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Now Anyone Can Publish Content on LinkedIn. Here's How

How the program works, and tips to create content that could gain a major audience.
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The question I'm most often asked is, "How can I be a LinkedIn Influencer?"

For those unfamiliar, the Influencers program started about two years ago. LinkedIn recruited movers and shakers, and thinkers and luminaries--and for some reason me--to write directly for LinkedIn Today (now called Pulse).

Previously, LinkedIn Today had simply aggregated outside content shared by users: the greater the velocity of user shares per unit time, the more likely a piece of content was to hit a category page or even the LinkedIn Today home page--the Holy Grail of page-view generation, since clicking links sent readers to the original site. (Unlike, say, the Yahoo carousel, which doesn't.)

Of course, that also meant readers left LinkedIn's site to consume content--and might not have returned. Hence the Influencers program to produce original content that resides on LinkedIn.

If you weren't an Influencer, you could, of course, share links to content you published elsewhere with your connections via your activity feed. Nice, but not the same.

Until now, that is. LinkedIn just announced that all users will be able to publish content directly on LinkedIn. The program will roll out over the next few months. You'll be able to write an article, publish it, distribute it to your connections, and if enough people read/share/like it, LinkedIn's publishing platform will give it wider distribution--just like the content published by Influencers.

Here's how it works. Once you sign in to LinkedIn you'll see a little pencil icon on the right-hand side of your "Share" box. Click the pencil and you'll go to a "compose" screen. You can add images, add links... simple.

Of course, publishing is the easy part; there's no guarantee you'll be widely read. If even a fraction of LinkedIn's 270 million-plus users publish articles, that will result in a lot of content fighting for attention. And LinkedIn's algorithm creates a natural meritocracy--to be seen by a broad audience, a number of people will need to read/like/share your content. (But at least you now have the opportunity to be widely noticed--which, if you think about it, is all anyone can ask.)

So how can your content have a better chance of being shared--and then distributed to a wider audience? There are already plenty of articles that recommend crafting clickable headlines, formatting articles to make them easy to digest, taking controversial positions to spark interest--standard stuff.

So here are my tips:

Write as if you're writing for one person.

When you hope for a big audience it's easy to write with that big audience in mind, and to go generic as a result.

Even if 100,000 people eventually read your article, each is an individual. Your article is a conversation (albeit one-sided) between you and one person. So don't think broader if you want your readership to be bigger. Write for one person. If your article can captivate or entertain or inform or motivate one person, it can do the same for hundreds of thousands. Don't talk to thousands--talk to me.

Think about why people share content.

Maybe controversial headlines work. Maybe an inflammatory article causes people to say, "WTF is up with this guy!" and share that article with their friends. Maybe. But I doubt it. Most people share content they feel is of value to their connections. Most people share content they feel reflects well on themselves: on their opinions, their points of view, their outlook on business or on life, etc.

So write what you feel. Write what you believe. Write what is important to you. Be genuine. People who think or feel or believe similarly will share your content with their connections, who are likely to think or feel or believe similarly, too, and may also share your content. And before you know it, you may have a lot of readers.

Think about what your readers need.

"Yay!" you think. "Now I can publish on LinkedIn! Think of all the business I'll generate!"

Maybe you will--but not if your content is a thinly-veiled sales piece for your products or services. (Or for you.) No one reads sales pieces. No one reads "look at me!" content. And even if someone does, definitely no one will share sales-pitch content. People read and share articles that benefit them--not you.

"But wait," you think. "If I can't follow the 80/20 rule and provide 80 percent content and 20 percent sales pitch, what's the point?"

If you focus on informing, educating, entertaining, motivating, inspiring, etc. other people, you will benefit--because other people will start to think highly of you. Focus solely on benefiting readers. That's the only way you will benefit, too. And it's the only way your content has a chance of being widely read.

In case it helps, here are a few of my articles that generated thousands of shares and 6- and 7-figure audiences:

Notice that while the topics are broad, the focus is on the individual reader. There are no sales pitches. And each provides the opportunity for individual readers to see themselves in the material--either who they are, or who they would like to be. Still, use them as thought starters. What works for me may not work as well for you.

Ultimately, your goal is to be yourself--because that is the best way to find your audience.

Last updated: Feb 20, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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