Using LinkedIn To Research People And Companies

Someone very serious about their research

I thought today I would go over an example of the research I would do before talking to a prospect. Here are the steps I take:

I will check their company page to see how it matches up with their website and to review all their recent activity.

I will check their LinkedIn profile for the following:

  • Current experience section for responsibilities and accomplishments
  • Previous experience to get an idea of their career path
  • Then I read the About section to see how they see their progression themselves
  • I will also look for recommendations given and received.
  • What their skills reflect (sometimes the order someone puts their skills in can tell you a lot)
  • The companies and people they are following and the groups they belong to.
  • Lastly, I will check their recent activity (if they have any) on LinkedIn. Is he or she  posting? How often? What topics? Are they interacting with other people’s or company’s posts?

This will take me ten minutes (I’ve done this hundreds of times) and it is time well invested for three reasons:

  1. It gives me an overview of his or her professional career.
  2. It helps me prepare and have ideas for my outreach message (if this is outbound) or the topics this person might be reaching out to me for (if this is inbound).
  3. And perhaps most importantly, it will show them the respect I have for them in preparing in this manner.

This can make all the difference in tilting the playing field in my favour. Having the facts and a lot of ideas at my fingertips going into a discussion with someone gives me a huge advantage in coming across as a credible resource who respects their time, takes an interest in what they are doing and wants to help them.

So that’s the prep for an individual. But what about a company?

I will do all of the things I did with respect to my individual prospect, but will add five more pieces of research. Here are the applicable ones from the list above that I will repeat for a company:

  • I will check the company website, to see what they do and to get a sense of their value proposition.
  • I will check their LinkedIn company page to see how it matches up with the website and to review all their recent activity.
  • I will check key contacts profiles, and carefully. Headline, photo, about section, work history. Focus on current experience section, but also look at  recommendations, both received and given, what their skills reflect (skills and which ones they emphasize are often a window into how people see themselves), where they went to school, the companies and people they are following and the groups they belong to. All these are things I can do very quickly, and give me a sense both of the person and how they view LinkedIn as a tool.

Here are the additional things I will look at:

  • I will see if they are active as a company on any other social media and if they are, how they are using those networks.
  • In looking at their company page I will examine the company insights LinkedIn provides very carefully (if they have more than thirty people with LinkedIn profiles, LinkedIn premium members can see these insights). Hiring trends, headcount, and turnover by department all give me clues as to how the company is doing. A company growing at 20% a year is very different from one that has had headcount go down by 20% in the past year.
  • I will review the sales and marketing employees’ LinkedIn profiles, asking myself the critical question, “do they get LinkedIn?”
  • I will look for active users in other parts of the company. I will often find people who are active LinkedIn users where you normally wouldn’t expect them.
  • Lastly I will look to see if I have any connections who might know people at this company. I look to see if there are any company employees with a “2nd” beside their name.

Say that you were to land a new client this month. What would the value of that satisfied client be over the next five years? Does that potential warrant the type and depth of research I have listed here? I think it does.

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/

Some Observations On Writing On LinkedIn

(shining the light on LinkedIn publishing) 

I was scrolling through my old articles in my LinkedIn Activity feed the other day, and it got me thinking about the vagaries of how we judge our success. Here are some observations on my writing for LinkedIn. See if they match yours.

If I look at my articles on face value, it is easy to see that most were opened and read a few hundred times, a small percentage a few thousand times and there are a couple outliers in the tens of thousands. Now that has changed somewhat as having a LinkedIn Newsletter gets my content in front of a lot more people than my articles used to. But even the newsletters only get opened a maximum of eight thousand times.

Being lucky helps. An article on the topic of Linkedin Search I wrote almost five years ago got over a hundred thousand click-to-open’s. And it still gets clicked on to this day. Why did this one do over twelve times better than my current LinkedIn newsletter does? It got indexed on Google and my topic apparently was one that people search for a lot. I had no clue. That article was no more or less good than the one I wrote before it, or the one I wrote after it. I just got lucky that week.

On the other hand, LinkedIn gives us pretty rotten tools for parsing our readers, so a lot of views doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

I know the best practices for publishing, or as well as you can know them when they are a moving target, though many I don’t bother with as I don’t write for views and I really don’t write for engagement.  I write for credibility, both to establish myself with my ongoing readers, and to have my articles and newsletters attached to my profile where people can find and read them. Publishing is the long game on LinkedIn for me. Every week I get one or two messages from people I don’t know at all saying they have been reading my articles – sometimes for a couple years! – and would like to connect and speak with me.

I have stuff I thought was gold and it was then met with complete disinterest. Ideas about aspects of using Linkedin that I thought bordered on profound and a couple hundred people read it. I had other content  that I was reluctant to publish and people loved it. We are all our own worst judge I suppose, we’re too close. I have learned to let go of my expectations for any single article or newsletter. I hit “publish” and it’s out of my hands.

Understanding how the algo works helps, but 90% of your readership, views and engagement will come from what you write about and how well you write. And when I say how well, it’s not well like Stephen King, it’s just being clean and relatable. The algo is always changing, best practices are always changing. Good choice of topics, and writing clearly about them, will always be in style.

Summary? Don’t overthink it. Once you have a handle on what your ideal reader wants more information on, write about that. I prefer writing articles and the newsletter because they stay findable through my LinkedIn profile. Don’t worry about the immediate reception or lack of one any single piece of content gets, let your ideal readers discover your work through your profile. I’m a believer in the long tail on LinkedIn, let the way LinkedIn works work for you.

Obligatory disclaimer: 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 is a three or four minute read, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

 

 

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/

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.

How The LinkedIn Publishing Algorithm Works (Or Doesn’t)

How I envision the inner worklings of the LinkedIn algorithm…

While there are people who claim to know exactly how the LinkedIn publishing algorithm works, I am at best skeptical, even if just for the simple reason that LinkedIn is constantly tweaking it to take into account both the user’s experience, new features and whatever LinkedIn’s goals are at any given time.

And while there is promise in the new Notification Bell (coming out on LinkedIn profiles) that the people who want to see our content will actually be able to do so, people have to discover us and our content in order to want more of it.

With all this in mind, here is a handy guide to how the algorithm seems to work after you hit “publish”.

Step 1. LinkedIn puts your content in front of a small slice of your Connections. Or maybe it’s your Connections and your Followers.

Some people think this slice is 5-7% of your connections.

Other people think it is 5-10% of your connections and followers (which begs the question of how your followers could enter into it at all, seeing as LinkedIn has talked about your Connection Strength Score being important. I have yet to read about a Follower Strength Score).

I have seen other people who think the small slice is a discrete number like a couple dozen or a hundred connections (which doesn’t pass the smell test for me, as people with very large followings should have better distribution of their posts out of the gate shouldn’t they? I would think Bill Gates’s posts get put in front of more people to start with than you or I).

Step 2. LinkedIn watches to see what the reaction to your content among that first slice of people is like.

It is guessed that among reactions/likes, comments and shares that LinkedIn gives more weight to  comments. I think this makes sense as  comments take more thought than a simple like or a share (note that when I say “comments” I am talking about real comments, not stuff like “nice post!”).

It is also guessed that getting those comments, and to a lesser extent, likes and shares soon after the content is published is important. The problem is that “soon after” phrase. What’s that all about? Fifteen minutes? Fifteen hours?

Step 3. Should the content get lots of engagement quickly after we publish, the algorithm will decide that our content is relevant, and distribute it to more people.

Only on LinkedIn could I write a sentence like that last one, where the words “lots”, “engagement”, “quickly” and “more” are all open to interpretation.

Step 4. Steps two and three repeat until engagement wanes.

Let’s dissect this a bit more because I want you to understand what’s happening here and what isn’t:

  • LinkedIn acknowledges their role in boosting posts, especially during the time right after you post, and further boosting your post’s distribution if engagement is good.
  • But everything else is guesswork. While it is generally accepted that Likes, Comments and Shares constitute “engagement”, LinkedIn does not define what engagement is in the context of their intent to further distribute content. And note that LinkedIn also does not define or explain what “further distribution” is – how much further? Another five to ten percent of your followers? Friends and family?  How about a larger number as your high engagement is a sign of a successful post? LinkedIn doesn’t say.

The bottom line is LinkedIn has a big hand in you going viral, or at least achieving widespread distribution on LinkedIn. But…a big hand doesn’t mean the only hand.

While everyone seems to get hung up on the “who” your content goes to, and the “how many” of them it goes to, most people completely miss out on the “why”.

The magic word that everyone seems to gloss over is “engagement.” While we can argue till we are blue in the face about whether a comment is the equivalent of five likes to the algorithm, or one comment equals two shares, the bottom line is that engagement gets rewarded.

This is one of the reasons I have always thought views were a useless metric. LinkedIn decides who sees our content out of the gate, then it is all up to the engagement we get in order for more people to have the opportunity to see our content. No engagement, no views.

And as opposed to all those other metrics – how many people LinkedIn puts the content in front of and how fast people respond – engagement is one thing we can affect as the creator (oops, sorry, make that Creator) of that content. We can write with engagement in mind. We can write (or create videos or audio or whatever) with the goal of starting conversations.

My goal when I write and publish on LinkedIn is to get people thinking about how LinkedIn works and how they are using it. Sometimes my content prompts a lot of comments and conversation, sometimes not that much. But there is a very real correlation between the engagement I get and the number of views – further distribution – my content gets.

I have been writing and publishing for several years on LinkedIn, and I continue to learn new aspects to the way LinkedIn works. It took me a long time to figure out that engagement drives views, not the other way around.

The obligatory disclaimer: 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. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

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/

12 Things I Have Learned About LinkedIn & Using LinkedIn

“Knowledge is good.” – Emil Faber

Today’s newsletter is a mashup of two pieces I wrote for my email newsletter, one on things I have learned about LinkedIn that are useful, interesting and good, and one on things that occasionally make me grind my teeth. These are all things that I have figured out or have gradually dawned on me from using LinkedIn every day for 11+ years now.

Money talks and companies have money. If you have lots of money to spend on lots of premium subscriptions, ads or sponsored updates, LinkedIn will be keen to talk to you. If you don’t have money, LinkedIn is not that interested in you. Like many software platforms, LinkedIn’s business model is not designed to provide a high level of support to their users. The fact that this low level of support and interaction has provided a business opportunity for people like me is not lost on me.

LinkedIn’s primary customers are sales, marketing, human resources and recruiting people. If you are not in one of these four groups, you are not so much a customer, you and your data are the product LinkedIn sells to those customers. LinkedIn makes changes to the platform that will serve those customers. If those changes serve you, that’s a bonus. While it may sound nice that LinkedIn is “improving the user experience,” what LinkedIn is really doing is persuading us to become more active on LinkedIn, which is good for ad sales.

You are going to be contacted on LinkedIn by people you don’t know. Expect recruiters and salespeople to contact you. That’s the price of admission. Be gracious to people who approach you intelligently and respectfully. But if they don’t approach you intelligently and respectfully, all bets are off. Spammers and people who send automated crap messages should be treated with the lack of respect they deserve and reported to LinkedIn with extreme prejudice.

LinkedIn will never be a fabulous user experience. There are just too many different constituencies inherent in eight hundred million users. You have people who use it every day and people who show up once a year. You have people using it for sales, research, recruiting, networking, job search and a hundred other reasons. And each of those groups has a laundry list of features they wish LinkedIn had. As far as the user experience is concerned, “serviceable” is probably the best you should hope for.

If you don’t have a plan, you can waste an awful lot of time on LinkedIn. Plan what you need to do in order to accomplish your LinkedIn goals, do those things, and leave.

Using automation on LinkedIn hurts your brand. You people that use automated messaging tools on LinkedIn may be suprised to find LinkedIn users are better at seeing that your messages are automated than you think. Automation makes you look like you just see everyone as an entry on a spreadsheet. Hardly the way to build credibility and trust.

And if you use automation for things like profile views, connection requests, or messaging, LinkedIn will come after you. I hear folks say that LinkedIn won’t catch you, that it’s extremely unlikely. Well, it’s also unlikely that you will be struck by lightning if you wander around outside during a thunderstorm. For a while.

Engage one on one with your connections and other people on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a contact sport.

Social Selling on LinkedIn is just like regular selling. That is, if you do it well, it works. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people doing it well (just like regular selling).

Remember that LinkedIn is a tool. A good one, but it’s not the Holy Sales Grail. This is mostly because people think LinkedIn is a social network, but it is really just a big database with a very small social network embedded in it.

LinkedIn is an excellent people database with good search tools attached. Though you need a Sales Navigator or Recruiter premium account to take full advantage of these tools. In my opinion, those tools are worth it.

LinkedIn can be used to find paths to people you don’t know via people you do know. Every time you see a little “2nd” beside someone’s name on LinkedIn, that means you share one of more LinkedIn Connections with that person. You can ask your mutual connection for an introduction, a referral or for more background on your person of interest. And you don’t need a premium subscription to obtain this info or use it. This is a very underrated and underutilized aspect of LinkedIn.

You get out of LinkedIn in direct relation to what you put into LinkedIn. By all means you can “do” LinkedIn in ten minutes a day, just expect to get results corresponding to ten minutes worth of effort.

It’s still a “give to get” world. The minute you start looking at someone’s LinkedIn profile and figuring out how you can help them, instead of how they can help you, is the minute you will start moving towards effective results using LinkedIn. The single best thing you can do on LinkedIn is invest your time developing your relationships with your connections. Very few people do this.

For B2B sales professionals, LinkedIn is a game changer. What originally attracted me to LinkedIn a dozen years ago was that it was what I had wished for since I started in high tech sales in 1985: A searchable database of most every customer I could ever want, a treasure trove of researchable material on those people and their companies, and the possibility that LinkedIn itself may be an effective method to reach out to them.

All of these things that I have figured out boil down to one overall theme: See LinkedIn for what it is, not for what you wish it was, and you will make more effective use of the time you invest in it.

The obligatory disclaimer: 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. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

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 or three 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/