Everything You Need To Know About LinkedIn Followers (and Subscribers) 

There are three wonderful groups of people that remain a black box, a mystery: your personal followers, your corporate followers, and your subscribers. Let’s look at each type, who they are and what you can do with them. 

Corporate Followers

LinkedIn members can choose to follow your company page and receive notifications when you post. Great idea. But I would like to know more about those followers, lots more. Are we attracting the right people from the right companies? Job titles? Geographies? But what LinkedIn provides us with is vague and incomplete. 

I manage the LinkedIn company pages for a number of companies. Let me use one as an example here. They have around 1400 followers. But here is what LinkedIn tells me about them: 

 

Note that this example is split by industry, but I could have chosen location (by city only), seniority, job function, or company size.  The problem is not the data itself but the idea that it is superficial –  for example top ten industries only in the example above, or that I can’t choose a country or region in the geography filter – and that I can’t correlate it. For example, my client may wish to focus on engineers in the semiconductor industry in the United States. I can see we have some followers who are in the United States, some who are Engineers and some who are in the semiconductor industry, but I can’t figure out if any of the 1400 followers meet all three criteria. 

And this is all data that would help my client in their LinkedIn strategy. 

Well, what about individual company followers? Can we see them? Yes, we can. Sort of. 

These are the latest four who followed my client’s company page when I wrote this piece back in January (you can see January 2022 right in the right hand column). If I want to see the other 1396 followers, I just have to click on the “See all followers” and I can scroll through approximately 280 pages of those followers at five people per page. 

Oddly, the more successful you are at attracting followers, the harder it is to see and make sense of them. 

So let’s move on to…

Your personal followers

Okay, first of all, LinkedIn does a lousy job of defining Followers. If you go to your profile, under your Activity will be your number of followers. Here was mine the morning I wrote this:

However, clicking on this number shows that my followers are made up of two groups of people, my connections and people who have chosen to follow me but have not asked to connect with me. So this leaves the odd “only on LinkedIn” equation: 

Your # of followers + Your # of connections  = Your # of followers

If I click on my 10,319 followers in my activity section, this page comes up:

Okay, let’s try and make some sense of what we are seeing here

  • At the top, I can choose to see the people I am following, or the people who are following me (the red arrows)
  • The number of people I am following are for all intents and purposes, my connections. When you connect with someone, LinkedIn automatically considers you a follower of theirs. You do have the option of unfollowing connections, which I have done for a couple hundred of mine, mostly for the crime of manic posting and clogging up my feed. (seriously, there are people I know who post twenty times a day.) 
  • Alternatively, also at the top, are my followers. Again these are made up of my connections and the people who have chosen to follow me but not connect with me. This number being in bold green shows that these are the people actually shown here. 
  • Of the people following me that I am seeing on my page, I can see the ones I am also following (who are almost entirely connections) and the ones that I am not connected with, with whom LinkedIn is dangling the offer to Follow them. 
  • You may have noticed the “Follow fresh perspectives” at the top of the screen cap to the left of the Following / Followers numbers. Clicking this takes you to pages and pages of possible people, companies, events, colleagues and so on that you may also want to follow. 

Not fake news: I follow two, count ‘em, two people on LinkedIn that I am not connected with (and I am thinking of unfollowing one of them).

Alright, so now that we know who our followers are, what can we do with them? The answer is: not much. And here’s a really weird thing: if you choose to look at the people you are following, there are filters to see companies, or connections or out of network people (that’s how I found I was following two people outside my connection network). But if I want to parse my true followers, the people who are not connected with me but are interested in what I am publishing or commenting on on LinkedIn, I can’t do anything except scroll through my “Following” page as shown above. And not only that, but my five thousand connections are interleaved with my five thousand true followers making it even more difficult. 

So recognize that while followers are good you can’t parse them. Honestly, this is largely why I encourage people to connect with me. I can search my connections using all kinds of Linkedin filters. If I am looking for an SEO expert, and you happen to be one but you’re only following me, you might as well not exist, because I will never be aware of you. 

Newsletter Subscribers

If you publish a newsletter on LinkedIn – a feature that seems to be taking forever to roll out – you will have subscribers. What you can do with your newsletter subscribers conveniently combines the worst features of both your  Company Page followers and your personal followers. 

The only demographics I get on my newsletter are the individual statistics provided for the people who actually read any single issue. And those stats are the same as the ones you would see for a regular LinkedIn article. Here is what I got from one of my newsletter issues in February.

There are several problems with these statistics:

  • They are incomplete. One of my key demographics is company size. Companies that have ten to five hundred employees are right in my wheelhouse. That is the company size that typically can become a long term client. 
  • I can’t correlate them. A really good example are those 29 Founders in the middle column. Founders of companies in that 10-500 employee demographic? Gold. Founders of one man show companies (I suppose that makes me a Founder too)? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of work with solo practitioners, but my bread and butter is working on an ongoing basis with companies.
  • This also represents a snapshot of the people who read this single issue of my newsletter. I know that around 6500 of the 7800 total were subscribers and the other 1300 discovered it organically on LinkedIn. But as I have 25,000 subscribers, these statistics only tell me something about one quarter of my subscribers. Not really very satisfactory.  
  • And most importantly, I can’t tell who they are. I can’t click on those 29 Founders and check them out.

I can access the list of my subscribers. Here is what it looks like:

You will notice that I can see five to six people on this first page. So if I wanted to review my subscribers, all I have to do is page down around five thousand times.

Not good. 

Okay, let’s wrap up this discussion of Followers and Subscribers. 

All of these people who follow us, subscribe to our newsletters, subscribe via the new subscribe  bell on our profiles, or follow our companies, do so because they want to hear more from us. And we want to know more about these people. It will help us, and ultimately help them. The more we understand our audience, the better we can serve them. 

That’s the downside. The upside is that we do have those followers and subscribers. And absent any tools for finding them individually, there is one thing we can do: continually create and publish absolute top notch content, to the point that the people you want to actually know will wind up reaching out to you. And it does happen. It happens to me at least once a week. Every week I hear from someone, seemingly out of the blue, and the story is always some variation of “I have been reading your content for eighteen months now and I wonder if you think you could help us with our use of LinkedIn.” I never knew these people at all, but they were followers and they knew me.  

Followers are the ultimate long game on LinkedIn.