If you just use LinkedIn as a place to display your professional profile, search for jobs, and connect with colleagues and professional acquaintances, you're not taking full advantage of everything LinkedIn can do for your personal brand and your career.
Like many people, I used LinkedIn to store a resume and occasionally search for a new job. After a layoff earlier this year—before the pandemic madness—I started to notice people were focused on building their LinkedIn following through content. On their feeds, they described their daily learnings and challenges in building a business, marketing, creating content, and more.
My LinkedIn following has grown from 800 or so in early July 2020 to 2,000 now as I write this article in mid- October 2020.
A lightbulb went off, and I decided to create content daily to build my brand and draw attention to my consulting business. Some of the practices I'll describe here are theoretical and based on observations I've made over time. Some are more practical, tactical things you can repeat daily.
As a side effect of consistent content creation, my following has grown from 800 or so in early July 2020 to 2,000 as I write this article in mid-October 2020.
Here's how I grew my Linkedin followers by 150% in 90 days through a combination of content creation and community building.
Making LinkedIn work for you
There are a few things to consider when committing to LinkedIn content creation and community building:
- Consistency is a best practice
- Give away what you know
- Be a conversation starter, not a megaphone
- Connect with the right people
- Avoid building an echo chamber
Consistency is the best practice
When it comes to creating content on LinkedIn, consistency is critical.
Consistency looks different for each person. It's up to you to find a pattern that works and then stick to it.
I engage with other peoples' content for 45 minutes early each morning, then post my piece for the day. That pattern works for me because I like to spend time on social media early in the morning. That leaves the rest of my day for writing and other business-related tasks.
This schedule could look different for you, but consistency is the key. When you establish consistency, your content posting becomes predictable, and that's a good thing. Your followers expect to see new stuff from you at a specific time each day, and they're ready to engage with what you create.
If you engage with people who are active daily on LinkedIn, they'll be ready to return the favor.
Also, if you engage with people who are active daily on LinkedIn, they'll be ready to return the favor. This reciprocation is important because activity within the first two hours of your post is weighed heavily in the LinkedIn algorithm.
Give away what you know to earn more LinkedIn followers
There's no room for protecting your intellectual property when it comes to LinkedIn content creation.
Give it away.
All of it.
Don't hold back.
Traditional marketing techniques don't apply to LinkedIn, so you might as well be an open book.
Selflessness is the name of the game on LinkedIn. There's no way to gate content or make people give you an email address for a tidbit. Traditional marketing techniques don't apply to LinkedIn, so you might as well be an open book.
I write about content, marketing, and strategy daily and speak from my experiences, struggles, wins, and losses. I don't pull punches and tell people what works, what doesn't, and hopefully help them avoid the pitfalls I've encountered. No matter your subject, you should do the same. LinkedIn rewards authenticity organically.
If you're working through a process—like I am now in building my website—let people take a peek behind the curtain. Outline what's working well for you and where you see success. Talk about strategy and what you are doing functionally. About your frustrations and where you are running into roadblocks. Ask for input and advice.
You'll be amazed at what people will contribute to the conversation when you allow them to do so.
LinkedIn rewards authenticity organically.
To do this, make sure always to end your posts with a call to action.
One you'll see often is as simple as asking "Thoughts?" at the end of a post. This CTA is a prompt for people to give their opinion. Especially if you've talked about something with the potential to be contentious or controversial.
Giving away what you know doesn't just happen in the content you create; it's also an essential element of engaging with the content of others.
Don't be a megaphone—be a conversation starter
No one likes a megaphone on social media. Megaphones are people that create, create, create and share, share, share but never engage. Think of people with tens of thousands of followers on Twitter who follow no one.
LinkedIn megaphones are considered "influencers" because they've learned how to game the system through engagement pods and other devices to build their follower count. However, they don't get to know their followers or cultivate relationships on the platform.
Take time to leave meaningful comments on posts of people with whom you would like to build a relationship.
Instead, they yell about how great they are through their megaphones. Don't be a megaphone. Be a conversation starter.
When people start to follow you—and vice versa—you'll see natural opportunities to add to conversations. Do so. Take time to leave meaningful comments on posts of people with whom you would like to build a relationship.
There's a difference between thoughtful comments and disposable comments. Thoughtful comments add something to the ongoing conversation.
Disposable comments are floating through and dropping something simple like "I agree 100!" or "Totally agree!" and then moving to the next post. You can game the system this way, but this type of engagement is empty.
Be a community builder. People will become curious about you when you leave thoughtful comments. This curiosity turns into more profile views for you on LinkedIn. More profile views lead to more connections and LinkedIn followers. Before you write on LinkedIn, it's essential to know who for whom you're writing.
It's cliche, but if you don't know your audience, you might as well not be creating content at all.
Connect with the right people
Connecting with the right people is essential to building a community on LinkedIn.
A group of "open networkers" on LinkedIn call themselves "LIONs" or LinkedIn Open Networkers. They will connect with anyone and everyone. The notion is the more connections you make—and therefore, the more extensive your network—the more opportunity you have to build a business on the platform.
This notion is misguided. When you build a network as a LION does, you're hoarding LinkedIn followers and connections. These numbers become vanity metrics for you to show off.
Don't be a LION.
Instead, become intimately familiar with the people you'd like to be a part of your tribe. Seek them out, engage with their content, and follow them first.
When you send a connection request, always include a note as to why you'd like to connect.
Your LinkedIn followers will grow because you're building a tribe that engages and learns from one another and is intellectually curious. That intellectual curiosity will lead to more people wanting to know what your content teaches and follow you to see what's next.
Avoid building an echo chamber
An echo chamber is where people belonging to it share similar beliefs and viewpoints and reinforce these by agreeing with one another without fail. These are a common phenomenon on social media, especially in our currently contentious political climate.
Echo chambers are soft and cozy. They make you feel like you're doing something right because your opinions are consistently validated. The problem is they aren't pushing you forward professionally.
The people in the chamber share your characteristics and are chasing the same target customers.
Instead, work to build two converging communities:
- Like-minded people in your industry with whom you can share best practices, tips, and techniques, and build mutually beneficial relationships
- A community of people with whom you'd like to work, so you can engage with them naturally to build trust and relationships
Building these relationships, and a presence on LinkedIn, can only be done through consistency and daily use of specific tactics.
Let's check a few of these out.
Five tactics to increase your LinkedIn followers
Here they are:
- Set a timer and fully focus on engagement
- When the timer goes off, post your content
- Take advantage of LinkedIn's addiction to dwell time
- Always send a note with connection requests
- Check in with your connections once a month
1. Set a timer and fully focus on engagement
First thing each morning, I sit down at my computer and set a timer for 45 minutes. I spend 45 minutes engaging with content on LinkedIn, leaving thoughtful comments that add to conversations, liking posts, and showing support.
I usually have around 10-15 notification requests pop up during the 45-minute block from people engaging back. At the end of the block, I respond to these notification requests to keep conversations flowing.
This momentum continues throughout the day as people check comments I have left and respond. Since I keep a LinkedIn window open all day, it's a great way to engage and cultivate new relationships.
2. When the timer goes off, post your content
That 45 minutes you spent engaging with other people's content primes the pump on LinkedIn. When you engage with other people's content, especially when engagement is thoughtful and contributes to conversations, LinkedIn rewards you with more reach.
Increased reach leads to more visibility.
Visibility leads to more engagement from people following you or who have been lurking in the shadows, reading your content each day. There are plenty of lurkers. Only about 1% of people use the platform for content creation and activities I’m outlining.
The combination of conversations this pattern creates develops an exciting flow that continues over time. When you're always chatting with people on LinkedIn, other people that have nothing to do with the conversation are watching. These people follow you to see more in the future.
And your community grows organically.
3. Take advantage of LinkedIn's addiction to dwell time
There's been a lot written lately about LinkedIn's addition of a "dwell time" metric to evaluate how valuable a new post is. Dwell time refers to how long someone stays on a piece of content when they see it in their feed.
Playing to dwell time is why you see people often post in single sentences in long, drawn-out posts that use the character count available.
This format is not-so-affectionately known as "broetry."
Another type of post that's consistently working well on LinkedIn are slide decks. These decks are easy to create using a simple design tool like Canva. They're powerful because they require readers to click from one slide to the next and interact with the content.
You don't always have to have dwell time in mind when creating content for LinkedIn. But, it's not a bad idea to play to it when it's natural to do so.
4. Always send a note with connection requests
It's always a good idea to send a personalized note when you reach out to connect with someone.
Connect like a human. When you send a connection request, always include a note as to why you'd like to connect. Then, when the connection request is approved, send a thank you note.
Even better, send a voice message via the LinkedIn app on your phone so your new connection can put a voice with a name.
This process humanizes you, and we're all just humans trying to do our best in a crazy world. Separate yourself by doing the little things. When you build the right network, success builds success.
I almost always accept connection requests with a note because it shows the sender took time to consider how a connection could be valuable to both of us.
The majority of connection requests I receive do not include a message. I pick and choose which of these to accept. I almost always accept those with a note because it shows the sender took time to consider how a connection could be valuable to both of us.
It shows you have taken time to check out the person's profile and aren't just looking to hoard connections. Make the note personal and sincere. Introduce yourself, and pay an honest compliment. Say you look forward to connecting and staying in touch. And, offer up your services should they ever need you.
You never know where each connection can lead. And sending a personalized note to establish a link is a great way to kick off a relationship on a high note.
5. Check in with your connections once a month
As you build your tribe, it's advisable to check in with them once a month.
This process sounds daunting. It's not as hard as it sounds. Let's say you have 1,000 connections. There are 30-31 days in a month. All you have to do is send 3-4 direct messages a day to your contacts to say hi!
Mix this in with the 45 minutes you spend engaging with other people's content. Most people won't respond right away when you send messages, but a lot will in time. As the momentum builds, you'll have several interesting conversations.
And who knows? One of them might turn into a new opportunity!
Cultivating LinkedIn followers and curating a tribe takes consistent hard work. but it's also not intimidating.
Cultivating LinkedIn followers and curating a tribe takes consistent hard work. but it's also not intimidating. The techniques I've outlined in this article are repeatable and scalable, with predictable outcomes.
Incremental effort inevitably leads to compounding returns.
If you can dedicate yourself to this effort over 90 days—without missing a day—there's a darn good chance you'll at least double your LinkedIn following, if not triple it.