Can You Game The LinkedIn Publishing Algorithm?


5 surprising factors that don’t seem to affect published post engagement on LinkedIn and 5 not so surprising ones that do.

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. I compared their statistics with mine to see if there were clues that were precursors to success. I came to the conclusion that the following have little or no bearing on how much engagement a post gets.

  1. The total number of posts published on LinkedIn

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 I do. 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 starting to publish 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? No discernible effect.

I had a look through the activity for ten 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 in order 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 a lot 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 November 17, 2015 post: 546,000 views

Jeff Haden’s next post on December 3rd, 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. No difference. Once a month, twice a month, every week, 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. Do people with larger numbers of followers get more views per follower? It doesn’t seem so.  

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:

Per post

              Jeff averaged:                                                        I averaged:

              93,000 views                                                         411 views

              1400 likes                                                               47 likes

              300 comments                                                      12 comments

Lessons learned:

Jeff’s number of followers is more than 160x mine. So three observations.

  • Jeff has better statistics than I do (that was the easy observation)
  • Mine 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 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:

1) Writing quality. Not as big a factor as you would think, but being able to write in an interesting and engaging style helps.

2) The photo or illustration you use. Having no photo is bad. Using a stock photo is better than nothing. Using something original beats using a stock photo. How much stock and original photos are is open to debate.  

3) Headline. Better headlines lead to more views and engagement. I know this from my own experience.  

4) The topic of your post. On LinkedIn, a post on social selling will do better than a post on coal mining in Silesia (now I have probably offended all the Silesians)

5) 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 that 130,000 plus posts to choose from every week, I consider myself lucky to have been featured at all.  

And one last one that qualifies as neutral:

Building up your own following

Regular readers who like, comment and share your posts – should help. I have a pretty good following (thank you all), but ironically, due to the nature of LinkedIn’s lousy notifications algorithm, hardly any of them actually do get notified when I post.

Hmm…looks like I won’t be notifying LinkedIn about this post either.  

Goldilocks And The Three Bears’ LinkedIn InMails

One day, Goldilocks was out for a walk in the forest, and she came upon a cottage. Going inside she found three tables with three laptop computers, all with LinkedIn accounts open on their screens. Each screen had an InMail message on it.

She went to the first screen and read the InMail, where the sender had made a naked sales pitch, asking for a meeting to showcase their product.

“Eww,” said Goldilocks, “this person doesn’t care about what my problems are, it’s all about her! This InMail is just too hot!” And she ignored the InMail.

Then she went to the second computer, where the InMail sender hoped that the recipient liked their message.

“Yuck,” said Goldilocks, who as a pre-adolescent didn’t have much of a vocabulary, “there is no call to action here, just some wishy-washy grovelling at the end. This InMail is way too cold.”

So she went and looked at the third laptop, where the InMail contained some ideas of value to the recipient, and ended with a pointed call to action to start a conversation between the sender and the recipient.

“Yowza,” said Goldilocks, “this InMail is just right!” And she was about to type in a response to the beautiful InMail when the three bears, who owned the little cottage returned, yelled “WTF are you doing with our LinkedIn accounts?” and ate her.

The End

Moral of the story: Keep your InMails short, so that the recipient has time to respond and get away before being eaten.

Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Okay, okay, alternate moral: Have a call to action that…  

  1. Is appropriate for your message. For example, if you want to get a face to face meeting as a result of your InMail, your message had better be incredibly good.
  2. Is a real call to action. Being overly solicitous and asking someone to reply when they have time isn’t going to get you the response rate you want.
  3. Doesn’t make “no” an easy alternative. If you can get your recipient to want more – more information or more explanation – that makes “no” a tough answer.

This Is Why I Don’t Trust Any Social Media Or Social Selling Statistics


Back in the spring I wrote a post about a hoary old (for social media) statistic and showed how people liked to take it completely out of context to use as proof of whatever it was they were flogging (you can read it here ).

It hasn’t stopped. I found more. Here are four of them. I have no desire to identify the people in question, but can provide links to the articles in question to anyone who sends me a message.

As background to these startling statistical stories, here are four statistics from LinkedIn’s Q3 results announced October 27th, 2016:

  1. LinkedIn now has 467M members.
  2. 106M – or 22.7% – of LinkedIn members log in once a month or more often.
  3. LinkedIn’s sales for the quarter were $933M
  4. LinkedIn’s sales of premium subscriptions for the quarter were $162M

The Case Of The Out Of Context Statistics

A couple of weeks ago I came across a post from someone making the case for Sales Navigator. In the post, they mentioned that since only 15.1% of LinkedIn members pay to use the service, it is obvious that a lot of salespeople don’t have Sales Navigator accounts, but they should.  

This one was easy as I knew this statistic was flat out wrong. Let’s do a little math using the LinkedIn results statistics above and you will see why.

15.1% of 467M total members means there would be 70.5M paying members.

Those 70.5M paying members paid $933M for the privilege in Q3

So $933M divided by 70.5M would be…hang on, carry the three…$13.23.

But that’s $13.23 for the quarter.  

So one of these statements is true:

  1. The average LinkedIn premium subscriber pays $4.41 a month for their premium subscription.   
  2. This statistic is bullshit.

So I decided that clearly a little investigation (rubbing his hands with barely restrained glee) was warranted.  

It turns out that Company A, the writer of this post, got their data from Company B (cue ominous music), and that Company B got their data from a study done by Company C. (I should point out that Company A quite rightly gave prominent credit for their statistics to Company B.)

Then things got really weird as Company C turned out to be…Wayne Breitbarth. For those of you who don’t know him, Wayne Breitbarth has been training people in the mid west on how to use LinkedIn for years. And he has a reputation that makes straight arrows ashamed of themselves. How could Wayne be involved in such a sham statistic? Well, it turns out, quite easily.

Every year Wayne sends out a survey to clients and other LinkedIn enthusiasts (I’ve participated several times myself), asking about their LinkedIn habits. The survey is where this statistic came from. So it wasn’t 15.1% of LinkedIn users that said they paid for their LinkedIn, it was 15.1% of Wayne’s email list; people he has trained in how to use LinkedIn, his social followers and connections, and probably friends and connections of those people.

And all of these people who follow Wayne in one way or another, are more likely to be paying customers than a random sample of Linkedin users. 15.1% of Wayne’s  demographic being paying members is plausible.

So Company A, in trying to imply that there was lots of room for more Sales Nav subscribers because only 70M people pay now, would have actually had a much better argument if they just divided how much a premium member like me pays a quarter ($150) into the dollars received by LinkedIn last quarter for prem subs ($162M). So  there are more like 1.1M paying subscribers out there. 1.1M out of 467M leaves a lot of room for more subscribers.  

As Company A was honestly trying to make a point that more people should use Sales Navigator, it is obvious that there was no advantage to them in portraying this statistic they way they did.

But I can’t forgive Company A for one thing. When you click on the link taking you to Company B’s report, you see that company B based their data on Wayne’s 2013 survey. And right at the top of Company B’s post is the date that post was written: Nov 19, 2013. Company A used data in their current post that was both out of context and three years old (and you were wondering why I had three birthday candles in the photo). Three years is a long time in social media. Actually, was Sales Navigator even around when Wayne did his 2013 survey?

By the way, the results for Wayne Breitbarth’s 2016 survey can be found here.


The Case Of The Big Honking Outlier

Remember statistic number 2 above, where LinkedIn announced 106M people – or 22.7% – of LinkedIn users were now checking in at least once a month?

Imagine my surprise when I read an online article from an Australian company  informing their readers that a top LinkedIn influencer had stated that “of the more than 7 million people in this country on LinkedIn, 40 per cent use it every single day”

If 22.7% – and no that number didn’t used to be a lot higher – of LinkedIn users log in once a month, how can 40% of Australian LinkedIn users log in every day?

A request for clarification to the website in question went unanswered.


The “Of One Questionable Statistic Is Good, Two Must Be Great” Incident

Two weeks ago I ran across one of those long lists of incredible social media and social selling statistic infographics. Apparently part of the incredible part is being not true. Among all the Facebook and Twitter and other stats that I couldn’t verify I came across a couple that I could.

  • Daily logins on LinkedIn: 27%

My first thought was, have these guys been talking to the Australians?

Later on the infographic informed the reader that:

  • LinkedIn now has 100 million members.

Gee, these guys aren’t even making me do math. This is too easy.  

In this case, an email request for clarification was answered immediately, directing me to the other online source they had used. I see this from time to time. Someone else wrote it on the internet, so it must be true.


The Case Of “Repeat It Often Enough And They Will Believe It.”

And for our finale, let’s take this old one out behind the shed and shoot it.



How many of you have seen this one floating around from time to time? Hands up everyone who has actually seen it and liked it, commented on how pithy these statistics were, or shared it with their network?  

Well, sorry to say, but there is no evidence to support these marvelous statistics.

To start with, google “National Sales Executive Association” and see what comes up. Mingled in with lots of people sharing this are lots of articles on how this whole slate of statistics is completely made up (one excellent one can be read here )

You will note that one thing won’t find in a search for the National Sales Executives Association is any reference to such an organization existing or ever having existed.

And here’s the thing. We believe this slate of stats because we want to. We want to believe that these stats show that perseverance is critical to success and will be rewarded.   

A lot of social media statistics and social selling statistics are used with very little reference as to where they came from or how they were generated. People love to cite statistics and a lot of statistics that started out as legitimate become “massaged”, whether by design or by accident.

So let me suggest that if someone quotes a statistic without referencing a source you can verify yourself, consider it crap.

And let me suggest that if someone quotes a vague data set that can’t be quantified “we interviewed a hundred top performers” or “social sellers outperformed their peers”, consider it crap.

And finally, in the immortal words of Peanuts character Charlie Brown: “Tell your statistics to shut up.”