Wes Bush

How to Increase Your LinkedIn Engagement Without Wasting a Dime

By: Wes Bush | February 16, 2017 | 
15

How To Increase Your LinkedIn Engagement Without Wasting A DimeI have a confession to make.

I used to be one of those annoying people who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on creating ads which followed you around online.

You’re welcome!

The only reason I was good at it was because I hated ads more than you do, and it gave me an outlet to practice neuroscience marketing, which I loved.

Well, until I was fired…

And with no budget.

I had to quickly learn the art of earned media to spread the word about my business.

By sharing my story, I hope that I’ll be able to save you from making the same mistakes I did.

My goal for your content on LinkedIn is to get it to stick out like an eyesore when compared to any of those intrusive ads.

Just trust me on this one. 😉

Who are LinkedIn’s Power Users?

First, before you can even attempt to become a power user on LinkedIn, you need to understand who spends the most time on the site.

If your content is going to catch fire you need to know who the majority of your 2nd degree connections are, as they are the gatekeepers to the rest of the LinkedIn network.

If you haven’t noticed already, the majority of LinkedIn’s power users fall into these four buckets:

  • Sales
  • HR
  • Job hunters
  • Company page admins

So essentially, this is why your timeline is pretty boring:

  • Most sales people just share whatever content their company publishes, and ‘like’ posts on how cold-calling is NOT DEAD.
  • HR uses it to share jobs and interesting applications. Major shout out to this champ!
  • Job hunters use it to broadcast they’re looking for opportunities, and to ‘like’ a cruel number of posts.
  • Company page admins barely put any thought into LinkedIn and just use it as another syndication platform.

Obviously, these are generalizations, but it goes to show that a lot of the content has a motive or is generic.

This, as you’ll learn, is a good thing.

So How Do You Cut Through the Crap?

First, you need to change your perspective on LinkedIn.

It’s not a social media platform, it’s a community.

As a community, people want to relate and identify with others like them.

This means you need to share what you feel about a topic and do what you PR pros are brilliant at (aka storytelling).

I know for myself when I first told my LinkedIn audience that I was scared of leaving the comfort of a job to focus on something I believed in, I received a landslide of support from other entrepreneurs and marketing leaders.

My one status update resulted in over 43,000 impressions, 642 profile views, 153 connection requests, 108 website hits, 33 people wanting to use my product, and several people asking me for a job.

That’s something ads don’t do.

How to Dissect the Dissectable?

So like any kid who discovers a cool bug, I started poking it.

Which basically means I tried doing the same thing over and over to see if I could replicate the outcome.

And I just kept hitting a wall.

Luckily, I found a study by The New York Times Customer Insight Group on the top five motives why people decide to share content.

This study helped me identify what I should and shouldn’t be posting.

It’s an interesting but long read, and boils down to these top five motives:

  • To bring valuable and entertaining content to others. Forty-nine percent say sharing allows them to inform others of products they care about and potentially change opinions or encourage action.
  • To define ourselves to others. Sixty-eight percent share to give people a better sense of who they are and what they care about.
  • To grow and nourish our relationships. Seventy-eight percent share information online because it lets them stay connected to people they may not otherwise stay in touch with.
  • Self-fulfillment. Sixty-nine percent share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world.
  • To get the word out about causes or brands. Eighty-four percent share because it is a way to support causes or issues they care about.

What’s tricky about dissecting the motives behind sharing content is that there’s often a lot of overlap.

Also, I’m stubborn and refuse to believe most things until I try them out myself.

So I published over 100 posts in 2016 to test out the five-motive theory.

What Actually Drives LinkedIn Engagement?

After reviewing the 100 posts, here’s what really worked for each motive on LinkedIn:

  • To bring valuable and entertaining content to others. Posts that bring valuable and entertaining content to my network tended to do the worst. Surprise. Surprise. Most people already got the hang of this on LinkedIn, so your content doesn’t have a fighting chance to stick out.
  • To define ourselves to others. Helping people define themselves proved to be the most powerful way to get engagements and start conversations on LinkedIn. The posts where I mentioned I was struggling with something, or felt a certain way about a topic, took off. Each post where I mentioned a fear, or my personal opinion on a topic, saw an average of 5,000 impressions. Part of the reason these posts took off was because there are very few people out there who are willing to say what they really feel about a topic because they’re afraid of being judged. This is your opportunity to steal the spotlight.
  • To grow and nourish our relationships. This should always be one of your motives on LinkedIn. Focusing on growing and nourishing our relationships is the one reason we’re all on LinkedIn, right? Unfortunately, I don’t have any fun tales of me trying to go against the grain on this one. If you have any fun stories of you trying to destroy relationships on LinkedIn, please share in the comments. 🙂
  • Self-fulfillment. Self-fulfilling posts are rare (at least for me), but incredibly powerful. These kinds of posts focus on your accomplishing or celebrating something you’ve been working on for a while. If you include some lessons learned in these posts, you’re off to the races. These posts tend to do well because your second-degree connections can easily relate to your specific milestones or lessons learned.
  • To get the word out about causes or brands. Product or service related posts don’t receive that much engagement. People generally feel there’s a vested interest in the product or service you’re raving about. However, it is also important to use these kinds of posts occasionally if you’ve had a truly amazing experience. The reason being is that you need to build trust within your network. If someone tries something you recommended and has an amazing experience, that person is more likely to trust your opinion in future cases.

So, Can You Actually Hack Your LinkedIn Engagement?

If you haven’t already noticed, my take on increasing your LinkedIn engagement isn’t revolutionary.

When I tried to ‘hack’ LinkedIn engagement, I was unpleasantly reminded there is no way to hack relationships.

If it isn’t genuine, it isn’t going to make the cut.

However, if you focus on sharing your opinion and views on topics, you’re going to see your engagement spike.

The reason most people don’t do this is fear that people will judge them.

This will never change.

But for you, this is an opportunity to own LinkedIn’s algorithm.

It’s built for people who are bold.

Ads don’t stand a chance against you if you do this.

I challenge you to share what you really think when posting your next update.

P.S. I’d love to hear more about some of the success you’ve seen on LinkedIn so please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, and leave a comment below. 🙂

About Wes Bush


Wes Bush is the Chief Everything Officer at Traffic Is Currency, one of Canada’s fastest growing search engine optimization (SEO) companies. When not working, you can find him running a slow marathon or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. But, if we’re being completely honest, he’ll most likely be found eating snacks or cooking Mexican food.

  • Awesome post, Wes! Most of the content shared on LinkedIn gets zero engagement. What’s missing on LI more and more is the community and authenticity you described. It’s too bad that LI groups are losing traction as well. I think thoughtful and authentic participation in them could go a long way towards forming more helpful relationships that get a lot of engagement.

    • Wes

      Thanks, Steve. LinkedIn groups have been struggling for a while now. Every big group that I’ve been a part of has just turned into a place where 1℅ of the people just repost all their content to get people to view it. I believe that if there were better moderation within groups, there could be a fighting chance for LinkedIn groups to make a comeback. If you want to see one of the best moderators build a community, I’d highly recommend checking out the Marketing & Founders group on Facebook. What I think is invaluable in that he won’t let anyone post any links. As a result, people actually have conversations. Crazy concept, I know. 😉

      • Thanks for letting me know about the group. I’ll check it out!

      • This is why the CMI LinkedIn group changed their rules and no longer allows content distribution. It shifted the focus to conversations amongst members without having to wade through endless self-promotion.

        • Wes

          Ooo. This is new news. I’ll check out the CMI group right now. 🙂

  • paulakiger

    Great thoughts!

    • Wes

      Thanks, Paula!

  • I recently shared that I had won a standing desk at work and asked for tips. While I only received one comment from a friend of mine, it was one of my better viewed and liked posts.

    • Wes

      Thanks for sharing, Kristy. I’m sure you’ll see that trend continue if you keep sharing content like that. I found that it took my network a while to warm up to commenting on my content. I’m sure if you continue to publish content like that, you’ll have more than one friend comment on your posts in the future. 🙂

      • It was an interesting experiment. I might follow it up with a picture of me with the Veridesk. “Playing” on my personal account to see what works.

        • Wes

          Go for it. The best way to see what works is to keep experimenting.

  • I love the generalizations of timeline posts, very funny and very true.
    The tweak of approaching LinkedIn from a community perspective as opposed to a social network is really insightful. It’s true why would we interact with the general posts? Everyone is doing it. But a post where we feel we can get our view across or help someone is really going to get some action! And in all honesty, I rarely see posts like this. I suppose what you are saying Wes, is use LinkedIn more like an individual would use Twitter?

    • Wes

      I always recommend doing the opposite of what a lot of people are doing on social networks. Typically the timeline algorithms will reward you if you do that. 🙂

      I would argue people use Twitter and LinkedIn pretty similarity.
      However, if you apply these same steps on Twitter I’m sure you’ll see a boost in engagement too.

  • I love how you tried to automate content marketing. That is so brilliant, you tried to find replicate moves —- and then, you realized: “If it isn’t genuine, it isn’t going to make the cut.” LinkedIn is probably the easiest channel to master, because on other channels people are on there for so many various motives. On LinkedIn, it’s exactly round about within the framework of what you outlined. 🙂 Very nice post! Thanks for sharing! I like when my posts go nuts on LinkedIn… your example of the one you made about your job change…it’s so interesting what works and what doesn’t and how could we EVER put so much faith in advertising if it doesn’t even have near 1 tenth of the same effect????

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