LinkedIn is in flux. In recent years, the platform has been reinventing itself: going beyond its roots as a network for resume-hosting and peer-connecting, and entering the content publishing space. The “Influencer” program signaled the beginning of this reinvention: the invite-only program offered big name professionals (e.g. Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington) a space for sharing stories and industry insights that might be relevant to targeted professional communities. And in 2013, LinkedIn expanded this program with Pulse, a content publishing and discovery platform that includes contributions from any LinkedIn user who wants to throw his or her hat in the ring. For now, the platform is limited to submissions by individuals, and excludes company pages – but there is no reason why company thought leaders and key stakeholders shouldn’t be leveraged to perform a bit of outreach and evangelism.
Following the lead of Facebook, LinkedIn has been relatively tight-lipped about how Pulse-originating content is sorted on the LinkedIn main page (and on the “Your News” tab of the Pulse sub-page, itself) – i.e. what goes on top and what is buried below. No one is completely sure how to manipulate published content to maximize visibility, and best practices have not been concretely established.
This being said, let’s begin our rundown of what we do know.
What Is LinkedIn Pulse – and How Should I Use It?
Any individual with a LinkedIn profile can create a piece of blog post-style content that will appear in the homepage feed of his or her immediate connections. The PR challenge (and opportunity) brought on by Pulse is the delivery of this content to those outside of the author’s circle of connections. How is this achieved?
Optimize Your Content for Pulse’s Channels
The first priority for each Pulse post should be securing a “channel” tag.
Pulse features channels that LinkedIn users can subscribe to in order to receive content related to those subjects in their home page feed. LinkedIn editors and algorithms determine which posts are featured in the various channels, but users can write and tag their posts to fit into the various channel “buckets.” Publishing a post with a set of tags related to channels does not guarantee that the post will be delivered to channel subscribers – but it does enter your post into the running. There is no circumstance under which a post should not be given channel-relevant tags, but it will pay to be strategic in channel selection and post timing. Effective publishing on LinkedIn will involve finding discoverability sweet spots: posting in the right channels, at the right times, with the right sort of zeitgeist-capturing content.
Leverage Your Network
As mentioned above, the algorithms behind LinkedIn’s content-sorting remain privileged, but a few users have identified trends – most of them having to do with engaging your followers and connections. Here’s what we’ve learned:
1. The views-to-engagement ratio – i.e. What percentage of users who viewed a post also liked, shared, or commented on the post? – is probably more important than the views number on its own.
Recommendation: When you post something, be sure to notify your network (on and off LinkedIn) that you’ll be doing so, and encourage them to engage with the post. This should raise its chances of being featured in Pulse channel feeds.
2. LinkedIn Influencers and power users – whose posts will often appear in the channels they are tagged with – can be leveraged to maximize reach.
Recommendation: Engage with influential contacts, and ask them to share links to your content. There seems to be a sort of “accrued prestige” system that factors into content sorting on LinkedIn, and big names that have been around for a while tend to generate big numbers.
3. Those who break through into the Pulse feed, then continue to post with consistency, are rewarded with exponential growth.
Recommendation: Once you develop momentum and high engagement numbers on LinkedIn, don’t lose them.
Tweet at @LinkedInPulse
This one is the simplest. There is a Twitter account (with 82k followers) maintained (or at least endorsed and utilized) by the LinkedIn editorial team – @LinkedInPulse. Tweeting your post at this account may put some editorial eyes on it, and lead to the post being included in its respective Pulse channel.
What Kind of Content Succeeds on LinkedIn Pulse?
In the early days of LinkedIn publishing, trade magazine-style content was ubiquitous: executive profiles, features on start-ups, and interviews with thought leaders and key stakeholders flourished. Now that LinkedIn wants to compete with the likes of Facebook – and, more generally, to prove itself a heavyweight in the content marketing space – it has taken a different track. These days, high performing content on LinkedIn Pulse tells an engaging, instructive story or offers accessible, actionable insight(s). The best content does both.
Take, for example, the “Leadership & Management” channel (the largest, with 10.7M followers) on February 19, 2015. The third-highest displayed post on this day was titled, “I Left an Elderly Woman Beside the Road, and What That Says About Me.” The post makes a case for everyday personal generosity, and argues that the “true nature” of “genuine leadership” is found in attentiveness to the needs of others. In this piece, you’ll find no data analysis, no trend insights, no techniques gleaned from a Six Sigma weekend retreat. Rather, you’ll find a good story, a valuable lesson, and a demonstration of the author’s experience and personality.
A cursory glance at the top-performing Pulse content of all time might incline publishers toward listicle-style content, e.g. “11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader.” There’s no doubt that these posts perform well. Relative to other types of content, they boast impressive reach and engagement numbers. But be aware of the particular (and limited) function of these posts: they are “top of the funnel” pieces, meant to engage a wide, casually-interested audience. Attracting the particular type of attention that will serve your PR strategy best – and retaining this attention toward useful ends – will require consistent demonstrations of specialization and expertise.
Our recommendation? Strike a balance. Offer a specialist’s insight in common terms. Write as an expert and an educator; but have fun, and be a human being – not an analytics engine. Your readers can tell the difference.
Now go forth, and happy publishing.