How To Make Publishing Content Work For You On LinkedIn

Yes, it’s nice, but will it generate sales leads?

This applies to all three types of content on LinkedIn – written, video and audio

Part One: The Sales Lead Myth

Here is how people think it works on LinkedIn. They see someone publish a post and get lots of likes and comments. They think: “wow, look at all the sales leads that person is generating.”

Then they go off, write an article, publish it on LinkedIn and nothing happens.

You can generate leads through publishing. All you need to do is the following:

  • Write about what your target audience wants to know more about. Not about how great you or your company are, but about providing answers to the questions that your target audience has.
  • You publish regularly. “One and done?” Haha. No. You need to keep it up. In my case publishing a newsletter is easy. Publishing a newsletter every other week? Not as easy.
  • You engage with your readers (or viewers or listeners, whatever the case may be). It is possible someone will view your video, realize you are a genius and call you to hire you. I don’t know about you, but sadly for me, that doesn’t happen very often. However, if you engage with someone who engaged with your content, something may come of that conversation.
  • You follow up with logical leads. I make a point of reviewing not just the commenters on my content, but also everyone who liked it, shared it, and also the new people who followed me, or viewed my profile. If any of them match my target audience, I may contact them.

It takes a ton of work. Between my writing for my weekly email newsletter and this LinkedIn newsletter, plus the followup required and monitoring and responding to comments, I typically devote one day a week. An entire day. Every week. Are you ready for that sort of commitment?

Part Two: The Increased Reach Trap

Where most people go wrong is in what they assume publishing on LinkedIn is doing for them. Everyone assumes publishing will increase their reach, and while this is the case, this is misleading. Let me explain using an example. Say you publish a post or a video on LinkedIn and I get notified. I read your post and comment on it. This would seem great for you as I have over ten thousand followers. Although LinkedIn won’t say, it is generally agreed that after I comment, LinkedIn will alert a small percentage of my followers about your post and my comment on it. Some of those followers of mine may then go and read your post, may be interested in you and either follow or connect with you. Even if they don’t engage with you, they are aware of your existence and your goal of increasing your reach has been achieved.

But I would argue that while you have increased your reach you have increased it in a kind of untargeted and sloppy way. I may have ten thousand followers, but are they the people that you’re targeting? I think that’s highly unlikely. My followers tend to be people that want to figure out how to use LinkedIn more effectively. Some are self employed, some work for the government, some work for multinationals. They come from all over the world. Two thousand of them are in Europe. Does that describe your ideal customer? Probably not. So if thirty of my followers see your post, how likely is it that they are a good match for your target audience? Pretty unlikely.

The bottom line is that unless your only connections and followers are people going after your exact same target market – in other words, your competitors – your increased publishing reach will be with largely random people. There will be some “good” prospects there, but for most people, using content to increase reach will be not nearly as effective as they think it is.

So if publishing for reach isn’t effective, how can publishing help us?

Part Three: The Authority Game

The less measurable but important side of publishing is that some content stays attached to your profile, and most content is searchable on LinkedIn. That means that if you have written about a topic that your ideal customers want to know more about and search for it on LinkedIn, they can find your content…and you.

This is where content shines on LinkedIn, in building authority, credibility, thought leadership, whatever you want to call it. Building authority takes time. I often say to my clients that their goal should be to be seen as the number one resource in their area of expertise. It’s a great way to get a seat at the table of companies being seriously considered for a purchase.

And if you keep at it, the odd thing is that in the end, after a long time, the authority you build leads to sales leads and sales. People and companies that build authority get incoming requests and over the transom requests every week. People find you, seek you out, usually test drive your content, they have a feel for what you think, what you and your company are like and they have a positive feeling about you.

Every week I get one or two people messaging me out of the blue. Invariably they lead off with how long they have been reading my content, then they describe a problem they or their company is having, that they want to address the problem now, and can I help them?

The good news? This is just the type of lead that the person I described back in part one wanted to get. The bad news? It takes a while to earn this type of lead.

In the end, if you are willing to put the work in – something a lot of people are not that keen on – publishing content on LinkedIn can pay off big time.

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. 

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/

Best Uses Of LinkedIn & Priorities For Salespeople 

(there’s a “path” metaphor in here somewhere…)

This goes for all of you that work for yourselves too. My recommendations here play into how LinkedIn works, and how most people use it. These are my recommended uses and priorities:

1) Prospecting identification and research

2) Building credibility

3) Outreach

4) Building reach

In that order. Let’s talk about the relative merits of each of these.

Prospecting

LinkedIn is built for prospecting. You can find other databases with names and positions, and sometimes they come with email addresses and phone numbers too. But there are two big advantages to using LinkedIn for prospecting and these are accuracy and context. Most of the pay-for databases that you can access on the web are built through a combination of internet scraping and user community input. They are also kept up that way. So these databases are really only as good as the user input. I place a lot more trust in LinkedIn where the info on a Marketing Vice President is not provided by a user community but by the actual Marketing Vice President. 

Now if you want to go to one of those databases for emails and phone numbers that’s your prerogative, but don’t use those databases for background research, use LinkedIn. And that brings up my second point and that is context. I use LinkedIn to pour over profiles. They give me clues as to a person’s specific responsibilities, their career path and any number of hooks that can help me start a conversation with this person. 

I also think that while prospect identification – i.e. LinkedIn search – is something that everyone recognizes LinkedIn for, prospect research is a vastly underutilized aspect of LinkedIn. But it’s right there, and it’s free. If everyone used LinkedIn for research, and that research informed their outreach methods, I may not rank prospecting number one. The fact that most people don’t use LinkedIn this way is a huge advantage to those of us who do.

Building Credibility

Call it credibility, thought leadership, or whatever you want, but LinkedIn is great for this. The odd thing is that when most people publish content on LinkedIn, they are thinking of two possible results: We will make new people aware of us, and maybe we will get some sales leads. Because of the way content is distributed on LinkedIn, both of these ideas are pretty weak. Thinking of LinkedIn for credibility on the other hand, is pretty strong. 

When you publish content on LinkedIn, it’s up to LinkedIn’s algos who sees it and how many of them do so. Unless you paid for your content to go to certain people, you’re leaving it up to LinkedIn, and LinkedIn doesn’t know who your prospective customers are. 

However, if you publish articles, LinkedIn newsletters, or feature content on your LinkedIn profile, it stays there and is accessible to anyone who views your profile, or searches for content on the topics you wrote about. I still have people come to me after having read articles I published on LinkedIn six years ago. 

Writing about and answering the questions your prospects have, and doing so in formats that can attach those writings to your profile, is a powerful way to build credibility. The way I like to put this to my customers is that they want to put the information on LinkedIn and build their credibility so that their prospects will want to consider them as one of their finalists for a product or service. 

Outreach

While most people consider outreach part of prospecting, outreach is such an odd duck on LinkedIn that I like to keep it separate. As with credibility, being good at outreach on LinkedIn begins with understanding LinkedIn. In the case of outreach, it’s not so much a case of how LinkedIn works, but how LinkedIn users behave. And the brutal truth is most LinkedIn users don’t really use it that much at all. 

Less than half of LinkedIn users will login in the next thirty days. Maybe fifteen percent will login sometime in the next week. And when those occasional users login and see they have two hundred messages waiting for them, what do you think they do? Lots of deleting.

This is why I suggest to my customers that unless they can identify that someone is an active LinkedIn user (and yes, you can do this) that they use email as their primary outreach tool….or the phone, or Twitter, or anything but LinkedIn. 

Let me put it another way: the next time the average user will login to LinkedIn is Thanksgiving. The next time they will login to their email is what? Sometime later today? Which means do you think will be more effective? 

Building Reach

Reach comes last, because unless you are paying for it, you have very little control over who sees your content. Once again this comes down to the way LinkedIn works, in this case the algorithms. When you publish content on LinkedIn, LinkedIn will put it in front of a smattering of your connections. If they engage with your content, then some of their connections will have the opportunity to see it and engage with it. For the most part your increased reach will come from your connections’ connections. So the quality of your increased reach will vary with the quality of your connections  network, from your perspective. 

If you are the type of person where your product or service can be used by just about everybody – say you have a business selling printer ink or website services – then indiscriminate reach is okay. But for most of us, it’s not. 

A few weeks ago, I was recommended in a LinkedIn post by one of my connections. Over the next two days I received about sixty connection requests from people who read his post. I think two or three may be possible customers down the line. So is my reach better by sixty…or three? 

Summary

In closing today, I want to leave you with two thoughts. To use LinkedIn effectively, you need to think through two things: how LinkedIn works, and how people work LinkedIn. If you give these a bit of thought before you act, you will both save yourself time and you will actually get better results from that lower amount of time you need to put in. 

Experimenting With Shorter Content on LinkedIn

(did this story need all those extra animals on the right? photo courtesy Mark Johnston)

There are three forces I see coming together that, to me, suggest that shorter content on LinkedIn is an idea to consider and perhaps experiment with.

 More Content Options

Two years ago we had posts, articles and company posts. Now we have posts, articles, polls, events, newsletters, and various video and audio options, and in many cases both individual and company versions of these features. There is just a lot more you can do.

…Especially Newsletters

LinkedIn has taken a long time to roll them out, but courtesy of the notification option it is rare that a day goes by where I do not have an invitation to subscribe to a newsletter waiting for me on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Is Pushing Content

Especially via Creator Mode, but also through personal Services Pages and other new opetions on our profiles. LinkedIn is providing better options for that content to be seen.

 So given that the breadth of content options and that LinkedIn is promoting them, how do you stand out?

I think you can do so by being shorter.  Length does not necessarily mean strength. Don’t freak out that your content isn’t long enough. Figure out what you want to say, and take the minimal amount of time and space necessary to say it.

Of course there are places this doesn’t apply like an event, or if you were to publish a “Complete Guide To…”, but in most cases I think there is something to be said for making your point quickly. It respects your readers (or viewers or listeners) time.

I’ve been experimenting with shorter content and I am seeing two trends: the first is that my open rate is not going down, which in itself is impressive with more and more people publishing content on LinkedIn every day, and second is that no one is complaining that my content isn’t long enough.

The goal of my newsletters is to give you ideas on how you can use LinkedIn more effectively. This one took around three hundred and fifty words. I don’t think it needed to be longer.

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/