People visit LinkedIn to engage with other people, not companies. That’s why the most strategic corporate publishers don’t simply use the business network to share links to existing blog posts or articles. They also activate the thought leaders in their organization to share what they know in original LinkedIn articles.

“Articles” refer to the name LinkedIn uses for the extended posts that LinkedIn members publish directly to their profiles. Articles can be a particularly efficient way to give corporate thought leadership a boost, for three reasons:

  1. Articles have the potential to reach many more people than an organization’s website or blog. At last count, LinkedIn had more than 645 million members. Some of the most successful articles can reach hundreds of thousands of people.
  2. Creating articles sometimes doesn’t require going through as many editing and publishing steps as producing articles for a company’s official thought-leadership publishing channel. That means content can be created faster.
  3. LinkedIn articles can be used to help extend the reach of content published elsewhere. A recently published report can be used as a springboard for a more focused and personal point of view on LinkedIn.

As a content strategist working with leading management consulting, technology, social impact, and other clients, I’ve seen what a powerful catalyst this strategy can be for a leader’s brand. (I’ve also adopted the strategy myself by writing articles on LinkedIn.) In addition, I’ve witnessed firsthand inside marketing departments at major firms how LinkedIn publishing can dramatically expand an organization’s impact and engagement on social media.

Not the Same as Linking

Publishing on LinkedIn is different from an organization or executive sharing a link to an article they like on the business network. Anyone who’s spent time on LinkedIn has no doubt fallen down the rabbit hole of scrolling and clicking through links on their feed. McKinsey, Harvard Business Review, and ServiceNow are three companies doing interesting things with this linking strategy, often developing dynamic visual microcontent tailored to the medium that promotes articles on their sites. Take a look at three recent posts on the topic of learning, sampled at the same time in August 2019.

Most linked articles in my feed hardly generate any likes and comments at all, so things are working fairly well in these cases, especially considering how little time some of these posts have been up. But how can you really tell how well these are posts are performing? While these publishers’ click-through numbers from LinkedIn are proprietary, we can gauge the impact of these posts in other ways.

Links to ServiceNow’s IT- and HR-focused thought-leadership blog articles often attract a few hundred likes, and HBR’s mostly personal-growth and self-improvement business content frequently generates thousands (except not yet in this case, apparently). Granted, HBR has a broader topic than ServiceNow’s, and more than 7 million followers. Although ServiceNow only has a tenth of the LinkedIn followers as McKinsey does, its linked content generates a similar number of likes, showing how much its catchy titles and topics can resonate.

The Personal Publishing Difference

OK, so far so good. But now compare the level of engagement when executives such as leading technology strategist John Hagel, head of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, and Miki Tsusaka, CMO of Boston Consulting Group, post articles to their individual LinkedIn profiles. (Note: Articles were sampled on October 28, 2019.)

The dozens, if not hundreds, of likes and (and notably) shares, as well as the often-sophisticated comments, demonstrate the strong engagement the articles can generate with their intended executive audience. Likes, shares, and comments for LinkedIn articles can be more important than views alone, although views are a good indicator of reach. According to one study, likes for LinkedIn articles are the common denominator among other LinkedIn metrics. More likes for an article will also get authors LinkedIn shares, views, and comments, according to correlation data.

In the case of John Hagel, his hundreds of thousands of followers are certainly impressive. But digging a little deeper, his articles’ performance can be even more revealing. My rough calculation shows that the level of reader engagement with his articles per follower can be around five times higher than the channels above that have millions of followers and focus mainly on linking strategies.

The difference between writing original articles for this medium and the more passive act of linking comes down to this level of engagement, rather than traffic alone. But the traffic can sometimes be terrific, even if most articles don’t knock it out of the park. When selected for promotion by LinkedIn or amplified through paid promotion, long-form articles published directly on LinkedIn can generate wide exposure with new audiences, especially if posted in ways that maximize exposure with LinkedIn’s algorithm. It’s not uncommon for the best articles to sometimes achieve tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of views.

What Works on LinkedIn

Thought leaders should consider personal publishing on LinkedIn when they:

  • Have a personal take on a hot topic
  • Have a fresh perspective on a recent event
  • Want to extend the reach of thought leadership published elsewhere

The LinkedIn articles that get the highest traffic and the most engagement share the following characteristics:

  • They have something insightful or original to say. They grab readers’ attention with a unique message, right from the beginning.
  • They avoid simply cutting and pasting content created for other purposes. They adapt content to this new medium.
  • Most are 1,000-2,000 words. They get to the point, without a lot of digressions.
  • They focus on a main idea. They are also well organized.
  • Articles are visually appealing and make reading easier. They use lists, bullets, bold sentences, links, and graphics to break up long text and help busy online readers find what’s important.
  • Sentences are generally short and direct. A conversational tone works better on LinkedIn than a formal tone.
  • They sometimes have a first-person point of view. Injecting your experience into an article can add personality and authenticity.
  • They are nonpromotional. Articles that are overly commercial or promote a company’s offerings don’t perform well.

LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions Blog offers additional advice on publishing long-form articles. You can read more at Social Media Today, Top Dog Social Media, and Search Wilderness.

Since many busy executives want to be seen as thought leaders but do not have the time to write LinkedIn articles themselves, companies often hire professional ghostwriters who are skilled at writing for this medium to do the work. (For more reasons why busy leaders produce ghostwritten thought-leadership content, see this resource from the Insight Content Lab.) Collaborating with an experienced ghostwriter can generate better results and be more cost-effective than going it alone, considering the significant time that it can free up time for the higher-paid work executives can otherwise focus on.

Putting It All Together

Publishing articles directly on LinkedIn can be a powerful way to generate top-of-the-funnel awareness for thought leaders and organizations. It can also convert customers, nurture existing customers, and fuel positive word-of-mouth recommendations. Companies that succeed with personal publishing on LinkedIn keep in mind the unique, and uniquely rewarding, attributes of this evolving medium.

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