This is my fourth* annual report(!) intended to help others benefit from what I have learned about getting value from the time I spend on Linkedin.
Why this could be useful to you
In 2021 my SSI moved marginally up to 86/100, having been consistently 85/100 during 2020. This means I continue to be ranked in the top 1% on Linkedin across all 4 SSI measures.
I have been active on Linkedin for well over ten years and now have over 12,300 followers, with 11,600 1st level connections. I do not accept random connection requests from outside the accounting and tax profession and I think that may explain why I see very little spam. It also means that the lessons I draw may not be relevant to you if you operate in a different sector or have different objectives to me.
For over ten years I have been regularly ranked as one of the top online influencers in the accounting/tax profession.
You might therefore expect that the results of my Linkedin activity would be better than most. Assuming that’s the case I feel justified in debunking the hype and misconceptions I see shared by relative novices.
That includes all those people who want you to believe that what works for THEM (eg: marketing consultants, social media experts and job seekers) will work for YOU too. The same goes for those people who enjoy sharing more of their personal lives on Linkedin than I feel comfortable doing. It’s not right for everyone.
Since the end of 2017 I have maintained a spreadsheet that shows the number of views, reactions and comments that each of my posts secures. I also compute related data from these numbers. However none of this tells the whole story and I know that, in isolation, the numbers can be misleading.
What matters most to me is NOT the number of views, comments, reactions or shares my posts get. These are vanity metrics – all be it the only ones I can easily track. For example, if a million people in India were to follow me or see one of my posts this would not help my business.
Equally, I rarely recall the names of those who have posted very popular posts that appeared in my home feed, even when I too have reacted or commented on those posts. And I suspect this is true for most of us. So I don’t assume that everyone who saw or commented on my most popular posts will recognise, remember or follow me (and they rarely do so). This further reinforces my view that view numbers in isolation are not helpful.
My objectives on Linkedin
I want to help my followers and connections by sharing what I hope are valuable insights, tips and advice. But ultimately I also need sufficient of them to book me to speak at events, to attend my webinars, to engage me either for 1-2-1 support or as an ambassador/NED.
The regularity of my posts and content is also intended to help sustain my reputation such that more people want to take my advice, work with me, to hear the talks and webinars I deliver and to see me at the events I attend.
Securing high view numbers, comments, reactions and engagement are secondary objectives as none of them, directly, help me to achieve my primary objectives. I have been approached by and won business from people who have seen but never engaged on any of my posts.
What works and what doesn’t work for me may simply be indicative of my style, my connections, my focus and my reputation. If your target audience and ambitions are very different to mine then my lessons may be of limited value to you.
Quick stats re my Linkedin activity
2021 – 117 posts plus 44 articles/newsletters.
2020 – 237 posts plus 1 article.
2019 – 103 posts plus 5 articles.
2018 – 140 posts plus 2 articles.
New in 2021
I was afforded ‘Creator’ status by Linkedin and so able to publish ‘newsletter’ articles for which my followers could subscribe.
I added a video welcome at the top of my profile.
I updated my headline a number of times and re-edited the ‘About’ section of my profile.
21 lessons drawn from my 2021 Linkedin activity:
- More so than ever it pays to have clarity as regards why one is active on Linkedin, who you want to influence and what messages you want to promote (whether overtly or subtly) to that audience. In my webinars for accountants I suggest that they keep in mind (as I do) that our profiles and activities on Linkedin be focused on having a positive impact on those people we most want to positively influence.
- I still cannot ‘game’ the system. Nothing I do works consistently. There are so many uncontrollable factors that impact who sees my posts. I listed and explained these factors in last year’s report*.
- The time of day and day of the week I post are less relevant than the opening lines of a post. These need to make people think and to want to ‘see more’. Some of my weekend posts have performed much better than those posted during the week. But I’m sure this was as much to do with the content and what prompted the posts than the time or day of the week I posted. Having said that, my afternoon and early evening posts tend to outperform morning posts – except at the weekend.
- A majority of my connections do NOT see all my posts. As more people become active on Linkedin so everyone’s posts have to fight harder for attention. Despite my increased follower numbers, the average views of my posts have been consistently falling ;-( I like to think this has more to do with the much higher number of posts appearing generally on Linkedin. In 2021 the average views of my posts was only 2,500 (with 12,300 followers). That’s about half the number I was getting in 2018 when I had only 9,000 followers. And yet I believe that my posts are MORE engaging and useful to my target audience now than they were previously.
- To a degree I can influence what appears in my home feed by only commenting on and reacting to posts I want to see more of (either by the same person or by others like them). The algorithm attempts to show us more of what we engage with. I also make extensive use of the facility to remove posts and adverts from my home feed, by clicking the 3 dots at the top right of posts and adverts I don’t want to see.
- When I share other people’s posts these do not get high view numbers. I find I can better help boost engagement on such posts by adding an intriguing comment beneath the post itself. That way more of my followers are likely to then click through to see the original post than if I had simply shared a link to it. This seems to work as I see my followers commenting after I have done so on posts from what are (through me) their second level connections.
- Posts with external links still do not get widely seen. As with the previous point, such posts do not seem to be favoured by the algorithm.
- The algorithm often only shows posts to about 1.5% of my followers in the first hour or so. What normally (but not always) happens later depends in part on whether those initial views lead to ‘decent’ comment and reaction numbers. The algorithm seems to pay less attention to comments etc from the ‘usual suspects’ (ie: if it’s the same people each time).
- Simple posts containing genuine questions on matters of interest to my target audience typically do well. I put the question in the first line, then explain the background and issues before then repeating the question at the end of the post. Some people seem to reply to the question at the top and may not have read the full post.
- I am sure I could get more views, comments etc by posting about a wider range of topics and pursuing a ‘clickbait’ style approach. BUT, I am doubtful that enough of those additional views and comments would be from my target audience. Chasing vanity metrics would be a waste of my time.
- I am grateful for every reaction and comment on my posts. Well over 80% of them come from my first level connections. This means that my posts do not, of themselves, help me to reach a wider audience. Equally, when ‘strangers’ do engage on my posts I will typically look to connect with those that fit my target demographic.
- On checking who has subscribed for my weekly Linkedin newsletter/articles, I noted that the vast majority of the 3,800+ subscribers are NOT my target audience. Either they are not in the accounting/tax profession, are more junior than is ideal or are based overseas where I would not want or be able to do business with them.
- My articles/newsletters are typically viewed by about 1,300 people (about one-third of the subscriber numbers). This is probably a more important number than the total number of subscribers. However I cannot tell if it’s the same 1,300 people each week and I don’t know if these views are typically from those subscribers who are among my target audience. It’s possible of course.
- As I regularly refine the headline on my profile I needed to reshoot the intro/welcome video to ensure it was consistent each time.
- Having been identified as a ‘creator’ my profile defaults to encouraging people to ‘follow’ me rather than to ‘connect’ with me. This probably reduces the number of connection requests I would otherwise want to ‘ignore’. I check new followers each week and ask to connect with those who seem most relevant.
- The vast majority of my connections are not regularly active on LinkedIn. This obviously impacts the level of engagement that my posts get.
- I think the reason we see so many Polls on Linkedin these days is because the algorithm sees they are popular. I suspect I see fewer polls than most because I am VERY choosy as to which ones I respond to. My own polls secured much higher views and votes in the first hour or so than my normal posts. They also went on to have higher views than my text only posts. I don’t assume that any of the people who voted on my polls will remember me or the poll. Hopefully some will. I also assume that, like me, they would get fed up if I posted too many polls. So I don’t.
- As I noted in last year’s annual report, I saw little point in experimenting with the newest ‘shiny object’ on Linkedin when it was introduced last year. Linkedin’s ‘stories’ facility replicated the facility to post short video ‘stories’ on other social media platforms (eg: instagram and facebook). I didn’t see it as relevant to an online business networking site – at least not in the way it was introduced on Linkedin. So, after an initial look, I wasted no time on it. My cynicism was justified as the feature was later removed. I have learned it is rarely worth trying to be a pioneer when new facilities become available.
- I also try to resist the temptation to react and comment too often on posts I see from friends who operate in different marketplaces to me. When I used to do this, my activity clearly confused algorithm and started showing me too many similar posts from other people (eg: funeral celebrants and life coaches). So I now hold back from doing this too often. I always try to balance such engagement by commenting on 3 times as many posts I see that are related more directly to and by my target audience.
- My experience of hashtags has not resulted in me using them very much as they don’t increase views to MY posts and articles. This is no doubt partly a function of my audience, my profession and the topics/content of my posts. I accept that hashtags may be good to use if they have lots of (relevant) followers, are commonly searched for terms on Linkedin or if we can encourage our own connections to follow our preferred hashtags. The use of excessive hashtags generally suggests, to me, that someone doesn’t understand that Linkedin is an online business networking site and thus very different to a social media site like instagram where hashtags are a well established tool.
- This last one is a bit of a cheat as it’s a lesson I only learned this week. And I then saw it confirmed by a Linkedin expert. Past experience taught me to avoid image posts as my followers tended not to engage with them. However, last week I posted an image post that contained a selfie of me holding the item I was writing about. Engagement was much higher than I had expected. Apparently it’s a good idea when adding a photo to a post, to ensure you appear in it. So it’s a quasi-selfie with some relevance to the content of the post. This seems to help image posts buck the trend, as otherwise they typically get fewer views and relevant comments than text only posts.
If you want further insights that will help you better understand my conclusions do check out my 2020 report* from last Jan. It goes into far more detail and explains: My approach to posting on Linkedin; Who sees our posts; Why you can’t expect what works for marketing and social media experts to work for you; What factors contribute to increased views and also which factors reduce the prospect of high viewing numbers etc.
*It was titled: Why regular posts on Linkedin aren’t all they’re cracked up to be – And other lessons from my 237 posts in 2020
Lessons from my 2019 Linkedin experience
Lessons from my 2018 Linkedin experience