Two Limitations To Recognize When Publishing Content On LinkedIn

Possible limitation for real estate values in this newighborhood.

While I am a proponent of publishing content on LinkedIn, that does not keep me from recognizing a couple key limitations and if you are going to publish on LinkedIn, you should take them into account too.

The first limitation is that for many publishers, a lot of your target audience just don’t use LinkedIn that much, and will never see your content

I ran a LinkedIn Ad for a client last summer and as Sherlock Holmes would say, the results were instructive. LinkedIn Ads provide some pretty awesome filters for targeting ads – many of the same filters that are in Sales Navigator. My client was going after engineers and we were able to target engineers that were in specific geographies, that worked in specific industries and in specific sized companies.

The Ad was successful – it ran for almost exactly one month, and was shown to the people in our target demographic 38,500 times. But while the ad was successful for my client, I found a little more digging into the numbers revealed a couple nuggets that I found disconcerting

Our target demographic, as defined when I set up the Ad, was 82,000 possible LinkedIn users. The Ad wound up being seen by 38,500 of those people over the course of the month it ran. But…only 11,500 unique people saw the Ad, meaning that among those people, they saw it an average of a little over three times each.

I drew a couple important inferences from these figures. The first is that among the target audience only 11,500 out of 82,000 logged into LinkedIn over the course of the month that we ran the Ad. That’s almost exactly 14%. So my general conclusion would be only one in seven engineers log in to LinkedIn every month. I realize that this is only one sample from one industry and that there were other filters in play, but even if this result is a little skewed, what’s the best case scenario, one in six, or one in five? And it could just as easily skew the other way: maybe we were lucky and went after a really “active” subset of engineers!

That’s my first observation and one that is crucial that we keep in mind when we publish. People may like to call LinkedIn the “professional social network” and LinkedIn of course does nothing to dissuade people from calling it that, but at least in this demographic, it isn’t that social at all.

My second observation came from thinking about those 11,500 individuals that did show up and their behavior. I know that they showed up 36,500 times over the course of the month, or on average every ten days or so. Trying to figure out how many of the 11,500 show up at least every two weeks or weekly or more often than that would be complete conjecture, but I want you to take away one key thought here: thinking that very many of your target demographic are going to see any single post or video that you publish on LinkedIn is a very poor assumption to build your strategy on.

Okay, so this got me thinking, this applies to engineers, how can I see how engineers compare to other work functions, like salespeople, or purchasing, or solo professionals? Well, I could spend a pile of money on Ads to see how the results for different groups and professions stack up against engineers, but my money pile being somewhat depleted, I can use a filter on Sales Navigator to get a rough comparison by seeing how often these groups of people publish content on LinkedIn. So that’s what I did.

When I looked at how many people published content on LinkedIn over the past thirty days, then divided that number by the total number of people saying they did that job on LinkedIn, here are my results:

Consulting: 14%

Marketing: 7%

Solo Practitioners: 7%

Business Development: 6%

Sales: 5%

Purchasing: 4%

Education: 3%

Engineering: 3%

Operations: 2-3%

Remember that I am using “posted on LinkedIn in the last 30 days” as a proxy for “active on LinkedIn in the last 30 days”. While speculative, I think this shows which professions are more active on Linkedin relative to each other.

So, I established some backup to my speculation that as a social network, LinkedIn isn’t that social, but then I did a little work using the subscribers to my LinkedIn Newsletter and came up with some info to back up this idea:

Remember that your reach on LinkedIn is pretty unstructured.

I usually review my new LinkedIn newsletter subscribers every week, and here are the results from a few weeks ago:

54 people signed up

16 people unsubscribed

A note of explanation: you can see your subscriber list by clicking on your number of subscribers. Your subscribers are listed chronologically by the latest sign ups. Every week I note my total number of subscribers and my latest three subscribers. The following week, I note my new subscriber number giving me the net change, then count the new subscribers by scrolling through my subscriber list until I reach the three people who were at the top of the list last week. This may sound complicated but you do the best you can with what LinkedIn gives you, and doing this every week actually takes less time than it does to explain it here.

And as far as unsubscribers are concerned, it happens. As long as more people like my content than lose interest, I am fine with that.

Anyway, my new subscribers give me a good idea of the quality of my reach on LinkedIn, as I can see who those people are and what they do. So I reviewed the people who signed up over the two weeks prior, looking for people who fit in my preferred customer demographic.

I found three. Three out of fifty-four. Six percent.

And actually, this fits with what I have figured previously. I have 25,000 subscribers for my LinkedIn newsletter, but really only six percent, or 1500 people, fall within my target demographic. The key for me is not losing focus on who I am writing for: the 1500, not the 25,000.

But my own example shows how unstructured the reach is on LinkedIn. When you publish something on LinkedIn, LinkedIn puts it in front of your connections and followers, and further distribution comes from their networks. To an extent you can control the makeup of your connections, but you can’t control who your followers are, and you can’t control the makeup of either your connections’ or followers’ networks. So don’t fall in love with your raw numbers.

I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Obligatory boilerplate: 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.