What’s On

#sowhoknew: This is my 150th article on LinkedIn – here’s what I learned

My first article on LinkedIn was published on January 12th 2015 after my buddy Andy Goldman suggested I should use the new platform. Since then I have written a further 149 pieces. During that time I have been named as a LinkedIn Top Voice for 2015 & 2016, Agency Publisher of the Year, have been asked to be a guest contributor for both Inc and Forbes, plus written two books. Want a sneak peek into what I have learned on the journey? Read on…

I didn’t have particularly high expectations for that initial piece. I had been writing for various advertising/marketing publications for years with little or no feedback on the viewing numbers. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that it did 526 views. Not exactly earth shattering but sufficient to make me write my second piece a week or so later. That one did much better with a little over 1000 views. I also noticed that my profile was being scoped a little more than usual plus I had added around 10 new followers. Little acorns and all that…

I kind of considered this as a little experiment to see how things would go and made a personal commitment to write at least once per week to keep things consistent. As Stephen King says in his book ‘On Writing’ writers write. So that’s what I did. And the more I wrote, the higher the readership became. Initially in the early thousands, progressing to tens of thousands and eventually to my highest read article of around 150,000 views. Total readership to date? Over 1.2 million views.

Over those early months of writing, there became a very clear pattern emerging. Firstly, the viewing numbers started to creep up from the hundreds into the thousands. Secondly, I was receiving many more comments and shares. And thirdly, my following was building steadily. When I initially began writing on LinkedIn I had less than 400 followers. By the end of the the first full year of writing it had risen to over 1000. By the start of 2017, it was slightly under 10,000. And as of last week? It is almost 110,000. Yup I’ve added 100,000 followers in the past eight months. I know, I’m as staggered as you are. And it’s rising at the rate of between 2000 and up to 5000 new followers a week. It just goes to show that persistence really does pay off.

I would posit that there is a clear correlation between the number of followers you have and the readership of the articles you publish on LinkedIn. It’s a very simple equation. More followers equals higher readership. Of course, you still need to write engaging content and your piece will always fare better if it is picked up by the editors but having a strong following is a key component to maximising the exposure of your writing. My advice? If you want your content to be read then focus on followers not connections.

It also helps that my default setting on LinkedIn is to ‘follow’ rather than ‘connect’. I think that encourages people that are not involved in my chosen industry to make a connection linked to my writing rather than for any other reason. And my followers come from an incredibly diverse cross section of industries. From art dealers to zoologists (I kid you not) and all points in between. Interestingly, I have found that a significant proportion of my followers are actually students, which I find particularly gratifying as I am a firm believer in mentoring – I have written an article on the subject and have also agreed to go back to Liverpool University this Autumn to do some guest lecturing. Both of which, incidentally, were initiated via LinkedIn.

With regards to topic choice, you will see that my subject matter is (ahem) fairly eclectic to say the least. I have written across a wide spectrum of themes in my 150 articles. Anything from the dangers of taking a selfie, our favourite ‘business bullshit’ idioms, why business travel can be a killer and why fitness trackers are a waste of money. Like I said, a reasonably varied list. But I think that’s one of the reasons why the readership is so high – it’s because people like to read across a variety of concepts. That said, there is also a constant – my leitmotif of humour running throughout. It’s very rare that I write something without my tongue being stuck (very firmly) in my cheek.

And finally, frequency is also a key to success. If you write too little, you are easily forgotten. If you write too much, then you run the risk of overkill or a lack of quality. You have to find your own cadence with writing. For me personally (as I mentioned previously) I make a commitment to write one article a week, every week. No excuses. Even whilst on holiday (as my wife will ‘cheerfully’ testify to). It’s actually not difficult assuming that you really want to do it. Generally I write at the weekend but I also travel a lot so I use some of that time in airport lounges or in the back of cabs to jot down ideas or research subjects. Ten minutes here and five minutes there all adds up and you will be surprised how much content you can produce by seizing upon those little pockets of downtime. So instead of scrolling aimlessly through your Facebook feed to see what your friend’s cat has been up to, why not use that time to better effect? Write, don’t scroll.

This is hardly what you would call an exhaustive review of what I have learned after writing 150 articles (if you want more, you can always read my book How to be a Top 10 Writer on LinkedIn – I know it’s a cheap plug but as my pal Christine Stevens always says “Steve, you are all about the marketing!”). In fact this piece barely scratches the surface but that’s the other thing about writing on LinkedIn. Don’t go on too long. A five minute read is sufficient for most busy people like you. And with that final thought, I will be gone. Thanks for reading and here is to the next 150 articles on LinkedIn…

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.