When you’re planning your content strategy in 2016, one tactic that most likely will come up is to publish long form content to LinkedIn. The numbers supporting this are increasingly compelling:
- Users posted about 130,000 posts per week on LinkedIn in 2015
- More than any other social network, most people believe there is an opportunity to establish professional thought leadership on LinkedIn through content
- LinkedIn’s user demographics are uniquely positioned for targeted content distribution (discussed a little later)
Of course, relative to WordPress (3.6 million posts per week) and other content platforms LinkedIn is still pretty small. So, in this post I want to explore five best practices that can help communication professionals and content marketers optimize their content for LinkedIn.
1. Be aware of LinkedIn’s unique demographics
I just finished Mark Roberge’s great book, “The Sales Acceleration Formula.” In it, he describes how an email address is far more valuable to him then a LinkedIn InMail. Anybody who has tried to use InMail for lead generation probably understands Roberge’s sentiment.
Just because people are on LinkedIn does not necessarily mean they are using LinkedIn – and this is more true for this social network than for most others.
Not only is LinkedIn unique in its gender distribution, but also in its income demographics (mostly college graduates) and its age demographics (mostly 30+).
So LinkedIn may be a fantastic content platform based upon targeting or to demonstrate thought leadership within a professional group, but you also have the challenge to determine if the people that you think are there are really there.
2. Use proper blog structure
In a fantastic post for Moz.com, Cyrus Shepard describes the benefits of blog structure (i.e. using bullet points, numbering, block quotes, hold tax, italicized text, etc.) as a strategy for generating back links.
At this point, you may be wondering what back links have to do with publishing your content to LinkedIn. It’s simple: this strategy builds more back links because it makes your content more interesting (i.e. makes more people to want to read it.)
LinkedIn has a smaller complement of markup tools than WordPress or other blogging platforms, but the idea remains the same:
- Use sub-heads (h1, h2) to create a hierarchy of your content
- Use bold and italicized text emphasize points within your content
- Use web links to cite sources for your content
- Use images (most importantly a featured image) to draw interest to your content
Of course these are general content guidelines that you might hear about any blogging platform, but it’s important to understand that the form and structure that you use in a general content post is equally as important to generate interest on LinkedIn.
3. Write for mobile consumption
Originally, this mobile post was supposed to be about new LinkedIn features for 2016. The problem with this is that there are very few new features on LinkedIn for 2016. But what LinkedIn is investing in for the future is mobile.
In December they significantly improved their mobile apps, presumably with the intention that users will consume more content on their mobile devices. It makes sense then that writers should create content specifically for mobile. Two areas that content creators can pay special attention to are headlines and embedded media.
Writing compelling headlines is another general blogging best practice, but becomes especially important for mobile devices where the headline may be the only input that a reader uses to determine whether to read a piece of content or not.
LinkedIn allows you to embed rich media (YouTube videos, Soundcloud files, embedded tweets, etc.) into their long form content. However, one study observed a decrease in overall content consumption for posts with rich media included. So what gives?
Especially on mobile, posts with embedded media may look busy or disproportionate. So make some intuitive sense that you should be judicious with the amount of embedded content that you put into a LinkedIn post.
Of course this comes with the caveat (discussed later) that a lot of the statistics that you read about LinkedIn long form content are wrong. So, experimentation is often times the best way to determine whether a specific tactic will work or not.
4. If you want to republish content, publish to LinkedIn first
A lot of advice about publishing long form content to LinkedIn suggests that content can be repurposed (syndicated) to LinkedIn. Knowing that Google enforces a duplicate content penalty on sites, I was curious to understand how syndication would work.
Typically for a website to syndicate content the syndicated content would be set to “noindex,” the canonical site would be identified, and there would be a disclaimer link at the bottom of a post.
Unfortunately, you cannot identify a LinkedIn post as canonical or (most importantly) tell Google not to index a LinkedIn post. And there does not seem to be a definitive opinion on how to properly syndicate posts to LinkedIn.
If you want to syndicate your content to LinkedIn, the only path that (currently) makes sense to avoid the possibility of a duplicate content penalty is to publish on LinkedIn first and then to syndicate that content to your site with a noindex tag and canonical link back to the original post.
Of course what this means is that search engines will refer search traffic back to LinkedIn rather than to your site. However, it is not clear that publishing to LinkedIn is a sound strategy for trying to generate search traffic anyhow.
5. Ignore most of the advice you read
Most of the advice that I read on publishing to LinkedIn falls into two categories:
1. General blogging best practices
2. Statistics-based advice clearly derived from an unrepresentative sample
Yes, general blogging best practices work really well for LinkedIn long form posts. The reason for this is pretty straightforward – general blogging best practices are often times ways to generate more interest from the reader…which is what you want to do.
Point being that there is not a whole lot that is unique about posting to LinkedIn rather than posting your content someplace else.
On the other hand, any statistics that people cite about long form posts on LinkedIn should be taken with a grain of salt. Because there is not a lot of available long post data for LinkedIn, it is more than likely not very reliable.
If, for instance, someone takes a look at the top thousand posts on LinkedIn to determine statistical trends, they most likely are lumping Richard Branson’s and Bill Gates’ posts together in that research. And (spoiler alert) the collective Internet-famous “we” do not generate as much interest as Richard Branson or Bill Gates, agnostic of content, form or anything else.
More succinctly, I would rather have Brittany Howard (of Alabama Shakes) sing me the phone book than have somebody off the streets sing an Alabama Shakes song. If Howard is singing an Alabama Shakes song all the better.
I love LinkedIn. Once in a while I will see a long form post from somebody in my network that does not blog very often and I am grateful for this platform that enables a certain amount of thought leadership to emerge.
I love the demographics of the LinkedIn network as well, even though I have spent far more money on fruitless InMail than I would like to admit.
That said, I do not think it is as unique as people may want you to believe that it is. And I think it can be an important platform for marketers and communication professionals to distribute their content moving forward.