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. 🙂

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.

View all posts by Wes Bush