How to Write an Awesome Post on LinkedIn
By Laura McMullen
Once upon a time, there lived a midlevel hero who wanted more. She wanted to know more people,embark on new career adventures and let the professional world know where she stood on the future of venture capitalism. So she started writing LinkedIn posts with its publisher feature.
And wouldn't you know: She got her ideas out there, interacted with other professionals via comments – professionals who could later have a stake in her career – and even learned more in the discussion than she knew about the topic when she started writing.
This is no fairy tale. Here's the story of how you can use LinkedIn publisher for a happily-ever-after career:
Congrats: You're the protagonist – the LinkedIn writer. And why shouldn't you be, with your unique point of view and expertise? "Everyone has something to share," says Dan Roth, executive editor of LinkedIn. "Everyone has something they know better than anyone else, and [everyone] sees the world in a separate way."
There are a few more characters in this story: the more than 380 million LinkedIn members across the world. In addition to being potential readers, they're also peers, alumni, thought leaders and recruiters. In fact, 94 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find talent, according to Jobvite's 2014 Social Recruiting Survey of 1,855 hiring professionals.
Those recruiters play a pivotal role in your career story. "They might have 200 potential candidates for an opening, and they've got to very quickly find a way to separate the best from the average," Roth says. One distinction those recruiters will look for, he says, is the enthusiasm and insight of someone who takes the time to write LinkedIn posts.
First, figure out what you'll write about. Roth advises you "write about what you know," such as lessons you've learned, life hacks you've picked up and big ideas you've been mulling over. Or, he adds, write about current events. (What does Google's name change mean for its stock value? Should other major companies beef up their paternity leave policies, in the way Netflix and Microsoft have?)
Once you get to writing, Roth advises you keep your busy readers in mind. "They're frequently on their phones, standing in line somewhere or waiting for a meeting to start," he says, so be more interesting than academic. Consider adding infographics, bulleted lists and photos. Most importantly, compelling content will play better than a 3,000-word block of text. (According to Roth, an ideal post is 700 to 2,000 words.)
As for the headline, "clear is always better than clever," Roth says. "If a reader has to pause at all and think about what the headline means, they're just going to move on to the next story." Beyond being straightforward, the headline should be accurate, conversational and "the kind of thing people want to share," Roth says. He suggests asking yourself, based on the headline: "Would I recommend a friend read this? To test if your headline is checking all these boxes, Roth recommends thinking of five or so potential headlines, emailing them to trusted friends, colleagues and family members, and asking which they'd click.
LinkedIn is for professionals, so whatever you write about should pass for "acceptable water cooler talk," Roth says. He proposes this question as a litmus test: "Is this a topic you'd feel comfortable talking about at a work dinner with colleagues you don't know very well?" After all, there likely will be people you don't know very well (or at all) reading your posts, because they're public. Once your post is published, LinkedIn shares it with all your connections – but it doesn't stop there. Your writing may be distributed even further, to folks outside your network, if LinkedIn's algorithm and editors deem it shareable.
While the potential audience reach is vast, LinkedIn is also a safe space. There's no anonymity, so when folks leave comments, they do so with their name and photo stamped next to it. Plus, Roth adds, your network can see when you comment. This system "should take away some of the fear of writing on LinkedIn because you're not going to get trolled," he says. "When people leave a comment, they tend to be pretty respectful."
This is all getting to be a little too much. It turns out writing is hard! And you're no expert or writer! And LinkedIn – with its hundreds of millions of professionals, many of whom could influence your career – is an intimidating place to share your thoughts. And that ice cream-and-Netflix plan sounds much more fun right now than putting yourself out there.
Calm down, and ditch the Netflix for now. (Maybe hold onto that ice cream.) Your post doesn't have to be A Very Smart Thing That Impresses Everyone. No one is writing a New York Times review. No one is even printing it – heck, you can edit the post after publishing it. "The end-all-be-all is not writing something," Roth says. "It's starting a conversation with your peers, with people you don't know and with anyone else to help draw a larger truth out of an idea."
Sure, you'll write a post, and you can even disclose what you don't know. And then people – real professionals, not trolls hiding behind usernames – may comment. You'll comment back. And you and the commenters will be a little more enlightened than before. "That's how you make everyone smarter," Roth says.
And if you're still a little skittish about writing a full-blown post, Roth suggests first commenting on other people's posts as a warm-up.
After all, people should hear your story in some way or another. As Roth suggests: "Start developing that confidence that your voice makes a difference."