engagement that came about from the email campaign?

So the pendulum just swung from “posts are better because they get more views” to “articles are better because they get more engagement and better engagement too.” But there are further nuances to the argument….

Other advantages of Articles over Posts

  • Articles have more formatting options, like a blog does – headings, numbered lists, quotes, embedded links and photos. The presentation is  better.
  • Statistics on articles go on forever. Statistics on posts appear to disappear on posts over a month old. I can still look at the statistics on articles that are a couple of years old (and as I have an article that is 18 months old that still gets 600 views a week, yes, that is important to me).
  • Notifications on articles also go on forever. If you are fortunate enough to have readers interested in your older articles, LinkedIn will let you know about likes and comments on those articles. I still get lots of likes and comments on that 18 month old article. Articles are the long tail gift that keeps on giving.

But Posts have advantages over Articles too

  • Articles tend to be 400 words or more. Posts can be one or two sentences and a photo. While just as much thought may go into coming up with an idea for one or the other, there is no arguing that writing a post is less time consuming than writing an article.
  • Posts do not have to be clicked to be opened, they are just there in your homepage feed. And because posts tend to be short, you can get the gist of a post pretty quickly.

The bottom line, from a writer’s point of view

Article views are one tenth Post views, but get a significantly higher level of engagement and quality of engagement. What makes me different from most writers on LinkedIn is that I systematically review every single person who engages  with my content, from both articles and posts, and I reach out to a lot of them. They become connections – fifteen or twenty of them a week. That means for me articles are better.  More engagement, more opportunities.

But I do use both. I write articles about topics that need more depth, like this one. I publish posts when the topic is more conducive to a conversation. But I don’t publish for views in either case. I publish for engagement. High quality engagement and lots of it. You should too.

The Return Of Who Shared Your LinkedIn Article Or LinkedIn Post

The background

I have a rough “hierarchy of engagement” for people that engage with me and my content on LinkedIn. These people are important to me – and if you publish on LinkedIn, they should be important to you too. In order of how likely it is to engage them in conversation, and possibly connect, the hierarchy goes like this:

  1. Followers
  2. Comments on posts or articles
  3. People who share posts or articles and add an introductory comment
  4. “Naked” shares, that is people who share with no comments
  5. Who viewed my profile
  6. Likes

You can identify your Followers and Who Viewed Your Profile types, and Likes and Comments can be easily seen in association with any given article or post you publish. But aside from the odd oblique notification that someone shared your post or article – for example, someone shared my post and I received a “Someone liked a post that mentions you” notification – we were out of luck with respect to who shared our content.

The return of who shared your article or post

Late yesterday I got a note from one of my connections, Thom h Boehm

“Did you notice that you can now see who shared your posts again? It is nice to have that feature back. I actually did not expect for it to return!”

(hat tip and thanks to Thom. Shameless plug follows: Thom’s a great writer and publisher of articles on LinkedIn. If you don’t follow Thom already, go check him out.)

I would have discovered this new feature myself today, but not in time to write this article. Today’s regularly scheduled article on a trick to increase your InMail response rate by 30% will be seen at this same time next week.

How it works

So after seeing Thom’s note, I went to have a look. And indeed your sharers are back. When you click on the statistics icon – where it says number of views for your post or number of clicks for your article:

You then see an addition to the statistics screen:

The number of times your post or article has been shared is there. Clicking on that will reveal a list of people who shared your post. Each entry on the list is clickable so that you can go to their re-share of your content and see what engagement they got. But the important thing is you can identify the people who shared your content so that you can engage with them – in my case I like to thank people who  shared my content, and often that will lead to a conversation and a connection.  

A couple of observations:

  • so far, no real Notifications that “XYZ and four others shared your article / post”
  • some, but not necessary all, of the people who shared your post or article will be shown. The article I referenced in the screenshot above has been shared 51 times to date. Upon clicking, a list of 25 people shows up. My guess is we are not shown the people who shared our posts and articles to individuals and to groups.

So why is this important?

Engaging with people that engage with you is one of the best ways to meet people, build your LinkedIn network, and uncover business opportunities. And it is something most LinkedIn users seem to ignore. I get around twenty new connections every week that started out as people who discovered me through my content on LinkedIn. I have been publishing on LinkedIn for three years and have a sizable network, so those are important contributing factors. But I also  have a specific repeatable process for identifying, tracking, responding to, and engaging with the people who have taken the time to engage with my content. And people who share my articles and posts are an important part of that group.  

Thom’s right. This is a welcome return.