What I Have Learned About Images On My LinkedIn Posts

a post photoFor four years I used stock images on my blog posts and LinkedIn posts but a little over six months ago I quit and started using my own photos. Here is what I have learned:

They are called “stock images” for a reason.  After a while, stock images are pretty easy to spot, because you have seen them before, and they all kind of look the same. Impossibly good looking people having a grand time at the office (kind of the LinkedIn equivalent of a beer commercial), road signs with business terms on them, wordles full of more business terms, blackboards stuffed with business terms, cartoon characters representing business ideas.

I used to use stock images myself. But I became frustrated because they encompassed the odd combination or looking generic and being expensive.

And the image company would sell the same image to someone else, so I was paying for something that wasn’t unique to me and could show up anywhere at anytime.

I found there were free image resources out there, but that didn’t solve the problem of using something that other people are also using.

To cap off my frustrations, I got a nicely worded but very firm letter from a museum’s lawyers saying I was using one of their photos. Someone had taken the museum’s photo and sold it as their own work to a stock image company who then sold it to me.  

So I decided last fall that I would use my own photos. And I quickly discovered that no one really cares what image you use. I think photos help draw attention to my posts, but as they mostly seem to gives our eyes a break from all the text, just about any photo will do.

I have used my own  photos for six months now and the only comments I have received are positive ones. or inquiries as to where a photo was taken, or even what it is a photo of.  

Often, the photos I use will bear only tangential association with the post I have written, but sometimes the photo will suggest the title of a post for me. A photo of a lemon tree prompted me to write about LinkedIn giving you lemons and making lemonade, a sunset suggested the idea of LinkedIn sunsetting a feature.

Where do I get my photos? A lot are from vacations or travel. A good bunch are things that I own – bits and pieces of things around my apartment – and lot (shoutout coming) are courtesy of my brother Mark Johnston, who has traveled a lot and taken photos everywhere.

Selecting a photo to use in a post is now fun. It used to be a dreary exercise in “heck, I used that one three months ago, can I get away with using it again?”. Now it’s become, “okay, what can I use that vaguely connotes the resourcefulness in coming up with my own images?”

I wound up finding my own path with respect to my post’s images. I didn’t do what everyone else does. And it works for me. I think the lesson here is that whether it is the photo or illustration you use on a post, or the way you use LinkedIn, remember that your needs are unique. Listen to what other people have to say, but experiment and figure out what works for you.  

How To Rank Higher In LinkedIn Search Results


a search beamThe most important factor for ranking highly 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 searching using the exact same keywords. 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.


Why I Write On LinkedIn – And It’s Probably Not Why You Think

a hieroglyphI write a post about using LinkedIn, or LinkedIn the company, just about every week. Most people think I do it for the standard reasons – views, engagement, or maybe sales leads. Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Writing for views is dumb, mostly because view count is a pretty useless metric. LinkedIn doesn’t even specify what a page view is. So between views being an intangible thing in the first place, and a notification system that doesn’t actually notify people that you have posted, posting for views would be a rather odd goal.  

I don’t write for engagement either. I enjoy it, but I haven’t figured out what posts drive more engagement. I have written posts that I thought were really good only to have them met with indifference that borders on enthusiastic. And then I have written posts that I thought were okay but not one of my better efforts only to have them take off and do really well (the exception was my April Fools post. I knew that one was good).  

And I don’t write for sales leads either. Most of my posts are either educational or designed to get people to think about LinkedIn or the way they use LinkedIn a little differently (this post is one of those). Besides, LinkedIn’s notification system is flaky, so there are no guarantees anyone will even see that I have posted. What kind of lead generation system is that? And my calls to action are hardly lead generation friendly, just the odd, “please like this post.”

So those are three reasons I don’t write posts on LinkedIn. Here are the three reasons I do:

Writing and wanting to write about some aspect of LinkedIn or using LinkedIn every week 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 where it is going. And as someone who uses LinkedIn every day, that is good knowledge to have.

The second reason I write is that it 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 status updates 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!”  I want to be able to tell my client where status updates may fit and where they may not. Half my job is telling people what they shouldn’t be doing on LinkedIn, and I had better be able to explain why.  

But primarily, I publish on LinkedIn because each post gets stored with my LinkedIn profile. Visitors to my profile can go to recent activity and see my posts. These posts 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 (and can be worked). 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 posts collected and attached to my profile allows  prospective clients and connections to be able to see that.

If you want to take away anything from this post, it’s don’t take things on LinkedIn at face value. There are three obvious or traditional uses for posts on LinkedIn. Given the way LinkedIn publishing is set up, I ignore those three reasons and post for a fourth, which is valid for me.