The rise of the LinkedInfluencer—and what this means for the rest of us
As someone who loves networking and takes my personal and professional development seriously, I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. I think the platform is great for following new trends in your field, for connecting with others who have similar career goals, and to brand yourself to find more opportunities.
And in my time on LinkedIn, I have noticed (as I’m sure many have) that there are more and more people reaching huge audiences, and many of these are following a specific recipe for viral content. I can only refer to these types of people as “LinkedInfluencers”: users of the social network platform who have discovered a recipe to posting which results in high numbers of engagements (shares, comments, likes). These people often go “LinkedIn viral” through their content and have a high number of loyal followers.
Thought Leaders vs LinkedInfluencers
LinkedIn themselves refer to influencers on their platform as Thought Leaders, and have even developed a 50-page guide, The Business of Thought Leadership, on how business executives can use LinkedIn to develop their own thought leadership.
There are a lot of positives to becoming a LinkedIn Thought Leader. You gain a huge network (LinkedIn now has ~750 million members & over 55 million companies) and you can set yourself apart from the competition by establishing yourself as an authority on a specific topic.
However, I would draw a clear line between Thought Leaders and LinkedInfluencers by the type of content that is posted. While there was only a small pool of LinkedInfluencers maybe a year or two ago, the number has grown immensely and has culminated in a lot of negative backlash against them or the type of content they usually produce. From LinkedInfluencers re-posting their same viral content over and over again just to keep getting more likes, to others copy-pasting viral content and posting it on their own profiles (often without attribution), a lot of people are getting fed up.
Below, I’d like to introduce to you the ‘Recipe for LinkedInfluencing’: what I have discerned as steps, topics, or types of content that LinkedInfluencers use to achieve their LinkedIn fame (or infamy?).
A recipe for LinkedInfluencing
LinkedIn used to be the place to escape the drama of Facebook and the influencers on Instagram, but the platform is changing, and people are noticing that you can reach whole new audiences never before exploited! Many LinkedInfluencers have discovered the recipe for viral content, including using clickbait-y one-liners; using short, incomplete sentences; throwing in a "random acts of kindness" video; and more.
So, without further ado, here's the recipe for you to follow to become a LinkedInfluencer:
Use a clickbait-y one-liner
LinkedIn hides long posts behind a ‘read more link’. LinkedInfluencers have discovered that if you put a clickbait-y line or two in the first few lines on your post, people will click to read your whole post more often than if you just put a normal sentence at the top of your post.
Write short (or even incomplete) sentences
LinkedInfluencers have found that long paragraphs in posts don’t often do as well as short sentences separated by line breaks. Do people on LinkedIn hate reading? Possibly. Or maybe they do not have time to read long paragraphs.
In the words of Kevin from The Office, “why waste time say lot word when few word do trick?”
Talk about problems in the recruitment industry
Starting your post off with “Dear Recruitment Manager…” and then calling out a problem in recruiting, then asking “agree or disagree?” or "thoughts?" at the bottom is basically a recipe on its own for a viral post. Topics such as giving feedback to rejected applicants or that certain people should be paid more are sure to reach a lot of people who agree.
Tell a story
Remember that one time when you almost didn’t hire someone because they didn’t have exactly the right amount of experience for a job, but then you decided to hire them, and then they eventually became the CEO? Yeah, tell that story! A lot. Many times. In many different ways.
Here's a truly inspiring story that is just perfect LinkedIn material:
Post an uplifting, even if completely random, video to inspire people
When LinkedIn said that videos on their platform perform well, LinkedInfluencers took no chances in missing that opportunity! Common videos from LinkedInfluencers include poor animals trapped somewhere with kind strangers helping them, or other "random acts of kindness" videos which are very clearly staged. It doesn't matter if the video is yours or not, or if it has anything to do with professional development. Post away!
Update your name and headline to draw people in
When people have seen your viral post, you need to make sure to draw them into your profile and encourage them to follow you. Add a bunch of rocket and line graph emojis 🚀 📈 to show how serious you are about growth. Tell people that you’re the “#1 recruiter on LinkedIn” and call yourself a disruptor. Don’t forget to use some fancy fonts (𝖋𝖆𝖓𝖈𝖞 𝖋𝖔𝖓𝖙𝖘) to tell people why they should follow you.
And when all else fails, just copy-paste someone else’s viral post and post it yourself
You can hide the original source all the way at the bottom (without tagging them), or don’t even bother giving credit!
(Of course, I am writing this facetiously. Plagiarism is a huge problem, and there are a ton of people talking about it on LinkedIn these days. Previous posts which I have seen that are clearly plagiarised have been removed, so I believe LinkedIn is doing something. However, I haven't been able to find any official info from LinkedIn on their plagiarism policies and how they deal with it. Please let me know if you know of any! Here are 3 Ways Experts Handle Plagiarism on LinkedIn by Mia Dand)
So what does this mean for the rest of us?
Ok, I may have been a bit harsh above. All of this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use any of the approaches above to become a LinkedIn Thought Leader. I am all for adding an emoji into your headline or name, and for writing your content copy in a way that’s best suited to each platform. If shorter sentences do better on LinkedIn, then shorten. them. down! Start conversations using controversial statements. Invite people to connect and follow you.
My point is: I believe that there is a better way is to grow your LinkedIn presence without following all of the current trends just to get followers. In my opinion, that's to establish yourself as a LinkedIn Thought Leader by providing value to people who use the social network.
How do you provide value? Well, think about why people use LinkedIn. People go on LinkedIn to learn about new trends in their industries, connect with people, find opportunities, and learn. LinkedIn is, at its core, about professional and career development. How can you provide value?
Tell stories, be authentic, share resources, uplift others, and teach people something. And don’t worry about the number of likes or comments you get, they’ll come eventually.
I will be writing a part-two for this blog post soon with more information about how I have used LinkedIn to cultivate a community, and with specific examples of informative, valuable posts from my community which give me hope for the future of LinkedIn.
Until then, start using that unfollow button on any LinkedInfluencers whose posts bother you when you’re scrolling!