The Path To Increased Reach Via Posting On LinkedIn

Having lots and lots of connections

And it is maybe the most critical factor in more people seeing your post (or article, video or whatever it is you are publishing on LinkedIn). This is because of the way LinkedIn’s algorithms work when we publish. 

When we hit the “publish” or “post” button on LinkedIn, Linkedin takes our content and puts it in front of a very small fraction of our connections.  This number is thought to be 5-7%, though this is just an educated guess by the independent LinkedIn training and consulting community. Of course LinkedIn won’t confirm or deny anything, and to be fair, LinkedIn is always tweaking the algorithms, so maybe it is just as well they don’t tell us exactly how the system works. 

Once we have published our content, and  if we get engagement, the algorithm judges our content’s  relevance and puts it in front of more people, both more of our connections, and connections of the people who engaged with our post. That’s why you will get LinkedIn notifications saying “Bruce, a connection of yours, commented on Jeff Ball’s post.”

Let’s look at a couple hypothetical examples. Let’s say you have five hundred connections. You write a really good post and publish it. LinkedIn puts it in front of 5-7% of your connections, or around thirty people. Those people respond really well, and LinkedIn puts your content in front of another 20% of your connections, that is one hundred more people.  So you have been (possibly) seen by one hundred and thirty people. Meanwhile I post at the same time. LinkedIn puts my post in front of 5-7% of my five thousand connections, or three hundred people. But my post isn’t as well written or relevant as yours and gets a lot less engagement. So LinkedIn puts my post in front of only another 10% of my connections, which is five hundred people. 

So your  objectively better, more relevant post gets put in front of 130 people. My lesser post gets put in front of 800. The much larger number of connections I have gives me a huge advantage over you. 

The bottom line is that all other factors being equal, the more connections you have, the wider LinkedIn  will spread your post and the more new people will have the opportunity to see it. 

There are a couple unknowns here though, and those are how LinkedIn treats followers and subscribers. You can follow someone or subscribe (ring the bell on their profile)  to someone’s content on LinkedIn without connecting with them. LinkedIn says you will see all of their posted content, but I am skeptical. I think that LinkedIn has a vague definition of what “see” means. I do think that LinkedIn does put all of our content for people we follow or subscribe to in our feeds, but way down the feed where it is pretty unlikely that we will ever scroll down far enough to see. 

Note the one exception to this whole publishing algo thing seems to be LinkedIn newsletters. LinkedIn says they go to all your subscribers and this seems to be true.

So there you go. Quality of your content is of course really important. But LinkedIn controls the delivery system for that content and one of the few ways you can really work that system to your advantage is by giving it a bigger list of connections to work with. 

Are You A Hunter Or A Farmer On LinkedIn? 

Hunters? Farmers? Let me explain. 

There are two broad methods of finding and contacting prospective customers on LinkedIn, particularly if you are self employed, and don’t have a marketing department to lean on. 

The traditional way for most sales or self employed people to find new customers is via Hunting. Hunting is using LinkedIn in the traditional sales sense of using it to find a prospect, research them and contact them (or at least try to contact them). 

There is only one real problem with Hunting, and that’s that just about everybody hates it. Rejection city. Abuse. Being labeled a spammer, or worse. You need to develop a pretty tough shell to be a hunter and most people don’t keep at it long enough to develop that shell.

So they turn to Farming on LinkedIn. 

Farming is using LinkedIn as a place to publish content and interact with other people’s content under the plan that some of these seeds you plant will germinate into relationships. This results in the person spending  a lot of time on LinkedIn being “social” and a lot of time writing and posting on LinkedIn. They wind up with what I frankly think are weird habits: “I put 45 minutes a day into reading and commenting on posts I find in my feed.”

The problem with farming is that it is…messy. It is hard to quantify. How many posts do you need to comment on to generate a real lead? How many posts do you have to publish to generate a real lead?  

Hunting gets black and white results: you contacted twenty people, and two were interested in talking with you. Farming? Not so much.

Now, before we get into things here, let me say that Farming has been one of the pillars of my LinkedIn consulting practice. It works. So if you want to Farm, great, but like myself, you have to have a system and the metrics in place so you know if it is working or not. I have used Farming to great advantage over the past ten years, but aside from good content I put together a system. 

The first thing I found when I started my Farming on LinkedIn was that I never really counted on picking people up from commenting on other people’s posts – too hit and miss. I would find the occasional prospect, but the time required per prospect just didn’t work. I remember that at one point I figured I needed to be on LinkedIn for two hundred hours a week to make commenting work for me. So that was out as a strategy. 

I also found sharing content on LinkedIn to be a waste of time as most of the time someone discovering my shared content was more interested in the author than the messenger (me).

So I focused on writing my own content. It was a good fit for me as I enjoy writing, I am hopelessly analytical, and really stubborn. The system part of Farming on LinkedIn comes down to counting how much engagement results from your posting and the quality of those reactions. There are several parts as follows: 

  • I started counting what I call the Big Five ways of engaging on LinkedIn: how many Likes, Comments and Reshares I was getting, along with how many Profile Views and New Followers/Connection requests I received. 
  • I would review the lists of these people every day – I would look for my new followers, profile viewers and people that engaged with my posts or articles on LinkedIn. 
  • I would contact the ones that looked like a good fit with my ideal customer profile. I invested in a Sales Navigator subscription in order to be able to reach out to these people. 
  • When I contacted them it was to thank them for their engagement and I used the article they were interested in as the jumping off point in my approach. No sales pitch, just an open ended conversation about their interest in the topic I had covered. This resulted in a huge acceptance rate – typically 55% – in my outreach messages and InMails. 
  • Despite my hilarious ineptitude with spreadsheets, I started one up that tracked my progress. I started to find patterns – for example, commenters and followers were much more responsive than shares or likes. Profile views fell in between. 

Over time as I started to acquire customers, I was able to go back to my spreadsheet and find out important information that was crucial to my business:

  • I could see on average how long it took from someone first identifying themselves via engaging with my content until they became a customer
  • Which types of engagement generated more customers (surprise: comments, then followers)
  • And finally, which topics were the ones that generated the most comments and followers.

Was this a lot of work? Yes, and no. It sounds like a lot, but once I was up and running, my weekly commitment to Linkedin was to write an article, publish it, and be available to respond to comments for the next three hours (though I could do other things while I was monitoring my post). Every morning I took up to fifteen minutes to look for new engagees (is that a word?) and send messages to interesting people I found; and every afternoon I took five minutes to look for replies to my messages. Total time invested in LinkedIn every week: around four hours, plus the time it took to write my weekly article.

And here’s the important part: I spent zero time wandering around LinkedIn. And that’s a habit I still have today. These days I check every morning for the people who have engaged with my content, any connection requests, new messages and my notifications (I usually have around twenty). Every week I review the people who looked at my profile and my new followers. I usually put a chunk of Friday afternoon into reading the fifty LinkedIn newsletters that I subscribe to.

So Hunting works on LinkedIn, and Farming does too. But if you are going to Farm, you need a plan, you need some patience and you need to stick to it.

Want more like this? I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

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. 


Where Is The Value In Following On LinkedIn?

I thought I would talk today about Following on LinkedIn. We all do it – we see someone who says something interesting somewhere on LinkedIn and we hit the “Follow” button. But what is the real value in following someone? 

So let’s have a look at what the benefits are to the Follower and the person being Followed (the Followee?) 

What benefits does a Follower receive? 

From my standpoint, there are two benefits in following someone. Both are marginal, but take a bit of explaining. 

1) The person you are following can see that you are following them

The question here is not so much that they can see you are following them, but if they will see that you are following them. Then what? I ask this because I know there is a whole weird little subset of people on LinkedIn who think, “If I follow them, they will see that and maybe ask me to connect.” Well, I am here to tell you that that is highly unlikely. First of all, not everybody looks through their followers on a regular basis. And even if – like me – they are someone who does, they are unlikely to ask you to connect. The way I see it, in following me you have shown a slight level of interest in me, but not enough to ask me to connect, so I am not going to ask you. 

So the connection angle is a long shot. What other benefits do you get from following someone on LinkedIn? 

2) All of their content will be shown in your feed. 

This is the big one of course. I follow you because I don’t want to miss out on your content and LinkedIn tells me that your content will be in my feed. But a little common sense applied to this statement shows that having that content in your feed is pretty meaningless. Say you follow a handful of people or a hundred people. The posts these people publish are somewhere in your feed every week, mixed in with posts from your connections, companies, promoted stuff and other advertising, and whatever else the LinkedIn algorithms feel like tossing your way. 

It might be more accurate to say that posts from the people you follow will be buried somewhere in your homepage feed. Think of your feed and the content within it as if this was a Google search result. There may be a hundred pages of search results, but you are only rarely ever going to scroll to page five. 

Oddly, LinkedIn’s promise to put more and more stuff in your feed just makes it worse. 

So, in following someone, it is unlikely they will ask you to connect and it is unlikely that you will see much of their content. Well, heck, this following thing has to be advantageous to someone, doesn’t it? 

What benefits do those being followed get? 

Again, there are two benefits that I can see. The first is an extension of one mentioned above, and that is that you can see who your followers are. And yes, you can choose to message them (if you have a premium plan or know one of the work around hacks to send free messages on LinkedIn) or ask them to connect. As I mentioned above, why would I decide to ask someone to connect when they have already indicated that they would rather just follow?

The second benefit – and don’t underestimate this one – is the ego boost from having a lot of followers. And LinkedIn knows this as they have now put your number of followers in a prominent place on your profile. 

But those are both pretty thin benefits too. So what should you do? There are two options: Click the notification bell on the person’s profile you want to follow, or subscribe to their LinkedIn newsletter if they have one. LinkedIn will notify you when they publish something. Your bell-ringers / subscribers actually see the content they wanted to see, and you also know that they had the opportunity to see it.

To summarize: 

1) I have a lot of followers on LinkedIn. When I publish a post or article, it will be somewhere in my followers homepage feed. They may see it. 

2) If they also click the notification bell on my profile, they will be notified when I publish something.

3) I have a lot of newsletter subscribers on LinkedIn. They will be notified and they can decide if they want to click on my content and read it. 

In the first case, LinkedIn decides who sees my content. In the second and third cases, my followers and subscribers decide. 

Want more like this? I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

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.