One of my favorite clients has a LinkedIn following that reads like a list of Fortune 500 management teams: VP, CFO, Director of Operations. It’s a killers’ row of powerful people.
She has a full 15,000 of them, too. This is due to her posts on LinkedIn—which are candid and quite insightful to her industry. She works as an executive recruiter and doesn’t even post jobs for her audience. Her content is simply for people who like tracking her latest insights.
Through LinkedIn, she has positioned herself as the heir to her segment’s recruiting crown. She is the go-to if you are middle management and up and looking for new opportunities. And when needed, she can generate huge, huge viewership where it counts. This audience recently enabled her to raise millions of dollars to support a charity she started.
No social media platform gives the reach like that of LinkedIn. If you curate and build your audience, you can truly establish your brand in an effective way. Here are my best tips for how to get followers on LinkedIn.
1. The power of lurkers
I’ve learned firsthand just how impactful competition is on content performance. When lots of people are posting similar content in your lane, it kills your ability to get distribution. Meanwhile, LinkedIn is absolutely infested with lurkers.
Obviously, people fear judgment and employers seeing what they write, so they often hang out—watching and liking when appropriate.
This is where a huge opportunity came for me as an independent writer. Finally, I could post without worrying about my boss seeing what I was saying.
I now look back on the days I had a desk job and think, “What was I so afraid of?” I don’t have secret white power rants I was itching to go on. Nothing I ever posted in the time since has created any problems. So why can’t other people get more active on LinkedIn?
The trick to LinkedIn is honesty and authenticity about who you are. Don’t blunt the edges too much.
2. Beware of these mistakes in LinkedIn
What you should avoid doing is defaulting to the most viral content you see on the feed. Don’t try to copy-paste what another influencer is doing. LinkedIn is prone to high-cringe “broetry.”
My friends said I’d fail.
I knew I’d fail.
But I refused to stop going.
I fell down.
I got up.
I fell down.
I got up.
Later, I succeeded.
These posts get shockingly huge views, but it doesn’t erase the cringe factor. It will hurt you with audiences that matter.
Don’t resort to humblebragging either. Constant declarations of “I have an announcement to make…” and proceeding to list your latest accomplishment—this is not how to brand yourself. It’s too self-celebratory. Doing it every now and then is ok, but keep it limited.
Beware of growth-hacking tactics anyone tells you about. For example, if you start mass friend-requesting to build your following up, LinkedIn will eventually catch on. A friend of mine was sending 500 connection requests a day and years later, all his work was shredded up with a heavy-hitting ban.
Lastly, don’t spend money on LinkedIn advertisements. Everyone I’ve spoken to says it is a giant money vacuum. It’s more efficient to build your audience and promote through them. Make sure your profile page has a very brief and specific explanation of what you provide. Profile stalking is where you’ll get leads. Most of my clients come via LinkedIn, not the platforms I write on.
3. How the algorithm works
Each post has three classifications:
Spam and low quality are instantly demoted. Low quality is determined when the algorithm detects excessively political or controversial writing. It knows you didn’t proof your update within the moment you hit publish. Although it occasionally misses bad posts, it is remarkably effective at what it does. So be sure you are thoughtful with what you write. A full 20% of LinkedIn users are key decisions makers in companies. Although LinkedIn feels like Facebook sometimes, it doesn’t mean you should give in to that paradigm.
4. What to post
The trick is to limit your posts to a handful of things your brand will be known for. I typically stick to writing tips, “shower thoughts,” and random memes making fun of LinkedIn. The latter is more of a victory lap (me having fun being self-employed) and not worrying about a superior or coworker seeing my stuff.
You can post quotes, stories, and things you found interesting in recent news. Try to post 2-3 times a week for maximum effect. The algorithm rewards consistency.
If you get to be like my client, you can make huge fortunes via a high-profile audience. You just need to think of where that target audience’s head is at.
I try to space out promotional posts between at least two other value-generating updates. When you do promote, ensure you give them something valuable in the caption. Even if the person doesn’t click on your post, they should get something worthy of a “like” in your writing.
5. Hypothetical scenario for post ideas
Let’s say you owned a flower shop. You could post stories of customer interactions. You could post pictures of your latest flowers and write about catering techniques. You could even post things related to the science of growing flowers.
LinkedIn users won’t be able to say, “That’s not right for LinkedIn.” Because it is for you. Flowers are your business. And if users don’t like your posts, they can unfollow. It will be a net positive for you both if they do, because you want your content to show up in the feed of people who are interested in the subject. If your ratio of likes to views is bad, the algorithm will kill your post.
Continue marching forward and post relevant content. Eventually, the feed will adapt and curate your content to just the right audience. Track the performance of your posts and adjust as necessary. Before long, you’ll have a huge wave of free advertising.