Don’t Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good

(this photo isn’t perfect – there’s a tiny boat on the horizon – but I am okay with that. Photo courtesy Mark Johnston)

I do a lot of walking, a minimum of two hours every day. It’s my pandemic exercise. To keep from getting bored I have a good set of Bluetooth headphones and I listen to podcasts. 

In one such podcast, there was an interview with Dr Anthny Fauci, who no one had heard of a year ago, and everyone has heard of now. 

And during the course of the interview, Fauci had a great line:

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

The context was Fauci was talking about vaccines and the idea was that the first vaccine that comes out may only protect some of the population, or it may only work for a limited amount of time. But, even a vaccine that only protects some people is better than waiting for one that protects everyone. 

This whole line of thought made me think of blogging and posting on LinkedIn. When you blog or write a post, perfect is the enemy of good. I can write a “good” post in one or two hours. I can polish the heck out of that post in another two hours. But the good version is ninety or ninety-five percent of the polished version. Polishing the post may result in a little more eloquence, but the key in a post or a blog post is the thought or idea that you want to convey. When you have reasonable substance, people will forgive some style points. 

I tend to write five pieces of content each week for my newsletters, my blog and to use on LinkedIn. They take me somewhere between five and eight hours to write. If I wanted to polish those five, my time commitment would jump to fifteen or twenty hours. Which doesn’t leave me much time for my clients, the folks who pay the bills around here. What it comes down to is this: 

I have a max of eight hours a week to write. 

What can I get done in that time? 

There comes a time after you write something, and you give it an edit, maybe put it away for a while and then look at it with fresh eyes, you edit it again, but then it is time to let it go out into the world. Hit publish. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Thanks Doc.

The First Hour After You Publish On LinkedIn Is (Maybe) Critical

It’s an accepted best practice that getting engagement for your post in the first sixty minutes is important. But is it critical? I am beginning to wonder.

When we hit publish, LinkedIn takes our content and presents it in the feeds of a small group of our connections. It is generally accepted that the figure is five to ten percent of your connections. Typically it gets put in front of people that you share a high “Connection Strength Score” with. Simply put, these are people who you have directly interacted with lately on LinkedIn. So, in theory, LinkedIn is putting your content in front of a crowd that should be favorably disposed to engage with it.

What happens in the next sixty minutes is important. LinkedIn looks at the engagement your content generates. They don’t explain what that means, but it is widely thought to include likes/reactions, comments and shares, and that comments are weighted more heavily than the other two. If you get a lot of engagement in that first hour, LinkedIn expands the circle of people that are presented with your post in their feed. If that second “wave” gets good engagement, LinkedIn sends out more and more in further waves until the engagement waves “crest” and slow down.

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

  • If you thought everyone you are connected with was seeing your content or having your content put in their homepage feeds, you’re sadly mistaken.
  • LinkedIn acknowledges their role in boosting posts, especially during the first hour, and further boosting if your 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? A lower number like three to five percent? 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. Does a mediocre first hour doom your post to obscurity? I am beginning to wonder.

Let me illustrate why with one of my own posts. On July 14 I wrote and published a quick post about a company follower hack. In a nutshell, the only way LinkedIn presents followers to company page admins is chronologically, with the latest ones on top. So I suggested that if you were following a company you could un-follow it, removing yourself from the middle of the pile, and then follow it again putting yourself on the top of the pile. Just a simple way to take advantage of the way LinkedIn had set up company page followers.

So I published this post at 7:30am which is when I usually post. Around 8:30am I checked back in and these were my statistics so far:

Views – 104

Likes – 1

Comments – 0

Shares – 0

New profile views* – 0

New followers* – 0

(* As posts drive profile views and new followers, I have always considered new profile views and new followers to be a part of my engagement, purely because I can identify the individuals who view or follow me and contact them if I choose to.)

Well, I thought, looks like this one is headed for the scrap heap. LinkedIn had likely put my post in front of four or five hundred people, and was certainly not going to reward a hundred views and 1 like.

But then an odd thing happened. During the course of the day I kept getting notifications about people liking, commenting and sharing the post. And the commenting was lively – I had two different people who said I was incorrect and a third person questioned whether what I was suggesting was ethical. All three of these people wound up drawing more and more people to the post, as every time they argued their case, LinkedIn’s algos automatically alerted more and more people to my post.

A week later, and that same post that looked like it was headed for the scrap heap had the following statistics:

Views – 14,200

Likes – 208

Comments – 57

Re-shares – 10

New followers – 40

New profile views – 80

Oh…and three direct inquiries from people interested in talking to me about my services.

Well that sure turned out differently from what I thought was going to happen. I didn’t get a boost from LinkedIn, so where did I get it? I am thinking that it was two things: the comments and the re-shares. While there were only ten re-shares, eight of them were from second level connections, exposing my post to people who had never seen my content before. And the three people that started lively side conversations wound up unwittingly promoting the post.

So what did I learn from this? First, that while important, a lousy first hour doesn’t mean your post is toast. Second, being original starts conversations and perhaps generates more re-shares. And third, those conversations appear to drive more views and more engagement.

I have been writing and publishing for a few years now on LinkedIn, but it never gets old. I am constantly being taken by surprise and learning something new.

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.

 Why Writing Good Content Is Worth The Effort

Because it yields results way out of proportion to the time and effort you put into it.

When you put the time and effort into your writing, it shows in the results.

When you think hard about what your prospective reader really wants to see, it shows in the results

When you take the time to think all around the subject you are writing about, it shows in the results.

When you write from the standpoint of thinking “What’s in it for them? And how do I give it to them?”, it shows in the results.

When you get input from your readers, and take that into account when you write, it shows in the results.

When I write, I have two things going for me: After writing hundreds and hundreds of LinkedIn posts, articles, blog posts and now newsletters, I have a pretty good idea what my readers want to know more about.

The second thing I have going for me is I am willing to take the time to write it out and explain my thinking. I take my first draft and put it away for a week and come back to it with fresh eyes. Then I usually take that draft and edit it again before it goes in a newsletter or on LinkedIn or my blog.

I write three newsletters a week, a blog post or two, and usually an article or post on LinkedIn. Writing, editing, and posting takes me around 12 hours a week. That is significant. And it is also untouchable. If I have work for my clients that is cramping me for time, then I write in the evening or on the weekend, but that writing is going to get done, and I am going to put the time into writing it that it deserves.

And it shows in the results. The average open rate for consulting and coaching newsletters is nine percent. The open rate for my three newsletters is just under forty percent (and by the way, thanks to all my subscribers for that).

Put the time and effort into your writing. It will show in your results.