The First Hour After You Publish On LinkedIn Is (Maybe) Critical

It’s an accepted best practice that getting engagement for your post in the first sixty minutes is important. But is it critical? I am beginning to wonder.

When we hit publish, LinkedIn takes our content and presents it in the feeds of a small group of our connections. It is generally accepted that the figure is five to ten percent of your connections. Typically it gets put in front of people that you share a high “Connection Strength Score” with. Simply put, these are people who you have directly interacted with lately on LinkedIn. So, in theory, LinkedIn is putting your content in front of a crowd that should be favorably disposed to engage with it.

What happens in the next sixty minutes is important. LinkedIn looks at the engagement your content generates. They don’t explain what that means, but it is widely thought to include likes/reactions, comments and shares, and that comments are weighted more heavily than the other two. If you get a lot of engagement in that first hour, LinkedIn expands the circle of people that are presented with your post in their feed. If that second “wave” gets good engagement, LinkedIn sends out more and more in further waves until the engagement waves “crest” and slow down.

Let’s dissect this a bit more because I want you to understand what’s happening here and what isn’t:

  • If you thought everyone you are connected with was seeing your content or having your content put in their homepage feeds, you’re sadly mistaken.
  • LinkedIn acknowledges their role in boosting posts, especially during the first hour, and further boosting if your engagement is good.
  • But everything else is guesswork. While it is generally accepted that Likes, comments and shares constitute engagement, LinkedIn does not define what engagement is in the context of their intent to further distribute content. And note that LinkedIn also does not define or explain what “further distribution” is – how much further? Another five to ten percent? A lower number like three to five percent? How about a larger number as your high engagement is a sign of a successful post? LinkedIn doesn’t say.

The bottom line is LinkedIn has a big hand in you going viral, or at least achieving widespread distribution on LinkedIn. But…a big hand doesn’t mean the only hand. Does a mediocre first hour doom your post to obscurity? I am beginning to wonder.

Let me illustrate why with one of my own posts. On July 14 I wrote and published a quick post about a company follower hack. In a nutshell, the only way LinkedIn presents followers to company page admins is chronologically, with the latest ones on top. So I suggested that if you were following a company you could un-follow it, removing yourself from the middle of the pile, and then follow it again putting yourself on the top of the pile. Just a simple way to take advantage of the way LinkedIn had set up company page followers.

So I published this post at 7:30am which is when I usually post. Around 8:30am I checked back in and these were my statistics so far:

Views – 104

Likes – 1

Comments – 0

Shares – 0

New profile views* – 0

New followers* – 0

(* As posts drive profile views and new followers, I have always considered new profile views and new followers to be a part of my engagement, purely because I can identify the individuals who view or follow me and contact them if I choose to.)

Well, I thought, looks like this one is headed for the scrap heap. LinkedIn had likely put my post in front of four or five hundred people, and was certainly not going to reward a hundred views and 1 like.

But then an odd thing happened. During the course of the day I kept getting notifications about people liking, commenting and sharing the post. And the commenting was lively – I had two different people who said I was incorrect and a third person questioned whether what I was suggesting was ethical. All three of these people wound up drawing more and more people to the post, as every time they argued their case, LinkedIn’s algos automatically alerted more and more people to my post.

A week later, and that same post that looked like it was headed for the scrap heap had the following statistics:

Views – 14,200

Likes – 208

Comments – 57

Re-shares – 10

New followers – 40

New profile views – 80

Oh…and three direct inquiries from people interested in talking to me about my services.

Well that sure turned out differently from what I thought was going to happen. I didn’t get a boost from LinkedIn, so where did I get it? I am thinking that it was two things: the comments and the re-shares. While there were only ten re-shares, eight of them were from second level connections, exposing my post to people who had never seen my content before. And the three people that started lively side conversations wound up unwittingly promoting the post.

So what did I learn from this? First, that while important, a lousy first hour doesn’t mean your post is toast. Second, being original starts conversations and perhaps generates more re-shares. And third, those conversations appear to drive more views and more engagement.

I have been writing and publishing for a few years now on LinkedIn, but it never gets old. I am constantly being taken by surprise and learning something new.

The obligatory disclaimer:

I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month.