By now, you’ve probably heard that LinkedIn has opened its Influencer program to all members. Previously only open by invitation, the new blogging platform has the potential to become an important part of your content production and influence growing strategy — but only if you do it right.
The concept behind the Influencer program is simple: Any LinkedIn member can share their original content via their profile; the content can be unique to LinkedIn, or repurposed from other platforms such as a personal or corporate blog. The more content is read, liked and shared on LinkedIn, the wider the audience it receives — potentially even reaching what Inc. magazine’s Jeff Haden calls the “Holy Grail” of content distribution, the LinkedIn homepage.
Easy breezy, right? The content generation part is, anyway. Anyone with a thought and keyboard can generate a blog post, after all. The problem is that, well, anyone with a thought and a keyboard can generate a blog post. LinkedIn has nearly 300 million users, and if even a small fraction of those users takes advantage of the Influencer program, there is the potential for a deluge of less than stellar content. In other words, just because you can publish content on LinkedIn doesn’t always mean you should.
Still, there are many benefits to putting the time and effort into creating quality content on LinkedIn. Haden mentioned that while there is no guarantee anyone will see your content, there’s always the potential that you can reach a huge audience. The average Influencer post, according to LinkedIn data, receives 31,000 views, 250 “likes” and 80 shares. Some posts do even better: A post by Chicago-based career coach Theresa Sullivan generated more than 250,000 page views, 2,000 likes and 600 comments in just 24 hours. That’s not even including the engagement outside of LinkedIn, as users can share via other platforms including FaceBook and Twitter.
So how do you get your content in front of hundreds of thousands of readers and generate that kind of influence? The key, as always, is quality.
Pathway to Being a Successful Influencer
One of the major criticisms of the new Influencer program is that it lacks writer support. In other words, anyone can publish anything, without any assistance from a professional editor to ensure that the piece is compelling and well-written.
Even if you can successfully string together a sentence, that doesn’t always mean that you should. Anyone who has ever performed a Google search will tell you that just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true or good. Thanks to the mantra of “content is king,” too many people are flooding the Web with posts that are nothing more than a sales pitch at best, and pointless (and poorly written) at worst.
So how do you stand out and get eyeballs on your content when potentially millions of other people are jumping on the Influencer bandwagon?
- Share content that adds professional value. Simply put, LinkedIn users aren’t interested in every thought that pops into your head. The No. 1 purpose of your Influencer content should be to share your professional expertise. Share your successes, your failures and the lessons you’ve learned on your path to success so that others can learn from them. The most successful posts on LinkedIn are those that offer concrete and actionable business advice. As Jeff Haden says, your top concern should be to benefit others, and “if you focus on informing, educating, entertaining, motivating, inspiring, etc. other people, you will benefit — because other people will start to think highly of you.” Before you hit publish, ask yourself, “Does this help others in their professional lives?” If it does, great. If it doesn’t, consider revising it or publish it on your personal or company blog instead.
- Contribute with content that resonates. Again, your personal thought stream isn’t going to resonate with LinkedIn Pulse readers. This also is not the place for pitching your products or services; in fact, continually using the platform as free advertising might even cause LinkedIn to revoke your publishing privileges. Spend some time looking at the posts that generate the most interest and engagement and allow them to inspire you.
- Develop a content persona. It’s also important to engage with other LinkedIn users and develop what some experts call a “content persona.” Who are you writing for? Before you write a single word, you must know your audience. As LinkedIn editor Dan Roth explained, the most effective Influencer posts aren’t about the author but what the author can do for the reader, and that requires having a defined audience, either actual or assumed, in mind. Are you writing for people in your industry? For people in other industries? What career level are you speaking to? What are the major issues facing that group, and how you can provide deeper insight to help them solve problems?
- Give ‘em what they want. According to a piece in TechCrunch by Sarah Perez, giving your target audience what it needs and wants allows you to maximize the benefits of LinkedIn’s algorithms. Going forward, the algorithm will match the content trending in a certain field automatically to the feeds of users who are likely to be interested in that content based on the information contained in their profiles. For example, if your LinkedIn profile indicates that you work in the health care industry, content that is trending within that industry will automatically appear in the recommendations on your personal page. When you are producing content, understand your audience and their needs to give the piece some traction.
- Curate your content and be prepared for it to spread outside of LinkedIn. LinkedIn is appealing to many content producers because: 1) Content doesn’t have to be original to the platform; 2) There isn’t any editorial oversight, meaning that posts do not need approval before appearing on the site; and 3) There are no word limits.
The relative freedom of the LinkedIn Influencer platform is part of the reason that some have concerns that it will become a free-for-all, but you can avoid being a part of the problem. Remember that LinkedIn reserves the right to distribute your work however it sees fit, even outside the confines of the network. This highlights the importance of curating your work, and exercising the same level of publishing common sense that you would publishing anywhere.
- Share some exclusive thought leadership on LinkedIn. Fresh content that is exclusive to LinkedIn is more likely to get exposure beyond the site.
- Remember that your work will be associated with your LinkedIn profile and professional identity. Focus on quality.
- Share your opinion, and don’t be afraid to be slightly controversial, but avoid being a jerk just to get attention. You want your content to be shared because it’s useful and compelling, not because it’s angering, offending or confusing people. Again, your professional reputation is at stake.
LinkedIn Is a Tool — Use It
Take a cue from the title of LinkedIn’s publishing program, and remember that you’re trying to build influence. Not only do you want to avoid releasing poorly written, pointless content, you want to turn your influence into real-world engagement. Increase traffic to your site by including a call to action and an invitation to see your “world” outside of LinkedIn. Promote yourself via your posts; add a short bio to the end of each piece as well as links to your website to drive traffic. For example, Atle Skelleberg, the CEO of Student Universe, includes a link to other related posts he’s written at the end of some of his work, and others have included links to purchase their books, blogs or podcasts in their posts. Don’t waste the opportunity to build more authority and by extension, your business.
Above all, the best way to be an effective Influencer is to be yourself. Be authentic, and share what makes you different from others in your field. LinkedIn’s publishing platform can be a powerful means of getting your voice heard — make sure you’re saying something worth listening to.
Need help producing quality content?
Now that you’re ready to become an influencer, you’re going to need a steady flow of quality content that engages your audience. Digital Current can help you create, fulfill and promote an editorial calendar that communicates your brand’s unique narrative and brings the right audience to your doorstep.