Why I Am (Finally) Hopping On The LinkedIn Creator Mode Bandwagon

(and it took almost two years to get here)

LinkedIn Creator Mode was announced back in April 2021, and rolled out over the following months. LinkedIn says its intent is to allow you to grow your “reach and influence on LinkedIn.” I have written a couple reviews on Creator Mode as LinkedIn has adjusted it and added more features, and I have continued to be ambivalent about it until now.

I will review what I consider the seven main aspects of Creator Mode here, and then talk about the eighth aspect that was announced – quietly – in early November that has made me change my mind about it.

In Creator Mode, “Connect” changes to “Follow”

By default, the “Connect” button on your profile changes to a “Follow” button. People can still connect with you, but the Connect button is now hidden in a drop down menu next to the Follow button. Maybe to prompt us to do this LinkedIn says your number of followers will now be displayed prominently underneath your Profile headline. Note that this is a big ego boost if you already have lots of followers and want even more, but won’t it look a little pathetic if you are just starting out and only have a couple hundred followers?

Neat trick: if you have Creator mode on and someone invites you to connect, they are automatically made a follower. Even if you decline their invite to connect they remain a follower. They can unfollow you if they decide to – but most people won’t realize that they are automatically following you, or won’t know how to unfollow someone. Very sneaky.

You can display your expertise areas

You can display topics you talk about in your Profile Introduction section as hashtags. Hashtags are searchable on Linkedin. This is one search method that is under utilized by users on both sides of the search equation on LinkedIn. This is a nice feature and will increase in importance if hashtag use ever does really catch on with LinkedIn users.

Embedded links

While we are in your Introduction section, you can add a link here to drive people to your website, an Event sign up page, or specific content. I could see this being handy, but one would need to be careful in using it. I think most folks would use this as a generic “visit my website” suggestion and I have never been a fan of the “Invite people into the store to browse around” school of thought. If there is a specific landing page that people are being sent to, I like this idea. A lot.

Musical chairs with Profile sections

LinkedIn says they will more prominently move your content, both your Featured and Activity sections, to be seen more easily by your visitors. This sounds nice, but another way of putting it would be “we moved your About section down below your Activity.” You know, the About section you just put those hashtags and that URL in. Well, I suppose the idea here after all is highlighting all that content you are creating, but do you really need to promote this?

You could be featured!

“You become eligible to be featured as a suggested creator to follow so potential followers can discover you and your content across LinkedIn.” From what I can see, every week LinkedIn mentions a half dozen Creators to follow. I have seen multiple articles, one saying five million people have Creator Mode turned on, another saying ten million people did – back in January 2022. With five or six Creators being featured each week out of millions, it is going to take a while before they get around to you or me. These are lottery odds.

Early access to Creator tools

You can get access to Creator tools. However, the only tools appear to LinkedIn Live, LinkedIn Newsletters, and Audio Events (the long awaited “Clubhouse killer”). This is very sneaky by LinkedIn. LinkedIn is on record as saying that these tools are being rolled out over time to everyone, so what they are implying here is that being a Creator will allow you to move up in the line. That being said, if you were an early adopter of Clubhouse or love running Live Events, this feature makes Creator mode a must for you.

Creator Analytics

LinkedIn has added Creator Analytics to show how your posts are doing over time.  Analytics work on posts, articles, videos, events, and polls. It measures impressions and engagement. Analytics are still being rolled out. I have three issues here.

The first is lumping all my content together. Each of these different types of content is measured differently by LinkedIn. For example LinkedIn counts a post impression when it appears in your feed. An article impression is counted when you click to open the article. A video impression happens when three seconds of the video rolls by on your screen. One impression is not like another. If you mix and use different types of content, your graphs and results are going to take some interpretation.

The second issue is with your engagement. LinkedIn tallies the engagement with your content – the total number of your reactions, comments and shares is shown. But we know that LinkedIn rewards comments on posts by further distributing those posts to more users. So comments are much more important, but they get lumped in with Likes, and reactions, and shares.

Lastly, LinkedIn will show you the same vague analytics you get from most content published on LinkedIn –  breakdown by Job Title, Industry, Seniority, Location, or Company Size.

Sorry to say this but the analytics area is pretty lame on LinkedIn, and remains that way in Creator mode.

The Algo Will Now Treat Your Followers Like Connections

New, and in my opinion, the tipping point: the LinkedIn algorithms will treat your followers like they are connections. This appeared in LinkedIn Help in early November:

“Similar to what happens when you follow Top Voices, your followers will receive your posts, articles, and shares in their LinkedIn homepage feed. Members don’t have to be connected to you to follow you and receive these updates.”

Up until now, LinkedIn has always based distribution of your content to a small number of your connections, and how those connections responded and engaged with your content drove further distribution to more people. LinkedIn tells us what we see featured prominently in our feeds is largely based on our Connection Strength Score, which is based on the interactions we have on LinkedIn with our various connections. My problem with creating more followers has always been that to my knowledge, there is no “Follower Strength Score.” And how would you measure it?

This is the prime argument I always had about Creator Mode. Why would I try and promote a larger number of followers – instead of connections – when LinkedIn does not indicate that it will treat those followers in the same way as my connections? But now LinkedIn says they will. This changes everything. I have around five thousand connections and five thousand followers. If I turn Creator Mode on, I now have effectively doubled my audience as LinkedIn says those followers will have a shot as seeing my content. Creator Mode has gone from being a questionable feature to what I think of as a reasonable one. It is worth the odd aspects to get the good aspects. I’m in. I will post again on this a few months down the line and let you know what impact it has had.

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. 

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like today’s, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Establishing Your Credibility In Outreach Messages: 4 Ways That Work

The Captains here have lost their credibility

…and 3 ways to avoid

Establishing your credibility is one of the core components of an effective outreach message on LinkedIn. Because if you have no credibility, your message will just get ignored. 

This can be a really difficult task, especially when establishing your credibility is only one of the many things you need to do in the space of a few sentences. 

Here are four ways you can establish your credibility, four ways that work. I have these roughly in order from strongest to weakest.

Get an introduction 

This is number one, but only if the person introducing you has credibility with the other person they are introducing you to. In effect when you send a message to the person you have been introduced to, you will have some of that credibility transferred to you. 

Get a referral

Almost as good. I use this one a lot. I will find someone who looks like a peer of the person I want to reach at the target company, but who looks more “gettable” via LinkedIn. I then ask that person to confirm my original target’s role. When they confirm my original target is the person I should talk to, I now have a referral because “Dave told me you are the person I should talk to.” (Thanks Dave!)

Talk about relevant results 

That is, you talk about how you have achieved results for a company they know and respect. This is a very powerful technique. You will look for a couple of your customers that you  figure the target will know and respect and tell the prospect in one line how we were able to improve those other companies’ situations. Done effectively, the target is dying to know how you did it. You both obtain credibility and generate a desire for them to talk to you.

Show them you know something that will intrigue them

This is one of my fallbacks, and it is based on LinkedIn research. There is lots of information about companies, their competitors, and their employees on LinkedIn. All it takes is a little work to put together something that will, well, freak them out. “I see you have increased your R&D headcount by around 18% over the past two years, while your competitor A has flatlined and competitor B is actually hemorrhaging engineers.” Similar to the tactic #3 above, done effectively, the recipient has only one question, “How the heck does he know that?”

Now we start getting into the methods that are a little lame. Here are three ways that most people try to establish their credibility that are best described as weak. 

Name drop

This is usually when you share a connection or multiple connections but you either don’t know the connections well enough to ask for an introduction, or the connections don’t know the target well enough to introduce you. But it’s all you’ve got. I don’t like this one because a lot of connections are weak and don’t mean that much. I have over five thousand connections and I often have people approach me and mention people I had forgotten I was connected with. That doesn’t really move the needle much for me. 

You make an offer 

A free demo or free trial, something that implies you have value. I avoid this one because it assumes that the prospect is at a place in the sales cycle that I have no clue that they are really in. Offers work on places like websites where a ton of people can see them, but one to one in outreach messages? Naw. 

You make an abstract claim 

This usually consists of a value statement with a number attached. “We save companies over 50% on their labor costs.” The vagueness is the killer here. “Which companies?”, “What constitutes labor costs?”, “Where’s the proof?” 

I  refuse to use these last three. They are weak and overused. The best way I know how to establish credibility is to combine the first or second method from last week and combine it with the third or fourth from last week. Get Bob to introduce you and then talk about the results you got for Alpha Corp. Your prospect knows Bob and Alpha, a double dose of credibility. 

 

Don’t Sweat The Short Term Results, Focus on Your LinkedIn Process 

(this is a reprint of a post from the Spring of 2021. It was valid then, it is still valid now)

I read a really good book over the Christmas / New Years break, “The Biggest Bluff” by Maria Konnikova. She uses poker to talk about making better decisions. Highly recommended for sales people. I liked it so much, I have already re-read it once, highlighting it like crazy, and have bought her other two books. Great stuff on the psychology of sales. 

One of her ideas is the basis behind today’s newsletter. In essence, she talks about not sweating the results of individual poker hands, but to focus on your process. Sometimes you are going to have a pair of kings, play the hand absolutely correctly, and have someone fluke a better hand and beat you. You did everything right, but still lost. The problem is many people will focus on that hand and that loss, how unfair it was, how they should have won. This is a waste of time. Instead, if you focus on your process, over time you will win your share of the hands played, and overcome the odd bit of bad luck.

There are two applications of this in our work in sales. The first is the obvious one in sales itself. You are going to get beaten by competitors, and sometimes that will be due to luck. I had a sale that I thought I had nailed down last year. Everything was in place. I especially had the key decision maker who had access to the funds on board. He was a big fan of using me to help his company. I was a couple weeks away from signing the deal and…that key guy jumped to another company, and everything he was working on became associated with the guy who left. I lost the sale. But I did everything right. What was I going to do, make him stay there? 

So when you lose a sale, don’t focus on the result, focus on the process. Is your process sound? Did you follow it? If the answer is yes, chalk up the loss to bad luck, and don’t think of it again. Over time, you will luck into a few too, and they will tend to even out. 

The second application is with LinkedIn. The same holds true for LinkedIn that holds true for sales in general. If you follow your process, you will be successful. Except that there are two problems with this idea:

  1. Most people and companies don’t have a “LinkedIn process”
  2. And even when they do, they don’t follow it. 

Most LinkedIn users have a vague idea of what they want to accomplish, but don’t articulate it very well (or at all), and then the activities they pursue on LinkedIn don’t necessarily fit with what their goals are. 

For those of us in sales there are four basic things that LinkedIn is good for: 

  • LinkedIn can increase our reach, making more people aware of us
  • LinkedIn can increase our credibility, having us seen as a viable alternative for our prospective customers
  • LinkedIn research can give us info to build better outreach strategies and messages, increasing our hit rate with new prospects
  • LinkedIn can be an extremely effective place to send those initial outreach messages. 

So my message for today is this: when you use LinkedIn, have a reason to do so. Know what you are trying to achieve. Have a plan for what activities or tasks will accomplish your goals. Have a process. Follow the process. Test the process if necessary. And you will make better use of the time you invest in LinkedIn.