Digital-First Leadership

Podcast

Understanding the LinkedIn Algorithm

August 31, 2021
Richard Bliss

In this episode, Richard Bliss gives specific action items and clearly explains how to hack the LinkedIn algorithm. These teachings are the foundation of his work training remote sales teams and empowering leaders to action through his keynote speaking engagements and weekly newsletters. 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/bliss/

Narator:

Welcome to Digital-First Leadership, the podcast that focuses on helping leaders and teams understand how to master the language of social media in today's digital-first world. In this episode, Richard gives specific action items and clearly explains how to hack the LinkedIn algorithm. These teachings are the foundation of his work training remote sales teams, as well as empowering leaders to action through his keynote speaking engagements and weekly newsletters.

Richard Bliss:

Welcome to the show. I'm Richard Bliss, the host. Thank you for joining me. Today, in this moment, I appreciate you joining me because I'm going to talk about some technical things. I'm going to talk about how the LinkedIn platform works, because as you're trying to build your brand, as you're trying to have a presence, as you're trying to put yourself out there, one of the things that you're working on is understanding how to master the tools of social media, and you're challenged. 

Richard Bliss:

Look, I see lots of people out there trying their best, or sometimes just scared to try their best, but when it comes to LinkedIn if you understand how the platform works, one, is you can overcome your uncertainty, and your fear, and your doubt. But two, you can realize how some of the activities you're doing on other social media platforms might be sabotaging your efforts on LinkedIn. And you hear me talk about this a lot, and I have mentioned it a lot, and so we're going to dive into that.

Richard Bliss:

Here's where we're going to start. I see -- I call them Instagrammers -- and what it is, is I see somebody on LinkedIn post content and then tag a bazillion people; 20, 30 people. And then they don't get a whole lot of traffic. Then I see somebody post something on LinkedIn and put 30 hashtags. Again, an Instagrammer. I'll see somebody comment on LinkedIn. You've heard me talk about commenting before; oh, good job, way to go. Facebooker; we call those a Facebooker. Or somebody just putting out a video or something, and I'm walking down the street, ah this is what I'm doing. 

Richard Bliss:

These types of pieces of content work on other platforms, but the challenge that you're faced with on LinkedIn is that people are here for a different reason. People are not here to consume content like you do on Twitter. People are not here to engage with people like they do on Instagram. People are not here to catch up on people like they do on Facebook. And so you'll hear things like Facebook is -- I heard one person say it even just this week -- Facebook... Excuse me, LinkedIn is the Facebook for boomers. Well, no, boomers are on Facebook. Or LinkedIn is a resume and electronic Rolodex. That was a fun one, that one just came up recently, that I had to explain what a Rolodex was to a couple of people. And for those of you who are listening that know what a Rolodex is, that should make you feel old, and for those of you who don't know what a Rolodex is, go Google it, and you'll get an image, and it's a thing that spun around, whatever. I don't want to explain it.

Richard Bliss:

Anyway, as we begin talking about LinkedIn and how it works, what we want to do is start realizing if we follow the rules, we'll be heavily rewarded. And if we don't follow the rules, then we will be shut out from any type of success. And this is why so many people I work with... No, I'm going to take that back. Not that people I work with, but people who I watch their behavior, who maybe have been successful on YouTube, or are Instagram influencers, and they come to LinkedIn, and then they try those same tactics, and nothing works, that they believe that LinkedIn has no value. I've got to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, it is the complete opposite. If you follow the rules on LinkedIn, you can get 10 times to 100 times more exposure for free on LinkedIn than you can on any other social media platform.

Richard Bliss:

Now, I am not talking about the Instagrammers who have a hundred thousand followers or the YouTubers who've got 1.2 million followers. That's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about you trying to close business, trying to lead a team, trying to build a company, finding a way to have some influence out there. And one of the challenges that you're faced with is you get all this conflicting advice, and so you're doing things on Instagram, but there's a good chance your customers aren't on Instagram. Unless you're an influencer, meaning you're holding handbags, or selling sailboats, or whatever, and you're off doing Instagram stuff.

Richard Bliss:

But on LinkedIn, people are having business conversations around business topics. And so, what you'll need to do is think about LinkedIn and how it operates differently. So here we go; let's talk about those things. Number one, LinkedIn... Well, there's, yeah, I'm going to start here. Number one, LinkedIn has a limit on how often you can post content on their platform. What am I talking about? It means that you have about a three to four-hour window. This research comes from Richard van der Blom and the research that he does every year. We're a gold sponsor, a platinum sponsor; we're the top sponsor this year of that research, and I would suggest you go look up Richard van der Blom. Richard van der Blom. This research shows that if you post more often than once every three hours, the subsequent posts after that initial one will be hidden from the vast majority of your network, your connections. LinkedIn just won't show it to them because you're spamming their platform. They're like, no, you used up your quota.

Richard Bliss:

Even if you post, it's about three to four hours, we say four hours to make it safe. But here's the thing, if you post after those four hours, the problem is that it'll stop promoting the first post and begin promoting the second post. So if the first one's doing really well, the second one then goes live, and maybe it's a mediocre one. They're going to shut down that first one and start promoting the second one. They'll do it for about an hour, and then they'll compare the two. But the problem is you lost momentum on that first one.

Richard Bliss:

So one of the things to realize, and I see this all the time, especially people using the employee advocacy platforms, where the company sends you suggested posts and you just blindly hit the post. Stop doing that. Less is better on LinkedIn. Less often, once a day, is what we recommend. Maybe you can get away with twice a day if the first post wasn't that good, but once a day. And sometimes once every other day, if you're putting out content that's driving a lot of engagement. So this is one of the things that a lot of people don't realize, that there's a limit on your content. 

Richard Bliss:

Number two, LinkedIn watches what type of content you put out there, and it's looking for one thing specifically; links. Now, when you post something on LinkedIn, it only goes to 10% of your network. 10% of your connections will see that post. Now that is not exact; it’s about 10%. It can be as low as 4%, and up to about 16%, so we put it at about 10%. So you've got a thousand connections; a hundred people are going to see the post. That's what LinkedIn is going to do. The algorithm is going to test the post with those first 100 people, and so it's going to put it in front of them.

Richard Bliss:

But if you've got a link in that post at the time that it goes live, LinkedIn's like, whoa, whoa. You're sending people off of our platform to somebody else's platform to make money off of advertising? No, thank you. And they will reduce that 10% in half. So now it's down to 5% of a thousand, now it's down to 50 people out of a thousand. And if it's something like a YouTube link, they'll reduce it by 80%. You're down to 20 people out of a thousand who are going to see your post because you included a link.

Richard Bliss:

Well, what do you do about that? Well, one of the things you can do is you can drop it into the comments, the link into the comments instead, or you can make the post go live and then turn around and edit the post and add the link afterward—a couple of things that'll happen though. You won't get the hero image, and what I mean by that is, when you put that link in there and LinkedIn, or Twitter, or Facebook, they automatically populate that hero image. That will not be included, and that's a good thing. Let me explain, hang on, let me explain. The best-performing content on LinkedIn is not video. The best-performing content on LinkedIn is not pictures. The best performing content on LinkedIn, and when I say performing content, I mean the content that gets traditionally and regularly, the most views and the most engagement, comments, and likes, is text only; no pictures, no video. 

Richard Bliss:

Now there's a whole lot of people listening who said, whoa, no no, my marketing department says video is the future, everything's video. No, video is important, but if you want the broadest reach, you want to have most of your content go out as text only. And it should be about 150 words of text. I'm going to explain why, so trust me until we get to that point.

Richard Bliss:

The next thing to think about is the share button. When you click the share button on LinkedIn, that share button is telling LinkedIn that you are duplicating content, and most people just click the share button and think that's good. Oh, I'm just going to share this with my connections and let everybody see this great article that I didn't read. Guess what? LinkedIn is going to hide that from about 99% of your network. Your connections will not see that share. They just flat-out won't see it. 

Richard Bliss:

Now you're starting to get an idea of why people think, well, LinkedIn doesn't work. I clicked the share button, nothing happened. Why does the company have me doing this? And you're a leader; you’re like, I threw that article up there, nobody looked at it. Why am I doing this? What a waste. It's because you're not following the LinkedIn rules, and those LinkedIn rules are very specific. So you're putting a link in there, you're driving people off the traffic, it's going to shut it down. Images, videos are going to cause people to click the like button and move on because here's what LinkedIn is looking for. LinkedIn is looking for... Their algorithm is watching you, your content, to see if you are number one, getting engagement. So a share could be an engagement, even though I just said that the share is not going to do any good for the person sharing it. A like can be engagement, and a comment can be engagement, and those comments...

Richard Bliss:

Now, there are a few other places where it's harder to track, but clicking the See More button because you have more than two lines of text; that's considered engagement. So there are all kinds of tiny ways that people can engage with your content, and LinkedIn's watching that. But they're also watching mostly how many comments are you generating, and how quickly are you doing that? So they're using several measurements. 

Richard Bliss:

One of those measurements is called dwell time. Dwell time came out last year, last May... Excuse me, let me just make sure in case you're listening. It came out May of 2020. And what dwell time does, is it measures how long people spend looking at your post. The longer they spend looking at it, the more valuable LinkedIn's algorithm considers it, and the more valuable it shows it to more people. So if you have a post that causes people to stop and look for a long time, dwell; not just look, but dwell, then LinkedIn is going to show it to more people who are going to dwell on it and show it to more people, and so on, and so on.

Richard Bliss:

But wait a minute Richard, I hear you saying, videos cause people to stop and watch. No, they don't. I'm sorry, no, they don't. Unless you've got an incredibly engaging video, somebody has to sit and watch that video for three seconds before LinkedIn will even count it as a view. And most of us are not on LinkedIn to watch videos. We're going to go to TikTok, we're going to go to YouTube. I am not going to LinkedIn to watch videos. Occasionally I will if it has subtitles because 85% of us use our social media with the sound turned off.

Richard Bliss:

So ladies and gentlemen, if you're throwing a video up on LinkedIn, one, people aren't that interested in it. And two, if you haven't put subtitles, they're not even going to watch it. They're going to click like, and they're going to move on. That's why videos are the least performing content on LinkedIn because people aren't spending the time to watch it. What would be considered a good video, a number of views on a video that would be good? If you can get 500 to 1,000 views on a video, you're doing great. But a post of the same type, when you use text instead of video, is going to get 10 times that many views. 10 times that many people are going to see that post versus if you put up a video. 

Richard Bliss:

Okay, the next thing to think about then is how quickly is all of this happening? When you put out content on LinkedIn, it's going to measure how many people engage with it; likes, comments, shares. How long do they spend sitting on it? And how quickly did you generate engagement with that post? That's called velocity. And this is why you see pods that are out there. Pods; that's a group of people who are purposely going out and making a bunch of comments in a short amount of time. Now we encourage teams to do this in a strategic way, not in a manipulative way. But the point here is that the quicker you can get people to engage with your content, the faster people will see it. 

Richard Bliss:

I'll give you an idea. We do training for thousands of salespeople every year, and one of the things we do in our training is we actually have a volunteer create a post live in front of everybody. Now I usually write it up for them beforehand. It's text only, it's got three hashtags, and I cut and paste it into the Zoom chat window, and they get to pick it up and post it to their LinkedIn. Some of these people have never posted anything on their LinkedIn before.

Richard Bliss:

A couple of questions I have to ask them. One, have you posted anything on LinkedIn so far today? If they say yes, I have to move on to another volunteer because I already told you that you've already used up your quota for the day, we need somebody else. And this happens on occasion. So this volunteer takes this text-only post... I strongly recommend you have about 150 words, but usually, when I'm doing an example like this for training, I only do about 50 words, about a third of that.

Richard Bliss:

We then have everybody in the class go and leave some comment on the post. I don't explain why I'm doing this, and everybody's confused. Trust me; everybody’s confused. But after 90 minutes of training, we come back to that individual, and we ask for an update. How many views did you get on that post that you just put out that didn't have a picture in it, and didn't have a link in it, and just had some hashtags and some text? Usually, the answer is somewhere between 500 and 1,000 views in 90 minutes. Ladies and gentlemen, LinkedIn is the single most powerful platform when it comes to getting attention if you can draw a crowd and drive engagement if you can drive a conversation. Because one of the things we tell that person to do is during the training, go respond to the comments. You've got to demonstrate a conversation that's happening back and forth.

Richard Bliss:

Now, these are the key things to help you understand how LinkedIn is operating and ways that you can stop sabotaging yourself. So one of the things you'll want to do is stop putting links in your posts. Stop clicking the share button. Stop just mindlessly putting content out there without causing a dialogue to begin. So what you want to do is find ways to drive the conversation. I just put out a post where we talked about a Rolodex. A friend of mine, Jesse Bach, had a comment about a Rolodex, and so I put it out there and started a conversation. I got 10 to 20 comments on it, and I got 3,000 to 5,000... Let's see, 3,500 views on it. You can do the same thing. These simple steps will help you be out there, so don't get stressed about the content. Just be comfortable with it.

Richard Bliss:

Now, one of the things that my team does is we work with leaders -- dozens of leaders -- helping them create content on a regular basis so they can get the feel for it. They feel comfortable. A great person to follow would be Tom Mendosa. That's somebody who I've worked with who is in my book, Digital-First Leadership, that came out earlier this year, and he talks about how he started off very slow, not comfortable. Now he's very comfortable putting out content. Occasionally he texts me, occasionally he'll call me; hey, I need some help on this, I've got a quick question. Which is what my company does. We're here... I think of us as a backstop. When you've got a simple question, we're here to answer that question, and something that we do for a lot of executives, a lot of companies. Tech industry is where we focus, but we do it for a lot of different companies. You can do it too.

Richard Bliss:

So this is one of the things I wanted to share with you today, that these are some simple things you can do on LinkedIn to follow the rules so that LinkedIn then helps you master the tools. Thanks for listening. I've tried to share something interesting. Follow us on LinkedIn, go to our LinkedIn page; Bliss Point Consulting. You can find us at blisspointconsult.com, where we cover a lot of this material. I mentioned my book. You also can sign up to have us come in and train your organization and help your organization master these tools so they can start to open the doors of opportunities, so they can close business using social selling and techniques to do that.

Richard Bliss:

Thanks for listening. I always appreciate the feedback I get from all of you who are participating out there by listening and actively engaging with me—looking forward to hearing from you. Take care.

Narator:

You've been listening to Digital-First Leadership, the podcast where you learn to leverage and build your expertise on digital platforms. For more valuable tips on mastering the language of social media, subscribe to our newsletter at blisspointconsult.com. If you'd like to stay in touch, feel free to add Richard on LinkedIn and join the conversation.