Taking Care Of Your LinkedIn Network

Today I want to talk about being responsive to the people in your network. You are going to get requests for assistance from people in your network, and from people outside it that could become people in your network.

Now I am not talking about the obnoxious sales pitches, you should ignore them or report them to LinkedIn if they are out of line (personally, I like toying with them, but that’s another newsletter for another day).

No, I am talking about the people who have come to you for help. I am pretty active on LinkedIn, with ten thousand connections/followers and twenty-five thousand LinkedIn newsletter subscribers, so I get more of these requests and messages than most people. I typically get two or three messages every day asking for help in using or understanding some aspect of LinkedIn or how LinkedIn works.

For example, looking at my Messaging tab I can see that the day I wrote this was pretty typical – one request on Premium vs Sales Navigator, one on publishing content, and one on an aspect of the Weekly Search appearances feature.

So how do I handle these requests? By answering them. All of them, as best I can. My self imposed rule is that if I can help someone in a few minutes, I do so. Question about the way something works? Sure, here’s how it does. Want an opinion as to an approach? Here’s an idea, you might want to try this.

Here are some of the reasons I do this:

I feel I have a responsibility to do so. I am in a position of having knowledge and experience using LinkedIn that most people don’t have. What is a mystery to them is second nature to me.

It helps keep me sharp. There are times it challenges me and the way I think about LinkedIn. This actually happened in one of those exchanges yesterday, the one on Your Weekly Search Appearances. The way the person worded their question made me look at my weekly results a bit differently and made me realize that this feature is even more useless than I thought it was.

I like doing it. It strikes me as impolite not to help someone (I’m Canadian. Got to keep that stereotype going).

But most of all, it plants seeds. If someone can come to me for help when they have a small problem, who will they call when they have a big one?

Helping people like this also comes back in odd and unexpected ways. The person I took five minutes to help two years ago comes to me saying they have changed jobs, the new company is looking for assistance and he told his VP of Sales about me, and can I speak with him? Or I get a message from someone who was referred to them by someone I helped.

Helping your network is just good business. It helps you build the type of reputation you want. So that’s my message for today: If someone asks for your help, do it if you can, demure graciously if you can’t. You have knowledge. Share it.

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 to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

4 Hidden Benefits From Publishing Content On LinkedIn 

 

sharing content was a lot tougher in the old days…

 

For the most part we publish content on LinkedIn looking for one or both of the usual benefits – views, engagement or sales leads. What I want to talk about today are what I call the “Unexpected Benefits” because they are not as obvious but they are there. These are particularly beneficial to small companies and people that work for themselves. 

Here are four benefits that I have found from writing and publishing on LinkedIn over the past six years.

1) I learn more about the topic of the day

In my case, I write about using LinkedIn. Writing and wanting to write about some aspect of LinkedIn or using LinkedIn every week (while my LinkedIn Newsletter goes out every two weeks, my email newsletter goes out every week, usually with a couple articles) forces me to explore LinkedIn more than I would otherwise. It takes me beyond – as it did a few weeks ago – simply wondering what use it was having “followers”, and taking that random germ of an idea, exploring it as completely as I could, and then writing about it. Writing has resulted in me finding out a lot about LinkedIn, how it works, and having an idea as to where it is going. 

2) I discover hidden gems

About once every six months I will discover something useful or realize that there is a way to use a feature that no one seems to be capitalizing on. These are ideas that I can share with my clients that can give them an edge. I have three of these in play right now, one having to do with LinkedIn Search, another with Profiles and a third with one of the newer content types on LinkedIn. But I would not have come up with these ideas if I had not invested the time in really thinking through these features, how they are used, and especially how they are not being  used. 

3) A better ability to communicate ideas

Publishing content forces me to be able to lay out my thinking and my arguments in a coherent and rational manner (some readers would no doubt argue as to whether I am accomplishing this goal). If I am going to discuss the ins and outs of posting or newsletters with a client I had better be able to do it coherently in comparison to the standard cheerleading, “They’re good! You should do them! Social selling! Rah rah!” For example, I don’t want to just tell people they should publish newsletters and also post on LinkedIn. I want to be able to tell a client where posts may work, where newsletters may work, how they differ and how they may complement each other. Half my job is telling people what they probably shouldn’t be doing on LinkedIn, and I had better be able to explain why.  

4) Credibility, credibility, credibility

Almost as soon as they came out, I started favoring publishing articles over posts on LinkedIn because articles get stored with my LinkedIn profile, and are also indexed by Google. Visitors to my profile can find all my articles, going back to 2016. These articles are a body of work that represent the way I think about LinkedIn which is different from how most people do. There’s nothing wrong with posts on twenty-five factors you should take into account with your LinkedIn profile photo, but lots of people are covering that ground. I am more interested in figuring out things like followers and search and notifications and InMail and how LinkedIn really works. What the odd little quirks – and the larger truths – are on LinkedIn that my clients and connections can use to give themselves an edge. Having all my articles collected and attached to my profile allows prospective clients and connections to be able to see that.

There are obvious or traditional uses for publishing on LinkedIn – views, engagement and sales leads – but given the way LinkedIn publishing is set up, I ignore those three reasons and publish for a fourth, which is valid for me. That makes my publishing a little (well, maybe a lot) less mainstream, but that’s fine.

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.