LinkedIn has become something the other major social networks have not – a content network.
Of course, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ do have tidbits of content posted on their sites, and certainly, they are used for promoting content. However, LinkedIn doesn’t stop there. It aims to be the place where content actually resides.
The Evolution of LinkedIn
Since its inception in 2003, LinkedIn has improved and evolved, but generally, it has stuck to a simple charter of connecting professionals seeking to advance their careers. For most, it has been merely a new media home for their resume.
A new LinkedIn began to take shape in 2011, when LinkedIn Today, a personalized magazine, was introduced. The publication differed from most in that its content was unique to the user, based on his or her connections and activities on the network. I believe I was one among millions who valued getting served a custom plate of posts each morning.
In 2012, LinkedIn showed just how serious they were about content when it acquired SlideShare. They also introduced company pages about the same time.
Less than a year later, LinkedIn opened its wallet again and purchased Pulse, a popular mobile app, which feeds users personalized news. LinkedIn Today and Pulse were merged. Game on.
To forward its new vision in the content space, LinkedIn then kicked off its “[IN]fluencer” program in which select business leaders were recruited to publish original articles. The influencer program expanded to roughly 500 authors in short order and helped make LinkedIn a legitimate news media property.
Publishing for One and All
Earlier this year, LinkedIn made the surprising announcement that it would host “the definitive professional publishing platform.” The company’s director of product management, Ryan Roslansky, unleashed the news in a post, stating:
“LinkedIn is opening up our publishing platform to our members, giving them a powerful new way to build their professional brand.”
Roslansky explained that all 277 (now 300) million members could blog on the new platform, and thus, reach the world’s largest group of professionals. Members would be able to post photos, images, videos, and SlideShare content; follow other members; and build a group of followers.
The program is being rolled out gradually. First, 25,000 members were granted publishing capabilities, and an application process was put in place. You can try to get in the queue by completing the application here. I applied early and managed to get the nod.
Note the pencil in the “Share an update” field above. It’s my ticket to publish blog posts on LinkedIn. In the past two months, I’ve posted a 12-pack of posts. I’ll give you my impressions thus far:
It’s Amazingly Easy
If you’ve blogged anywhere, you’re in for a treat. You won’t need to tinker with any CMS shenanigans. If you’re entirely new to blogging, you’ll catch on fast.
It’s unlikely any icon in the tool bar will be new to you with the possible exception of < >. This one’s for embedding code from SlideShare or YouTube (all other code is rejected). When you place an image in your post, you can resize it simply by dragging its corners. I’ve yet to see that smart and simple feature on any blogging platform.
My first four posts were cut-and-paste jobs from my blog. All the formatting stayed intact and the posts look tasty. Eat your heart out, WordPress.
Your recent posts appear on your LinkedIn profile page in the now-popular tiled display format, so your featured image plays an important role. Oddly, LinkedIn does not display long titles in their entirety. If you flirt with the 70-character guideline most bloggers heed for search display purposes, you’ll find your headlines cut off.
The Audience Is Engaged
I consistently reach a large audience with my LinkedIn posts, but my statistics have been up, down, and all over the place. Most of the writers I’ve spoken with have had similar experiences.
My debut piece was no great shakes. I tried again just a few days later and scored 5-digit viewership. The post made its way to Pulse (which appears to be at LinkedIn’s discretion), and 10 posts later, it remains my biggest hit.
The share numbers generally are strong, especially across LinkedIn. A “like” icon provides additional feedback, and I’m usually pleased to find many thumbs up.
What has impressed me most is that readers are writing comments. I have contributed guest posts to more than 20 sites, and though it’s tough to explain, some sites consistently generate a lot of commentary while others do not. At LinkedIn, engagement is high. We bloggers dig that.
Your Reach Tends to Expand
In addition to reporting views (which is fairly uncommon), along with likes and shares, now there is the option to follow bloggers. You don’t need to be “connected” to follow. I’m happy to report I’ve earned thousands of new followers.
You’re Served Well by Search
LinkedIn ranks number 6 on Alexa, so they obviously have clout and millions of reasons to get indexed daily. As such, articles appear on Google very soon after you publish.
You Can Drive Substantial Traffic to Your Website
So far, I’ve found no shortcut for creating and re-using an author box as you normally would with most blogs. Nor are you able to archive any call-to-action buttons or artwork. While this is a bit inconvenient, LinkedIn allows you to link any copy or image you choose.
I’ve created a quasi-author box where I include links to my website, and often, eBook offers. I re-use the majority of it by copying it from an earlier post and set it apart with extra spaces or a trio of centered #s (press release style) at the end of the post. As a result, traffic to my site and opt-in conversions have been encouraging.
LinkedIn used to rank a bit low for inbound traffic to my site, typically in 10th place or thereabout. It has climbed nicely and is a leading traffic booster when I create a new post.
There Is Some Room for Improvement
I believe LinkedIn is phasing in the platform slowly in order to consider and respond to some of the questions and suggestions it’s getting from members. It’s a little hard to say because they have been surprisingly quiet thus far.
In the “Writing on LinkedIn” Group, LinkedIn product marketer Garrett Morimoto created a discussion titled “FAQs: Publishing on LinkedIn.” (You’ll need to join to view the page.) There, Morimoto offers a link to a FAQ, which provides some basic information for using the platform.
Many members have used the discussion to ask questions, offer suggestions, and log the occasional complaint. For the most part, LinkedIn has remained hush; however, LinkedIn editor Amy Chen has addressed a few questions.
The issues I believe to be of most concern include:
Missing in mobile – When using LinkedIn on a smart phone, profile pages do not include posts from users. Seems odd.
Infographics are out. – I wanted to include an infographic in a post and found a limit on image size prevented me from doing so. Here is a workaround: post the infographic on SlideShare and then embed the SlideShare code.
No access – Undoubtedly, the issue members are most curious (and frustrated) about is that they have applied, but not yet been granted access, to use the platform. Unfortunately, you get it when you get it (if you get it). It appears LinkedIn is not giving applicants any sort of updates regarding the status of their applications.
Feedback from My Tribe
After I joined the LinkedIn Group, “Writing on LinkedIn,” I created a discussion thread where I asked fellow members to tell me what they like and don’t like about the platform as well as if it would change their approach to blogging. I received mostly positive answers, including the following:
“From an SEO perspective, it makes sense for business 2 business to publish content on LinkedIn since it has such high domain authority.”
“My approach to blogging has been changed dramatically. I post more on LI than my own blog now, because the reach and impact have been substantially greater.”
“The best part of LinkedIn publishing is the comments from real people under their real names.”
“If you’re in the B2B space, or want to become a B2B thought leader, then this is definitely something to look into.”
“I’m enjoying the opportunity to see what my connections choose to write about, or share from blogs by those in their circle.”
“With this additional media, I’ll tell stories about my expertise versus a boring list of bullets in the profile.”
“LinkedIn is getting a lot more lively and more relevant. The new ways to connect and share: inspiration; work; ideas; approaches; insights; even personalities are taking us to freer, more collaborative, more productive places.”
“It is an exciting yet professional platform which I love for the insights, thought leadership, and generally, I find articles to be better researched.”
“LinkedIn has become a source I rely on to report factual, state of the science, relevant topics, and information directly to the professionals who can put it to use immediately.”
“It allows you to position yourself as an expert, and it becomes one of the major mechanisms for your branding effort.”
No one there registered a beef of any consequence, although a number of people expressed concern that the volume of posts could create a substantial level of noise across LinkedIn.
The platform hasn’t yet been offered to all LinkedIn members, so to date, I haven’t come across any complaints about the quality of the posts. It appears most members using the platform at present are experienced bloggers.
LinkedIn Will Be Keeping Score
In March, LinkedIn announced the advent of its soon-to-come “content marketing score.”
LinkedIn’s Valter Sciarrillo wrote, “You need a long-term view that requires you to be truly helpful to your customers in order to be relevant to them.” His post explains that the score is “an analytics resource that gives you insight into the impact of your paid and organic content on LinkedIn. It’s a simple score calculated by measuring unique engagement (gauged through social actions), divided by your total target audience.”
The content marketing score is one half of what LinkedIn has dubbed “The Dynamic Duo.” The other half of the duo is a “trending content” feature. A LinkedIn page explains, “The feature ranks the topics that resonate most with specific audiences on LinkedIn so that you can tailor your content for maximum relevance.”
For ten topic areas, trending content displays trending topics and the top articles ranked by engagement on LinkedIn. A graph within the page reveals which audience segments are sharing the most content.
Your Chance Is Coming Soon
Again, there’s no set date for when the publishing platform will allow you to post, but the day is coming.
I believe you’ll want to give the platform a try. Granted, if you’re new to blogging, you’ll need to learn how it’s done. But you won’t find an easier tool to get the job done, nor will you find an audience of this size elsewhere.
If you already have a sizable network of connections on LinkedIn, you’re in good shape. Your audience will multiply by leaps and bounds when your connections share your posts.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts and equally curious to see how this shakes out, not only on LinkedIn, but across the social sphere. Will other networks follow suit? Should they? Will a free-for-all publishing platform on such a large network be a good thing or will it be a free-for-all (chaotic situation)?
Time will tell.
About the Author: Barry Feldman operates Feldman Creative and provides clients content marketing strategies that rock and creative that rolls. Barry has recently been named a Top 40 Digital Strategist by Online Marketing Institute and one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn. Visit Feldman Creative and his blog, The Point.