Introductions: The “You Don’t Need Sales Navigator” Strategy

If you have 500 LinkedIn connections and those connections have 500 connections each, you have 250,000 second degree connections. A lot of them are going to be people you would like to connect with.
Want proof? Go take a company that you would like to get more deeply into and search for it. Choose “people” as the result. Now select just your second level connections. What you will probably find is that while you don’t have a “two” that is THE person you would like to meet, you have multiple pathways into the company.
So turn your connections into your ambassadors and ask them to introduce you to people they know at those target companies.
I know what a lot of people will be saying: I have 1500 connections but I really don’t know them all that well, maybe only 300 of them. Fine. Just work with the 300. If they have 300 connections each that they in turn know well, that’s 90,000 people they can introduce you to.
What does an introduction take?
“Alan this is Brenda, this is how I know Brenda. Brenda has some unique insights into widgets.”
“Brenda this is Alan, this is how I know Alan. Alan has been in the abracadabra industry for fifteen years.”
That’s it. This isn’t rocket science.
Here’s why introductions are huge: Credibility.
The person making the introduction for you bestows upon you credibility with the other person you would like to meet. It is just a sheen of credibility, a starter kit of credibility, but it gives you you a shot at making  an impression. You don’t get this credibility boost via InMail, email, or cold call.
What an introduction on LinkedIn decodes as is “This is someone I know. He or she is not going to waste your time.”
And the secret to making this strategy work? Offer to do it for your connections first.

FAQ: Managing Invitations to Connect on LinkedIn 

And a carefully written note with your invitation can go a long way…

 

If the other person does not answer or accept, can I withdraw my invitation to connect?

Yes. And perhaps oddly, LinkedIn will allow you to send that person another invitation after three weeks have gone by. 

To manage sent invitations, click on the “My Network” tab and choose “manage” at the top right. 

 

Why am I being asked to provide the person’s email address that I want to invite to connect?

It is possible that the other person has set their account to only receive invitations from people who know their email address. I have never seen anyone do this. 

The more likely scenario (cue ominous music) is that you are in LinkedIn jail. This happens when you have been ignored or rejected by a large percentage of the people you have invited to connect. LinkedIn (or at least LinkedIn’s algorithms) think you are pushing your luck as to who you are inviting to connect. 

 

Do connection requests expire? 

I haven’t heard of this. In theory your connection request can sit for years, waiting for the other person to see it. In theory this kind of makes sense: a lot of users only come around every few months, so having your request expire too quickly doesn’t help you or that other person. 

 

Should I delete invites that don’t get a response? 

I do. I usually delete invites once I figure someone should have seen it and responded by now. For someone who uses LinkedIn every day, I will give them three or four days. As I am not interested in connecting with occasional users, I don’t let any invites hang around for more than two weeks. 

 

Should I send a personalized note with my invitation?

People are on both sides of the fence on whether one is really needed. I think it depends on the situation. If I know the person, or they are a logical person to accept – they work at a client company for example – no note is needed. However if they come in out of the blue, I want to know the context as to why they want to connect. 

It never hurts to add a note that gives context to why you sent the invitation. It all comes back to the “what’s in it for the other person” idea. We want to give them a reason to say “yes”.

With thanks to one of my Connections, Wayne Yoshida, who had the idea for this post and several of the questions. 

Optimizing Your LinkedIn Homepage Feed – part 2 – fine tuning

Three micro settings to fine tune your homepage feed.

All of these changes pertain to individual people and posts you come across in your feed. The first do are done through the three little dots menu at the top right of any post. 

Here is what you can do when different problems arise: 

When you are sick of a post reappearing at the top of your screen

Solution: choose “Hide this post” 

Sometimes LinkedIn’s algorithm will decide I really should see a post and it keeps showing up at the top of my feed. Sorry, time to go. Roll your mouse over the three dots at the top right of the post in question. A drop down menu will appear. Choose “Hide this post”     

Note that this only hides this particular post as posted by this one particular person. If someone else in your network posts the same content, it will show up again.

Note that there is also a selection at the top right of the feed that you can change from “Top” where LinkedIn selects the post it thinks you want to see and “Recent” where whatever is the newest post among the people / topics / companies will come first. If you do change it to “Recent”, this selection is not very sticky and will revert back to “Top” after a day or two. 

When a connection is a serial bad poster            

Solution: unfollow them

I call this “connection jail.” If I find someone who just keeps posting content that I find no value in, I put them in connection jail by unfollowing them. The unfollow command is in the same drop down menu as the “hide this particular” update command.

Note that you can’t “partially unfollow” someone. I have had several people ask me about this. They like what the person writes but don’t want to see his or her likes and comments on other people’s posts. I am sorry, it’s either everything from that person or nothing. And I am really sorry if the person you are asking about is actually me. 

When a connection goes sour                

Solution: sever the connection

This is a favorite of mine for a couple of reasons. The first is we all make mistakes. We connect with someone and find that it was not one of our better decisions. To remedy this problem, go to their LinkedIn profile and click on the More button. Then just choose “Remove this connection”

Now, here’s the other part I like: LinkedIn keeps it quiet. The other person is not notified that you have disconnected from them. It’s all very discrete. They will never know unless they view your profile and see you are now a “2”.  

Don’t spend your time on LinkedIn with updates or people that aggravate you or don’t provide value. Your time is more important than that.

Optimizing Your LinkedIn Homepage Feed

Seeing what you want and getting rid of the stuff you don’t want.
Ah, your homepage feed on LinkedIn. What most users don’t realize is that you have options to tune your homepage feed and make it more useful. In this post I will show you some macro settings to optimize what you are seeing.
The place we want to go is “Settings and Privacy.” It’s accessed through a drop down menu under your avatar. Under the Account column you will find…
Autoplay Videos.
Choose whether you want videos to start playing when you scroll to them, or if you want to hit play yourself. I always have this set to “off.” I am not a fan of scrolling down and having a video come to life with some vidiot yelling at me to buy his guaranteed solution. If there is a video I think I want to watch, it is not exactly onerous to hit “Play”.
Feed preferences will take you to a whole new screen. Here there will be “Follow Fresh Perspectives,” the number of people you are following and the people that are following you. Let’s take then one by one:
Follow Fresh Perspectives
You will be given a ton of choices here: Hashtags, Companies, Influencers, Magazines and Websites. You are telling LinkedIn what content you want to see in your homepage feed. Note that as I mentioned in this newsletter a couple months ago, electing to follow someone or something in the case of a hashtag or company does not guarantee you will see all of that content.
Following
Following will be preceded by a number, which is your number of connections. By default when you connect with someone you follow each other. You can choose which connections you no longer wish to follow here. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time, as you can unfollow people on an as needed basis from your homepage feed anytime. This page is a really useful one as it will dawn on you after a moment that your connections are listed by how often they post every week. This is your opportunity to get rid of the serial posters that clog up your feed and appear there over and over again. As I reviewed my list while I was writing this post, despite the fact I review this page every few months I had managed to get a couple new people who post over a hundred times a week!
Note that there are also slider filters at the top right of this people chart and you can do the same for out of network people you are following like Bill Gates and other influencers, plus companies and hashtags you are following. You may be surprised at some of the people and topics you are following that you had forgotten about.
Followers
Followers – again preceded by a number – are all the people following you on LinkedIn. Before you get all big headed about this number, realize that it is just your connections plus anyone who has decided they want to follow you. For most people this number will be very close or exactly the same as their number of connections. People that amass large numbers of true followers usually fall into one of three categories:
  • they are legitimate influencers like the aforementioned Mr Gates
  • they are decision makers at their companies and get lots of sales people following them
  • they publish a lot on LinkedIn and attract followers over time
I fit in the latter category. I have a little over five thousand connections and another three thousand followers. Note that three thousand followers sounds great until you realize that I have probably published around six hundred posts and articles on LinkedIn so my average published content gains me five – count ‘em five – new followers.
Okay, this gives you some good info to work with. Go give your homepage feed a (late) spring cleaning and next post I will show you how to fine tune your feed on the fly.

Using Automation Software on LinkedIn. Don’t. Here’s Why.

 

I get emails all the time from companies that sell browser extensions and apps for use on LinkedIn. The idea is that you can automate and scale up your interaction with others by getting the extension or app to do the work for you. They will do things like view profiles, invite people with certain keywords in their profiles or titles to connect, automatically send them welcome messages when they accept, automatically endorse them, automatically send them congratulatory messages when they have a work anniversary or change jobs, and automatically send sales messages to large swaths of your connections.

The result is you can have a lovely and productive relationship with a connection without ever having to go to the trouble of really being aware of who they are. 

But these tools – all of these tools – contravene the user agreement you have with LinkedIn.

As in these parts:

8.2. Don’ts. You agree that you will not:

  • Scrape or copy profiles and information of others through any means (including crawlers, browser plugins and add-ons, and any other technology or manual work);
  • Use manual or automated software, devices, scripts robots, other means or processes to access, “scrape,” “crawl” or “spider” the Services or any related data or information;
  • Use bots or other automated methods to access the Services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages;

The bottom line is that anyone telling you that automatic scraping or viewing tools  are a good idea is someone who is not doing you a favor.

And doesn’t anyone else find it ironic when these companies say: “We will automatically look at 500 profiles, scrape the data from the profiles, then  automatically accept invitations to connect sent your way, and send the new connection a welcome message. It’s the ultimate in social selling!”  

Wait a second, where was the social part? How social is it when you are starting off your relationship with someone by conning them?

Quite frankly, the use of automation software cheapens the user experience for everyone on LinkedIn. They introduce an element of doubt in your interactions with people. Is that really you that sent that message or your bot? Was that you that sent me a “welcome to my LinkedIn network” message or a browser extension? If I send a real message of thanks to someone who commented on one of my posts, will they see the headline and just assume it as another piece of app-generated spam?

Don’t get tempted by the idea of using automation on LinkedIn. LinkedIn doesn’t like it, and it puts your focus on numbers. And numbers don’t have relationships with you, people do.

An unusual but valuable LinkedIn Search: content

You can search for content on any topic on LinkedIn. Here’s how.

Most people don’t realize that they can search for content on LinkedIn, but here are four good reasons why you might want to start:

1) you are doing research on a topic

2) you want to see if other people are writing about, have recently written about, or have covered an aspect of a topic you are thinking of writing about

3) you are looking for prospects and this is the type of thing they would be reading and commenting on

4) you want to see if your competitors are writing about a topic

All you need to do is to type the word or expression in the search bar, click enter and then click on “content.”

If you use an expression, put quotation marks around it. If you want to look for people writing about genome sequencing, search for “genome sequencing”, as the quotation marks tell Linkedin to look for those two words together. Without the quotation marks, LinkedIn will look for the two words, but not necessarily together. 

And a word about hashtags: not everyone uses them, so I usually don’t search for them. You get more results from “genome sequencing” than from #genomesequencing. 

Try it. Once you have tried it a couple times, you will start thinking of ways to use it to your advantage. 

LinkedIn now measures dwell time. They what? 

First some background: How does LinkedIn decide what we see in our homepage feed? 

The homepage algorithm figures out the following: 

  • The probability that you will “react” to this post, a reaction being a like, comment or share. This probability is based on your history with this poster. LinkedIn doesn’t mention it, but I assume they also look at your history with this post’s topic, or I assume, with a specific hashtag)
  • The probability that other people will react to your reaction – take action of their own. Are there people that typically are drawn to your comments or likes of a post? 
  • The value to the content creator of your reactions. Do your reactions give valuable feedback to the author? I am not sure how LinkedIn would measure this unless you were to “like” their comment or share. 

All the thousands of possible posts that could be presented to you are weighed, and the “best” ones according to the algos go into your stream. 

Limitations of this approach:

  • Some people read posts and appreciate them but are just not people who react. 
  • Someone may click “more” and open a post, but then realize that the post isn’t for them, and goes back to the feed. LinkedIn calls these click bounces. 

So now LinkedIn has added “dwell time” in it’s calculations as to the value they are assigning a post. 

There are two types of dwell time: the time a post is sitting in your feed, and the time the post is sitting in your feed once you click on it. 

Until now, LinkedIn had measured clicks, comments, reactions and shares to rate a post. Now dwell time will be factored in as well. 

If this is the case, less crappy posts will be presented to you and you will see more posts that actually have something to say that people read through end to end. 

Two observations in all this:

  1. One factor in all this that really should be emphasized is your “history” with posts from a given author. If you have a history of reading and / or reacting to a person – whether a connection or someone you follow – LinkedIn will remember and favor their content being put in front of you. Whenever you react to a post, you increase the likelihood that more of that person’s posts will appear in your feed. 
  2. Everything you do on LinkedIn, no matter how small, has consequences. Everything you do gets interpreted by LinkedIn (which is a little disquieting). 

Check your own homepage feed and see for yourself. Just don’t pull up a post from someone you don’t like and choose that moment to leave your device and have lunch. 

Let’s have a short talk about following on LinkedIn

Following doesn’t work like it used to, and in fact, it sucks. 

Well, I told you it would be a short talk. 

Over the past couple years following has changed on LinkedIn. There are four facets to following, only one of which I think is worthwhile (but it really really is worthwhile). 

Let’s cover the rotten ones first. 

Following companies

Does nothing for you. I have not been able to find any circumstances where I have been notified that a company I am following has published something on LinkedIn. 

Following people

Follow all you want, you won’t see their content either. I don’t get notified about new content from people I follow. 

So in both circumstances we don’t see the content we thought we were going to see. Note that if you have a Sales Navigator subscription, you can designate people and companies as leads, in which case your Sales Navigator home page feed is filled only with the content and activities of the people and companies you’re following. So perhaps this is all an extraordinarily ham handed attempt by LinkedIn to get people purchasing Sales Navigator. But paying seventy bucks a month is a pretty expensive way to see anyone’s content.

The following “flirt” signal

Some people will follow someone in the hopes that that someone will invite them to connect. This is a weak strategy as not everyone checks their followers. 

The follower connect strategy

This is the one I advocate. I regularly review my followers, and when I see someone interesting I invite them to connect. When I do, I always include a personal note and make a point of telling them what’s in it for them in connecting with me. I have been doing this for five years and it works around two thirds of the time.

Following is another example of a LinkedIn feature that is best used in a manner different from how everyone thinks it should be used. 

How To Rank Higher In LinkedIn Search Results

The most important factor for ranking higher in search results isn’t the quality of your profile or your use of keywords. Those things will get you included in the search results, but not necessarily a high ranking.

What is the most important factor? Your relevancy to the searcher. So what does that mean? It means that you may show up on page two (that is somewhere between 11th and 20th) for one person and page seven (61st to 70th)  for another person searching using the exact same keywords or search parameters. And no one wants to be on page seven. When was the last time you googled something and closely examined the seventh page of results?  

Relevancy is a bit of a moving target. LinkedIn interprets relevancy based on an ever evolving algorithm which weighs things like the searcher’s prior activity on LinkedIn, similar searches other people have conducted in the past and the profiles that get selected by the query. Having the right keywords in your profile will get you included in the search results, but they probably won’t help too much, as everyone else who was included in the search results had those keywords too.

And let’s face it, you can’t do anything about a searcher’s prior history, or other similar searches to this one.  

The biggest factor for where you appear in search results is your relationship to the searcher. LinkedIn thinks that the closer the relationship, the higher the relevance. So LinkedIn tends to list the search results by connection level – first degree connections first, seconds second , group members third and the third level / everyone else crowd last. And this makes sense. Say you are looking for someone to help with you build a WordPress based blog. You search for WordPress on LinkedIn, maybe adding your location to find someone local. LinkedIn shows that you have three first degree connections that qualify, then forty second degree connections, sixty group members, and two hundred third level / LinkedIn members. Based on what you asked for, doesn’t it make sense that LinkedIn lists the three people you can contact directly – your first level connections – first?

So what does this tell us? To appear higher in searches you should develop a big network. No, this doesn’t mean you should indiscriminately connect with anyone on LinkedIn.  But you should be connecting with people in, and affiliated with, your target audience – your target audience being the people you would like to be found by, whether that is prospective employers, prospective customers, or peers. The more people you are connected with, the more likely you will show up as a “one” or a “two” in the search rankings. If you and I are in the same field, have similar experience and credentials, but you have two thousand connections and I have two hundred, who’s your money on for appearing higher in search results?

LinkedIn even says this (it’s in the LinkedIn help section):

The more connections you have, the more likely you will have a connection to the searcher. Closer connections, such as a 2nd-degree connection compared to a 3rd-degree connection, improve your ranking in searches.

There is a big difference between search engine optimization and LinkedIn search results optimization. To optimize for LinkedIn search results, you need lots of relevant connections.

 

Thanks for reading. I publish weekly newsletters on using LinkedIn for Sales, LinkedIn for Marketing and Advanced LinkedIn Strategies and Tactics. Each is typically a two or three minute read and contains useful ideas you can put into practice right away. You can sign up here: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Can You Go Viral On LinkedIn?  

It is pretty unlikely. Here’s why.

Definition: for the purposes of this discussion, I consider a “viral” post or article to be one that gets an unexpectedly large number of views, particularly with respect to what that an author has been used to receiving. Viral for you or me might be a thousand views, or ten thousand views, while Bill Gates could probably post his grocery list and do better than that.

There are good practices that will improve readership and engagement. These include:

  • Posting on a regular basis
  • A topic people are interested in
  • A good headline that draws people in
  • A photo or illustration that is interesting or unique
  • Cross promotion with other authors (but beware of Pods. More on this topic another time)
  • Having a lot of connections
  • Building a regular following
  • Getting involved in the comments and discussion an article generates

There are more, but these are some of the things you can do that will have a positive effect on your posts. But none of them is going to make you go viral. 

So what does? Things you can’t control.

  • Your post (unexpectedly) strikes a chord with a lot of people

I call this the “Johnston Posting Uncertainty Principle.” The JPUP states that you will never know how a post will be received. I have posts I have written quickly, on topics that I thought were pretty vanilla, and they do well. And then a couple of weeks later I do some real research into the way LinkedIn works, ideas that will have an impact on the way people think about using LinkedIn, publish my findings, and….nothing.

It does help if the post in question is about something that has broad appeal. Leadership and management related posts on LinkedIn will always have broader appeal than a post on Befunge (which is an obscure programming language with a funny name). 

  • LinkedIn promoting your post.

You can prompt (ie: grovel with) LinkedIn to promote your post, but there are no guarantees they will. In four plus years of posting on LinkedIn, I have written around several hundred posts and several hundred articles and I think I have been picked up and actively promoted by LinkedIn twice. Two out of six hundred are crappy odds.

Note that even having these additional factors to your advantage still doesn’t guarantee viral-litude. Here’s a real life example from LinkedIn Influencer Jeff Haden. One week his post gets 512,000 views. His next post gets 546,000 views. His post the following week? 23,000 (kind of antiviral). What do you think Jeff’s expectations were for his post the third week? I don’t know, but I am guessing that it wasn’t a 95% lower view count.   

The bottom line is that even following good writing and posting practices on LinkedIn, and even with a popular post topic and being picked up by LinkedIn, luck seems to be the single biggest factor.

So if you see someone writing a post on how to go viral on LinkedIn, read it with a certain amount of healthy skepticism. Go look at that person’s recent activity page on their profile and look at their posts. There may be a legitimately viral post there that got 500,000 views. Of course if they have cracked the code, all their posts after that first viral one are also getting 500,000 views or more, right?

But I think the whole idea of going viral loses sight of the bigger picture. I would rather have a post with a low number of views and really good engagement than one with a lot of views and no comments. Engagement can lead to connecting, and connecting can lead to networking, and networking can lead to business opportunities. I am not sure what views lead to as there is no way to find out who my specific viewers were.

Enjoy your posts that do well in terms of views, everyone likes the ego boost. But views are like a company’s sales, and engagement is like a company’s profits. Would you rather have really good sales, or really good profits?