5 success factors for LinkedIn posts
I ran a test on LinkedIn this weekend to see if the algorithms would rank, and if people would like, poor content. I frequently see pathetically trite posts that end up getting broad distribution and positive reaction from the community. Do the algorithms select high quality content? The short answer is no. The algorithms and moderators are not good at amplifying “real” posts or at identifying high quality content — this is left to the reader. So, “like” carefully because you are being used as a signal. If you want people to view your posts and react, I have some things that seem to work — even when the content makes no sense.
Rule #1: Make it look professional.
Even though the content is nonsensical, from an unknown person, and unknown company, it looks like a real quote. The algorithm gave this 1000 views and 10 people liked it over 8 hours. I used this “score” as a baseline of the experiment. If the system promoted this, it clearly would promote almost anything that looked reasonable. This also means that all posts that get around 1000 views are essentially at the bottom of the ranking.
Rule #2: Include some branding.
The second creative above upped the game a bit and introduced an author, founder, and concept. The quote itself, like the first one, was an “artificial truism.” It might mean something, but it’s unclear. It presents a fact with conviction and points to a solution that the author had trademarked. This invented “founder and author” must be important and know something. The addition of “branding” like “Success Mindset,” the trademark, and the author/founder title lead to a 50% increase in views: 1600, and double the likes: 20.
Rule #3: Focus on positive topics and people.
I post fairly frequently and try to share ideas about interesting people. If there’s one theme of my posts, it might be that I admire the misunderstood underdog that wins in the end. Telsa, the man not the car company, for instance (at least in the historical sense he won). I post drawings of people and include a short story and something that’s not commonly known about them.
With frequent posting, I’ve observed that people like a positive and clear story. People want the subject to be heroic. This could be an inspirational business leader, civic leader, artist or musician. After doing 100s of drawings, I’ve found that the popularity of the subject is material to the number of views and likes. For instance, no matter how great of a drawing I do, Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey (13K views) will never receive as many likes as Kamala Harris (33K views) or Elon Musk (81K views). Dorsey is famous, but not as iconic as the other two. This is even more pronounced for post of unloved characters like Mitch McConnell, or less known people like Russell Kirsch (who FYI invented the pixel).
Rule #4 Provide visually appealing images.
In the next two creatives, I tried some additional improvements. The topic is a recent “promotion”— a very happy occasion. These two posts are made up of “stock images” and a fictitious company, so there is no bias about the place of work. I included elements from the first three success factors of creating content: needs to look official, include some branding elements, and positive story. The two posts were identical except for the image and the name. Additionally, other than the gender, the big difference is the attractiveness of the subject. The person on the left may be a great human being, but his smile is forced. If you query “uneasy smile” you will find him. The right hand creative has a more genuine smile. It might be a commentary about shallowness, but which one do you think performed better? The full smile received 20% more views from the algorithm — interesting!
Rule #5 Give the reader a way to show affirmation.
I have about 26K followers mostly made up of people from Microsoft, Google, and now Amazon where I’ve worked for the past 25 years. Like all humans these folks want to be perceived well by others. They won’t “like” something that might damage their reputation within their community. I’d also argue that they want to feel included.
This last creative tired to bring it all together, and used the previously mentioned success factors: 1) it needs to look professional, 2) include some branding elements, 3) needs to focus on a positive story, and 4) the visual appeal is important. On top of this I provided a positive affirmation as a booster.
Like all of the other posts here, this one is completely made up. I used the “Success Mindset” branding again because I was lazy, and I borrowed the graphic from a real post (like all of the other images). The big leap here was to give the viewer a chance to be a part of the successful group.
The post below received 3K views, 25 likes, and a few shares. This was 3x the baseline of the first “Clinton Difindefer” post and 50% higher likes than the “author/founder” quote. The only catch with this posts is that some people might have caught on that it wasn’t genuine. There is a fine line between trite and unreal, and this is it. Some of the attributes below seem legitimate: “asks why” vs “tell how” — that seems pretty smart. But what about, “Cares about things” vs “doesn’t care.” “Veggies” vs “Cheese” is a give away for sure. Admittedly, some of the likes may have been because people thought it was funny or sarcastic.
The point is that there are MANY posts like this on LinkedIn and they appear to perform quite well. The common factor is that they have an affirmation aspect. My hypothesis is that the viewer looks at the list and they check off the ones they agree with: yes to “focus on the future” and place themselves into the good camp. At a minimum, it’s interesting that this ended up performing so well.
In closing, totally non-scientific anecdotal stuff, but was fun to run the experiment this weekend. One take away is to be super skeptical of all content. All of the posts above are very close to “real” posts. Small changes in how its presented can radically change who views and likes it. The algorithms and moderators are not good at identifying content quality — this is left to the reader. You are their amplifier. So, “like” carefully because you are being used as a signal for others. Thanks to all of the folks on LinkedIn for putting up with this. Note all numbers were as of the posting of this article. Default LinkedIn hashtags were used. About 8 hours of time passed from start to end.
Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrickcopeland/