I was feeling pretty much the way you probably did on your first date: I was nervous, apprehensive, unsure of what to do and, of course, looking for a signal that I was making the right moves.
I'm speaking, of course, about my very first experience writing a post on LinkedIn's publishing platform. Once limited solely to influencers such as Richard Branson and Bill Gates, LinkedIn recently opened the platform to all subscribers.
Since then, many people have been clamoring to make their voices heard on the site. But not everyone on LinkedIn is going to break through the clutter and strike it rich. Here's an account of my experience, and what you can take from it when you try it for yourself.
As with any important first date, I did several things to prepare. First, I thought long and hard about what I'd done right on my personal blog, which I began publishing in 2006, and continues to help my Klout score.
Next I looked to the Romeos and Don Juans of the LinkedIn world: people who'd already succeeded in wooing readers to their LinkedIn posts. What did they do to get a coy reader to say 'yes'? The most helpful was Neal Schaffer, a social media expert who provided no fewer than nine practical tips.
And last, but certainly not least, I asked our firm's resident expert on all matters social, Sam Ford, coauthor of Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture for his thoughts on how I could make my first date a successful one.
The Moment of Truth
The writing process was déjà vu. As I sat down at my desk, I could feel the very same sweat bead up on my forehead as it did the night of my first date. And sure enough, my fingers trembled as they did when I reached out to hold my date's hand. Only this time they were aimed at a keyboard and I was trying to formulate a headline and angle.
Finally, just like that night long ago, I made my move. I finished writing (the subject I decided on was authenticity in advertising) and hit "post."
The result: I'd rate my LinkedIn performance about the same as I would my real first date: a four on a scale of one to 10. My post ended up getting 132 views and 2 likes. Decent, but certainly nothing worth bragging about in the men's room.
What I Did Right
1. I created what, in my mind, was a provocative headline ("A Germ of Truth in a Petri Dish Full of Lies").
2. I immediately established who I was (a PR pro and entrepreneur) so readers could determine if the post's content would be relevant to them.
3. I provided a link to a third-party source to help illustrate my post.
4. I took a strong point of view on the issue.
5. I used self-deprecating humor to end my post in an authentic, and vulnerable, fashion--hoping that, as it did on Twitter, Facebook, and my Repman blog, the good-night kiss would warrant a second date.
What I Failed to Do:
1. Show off the goods. I didn't tell readers I contribute two columns every week to Inc.com or that I had been named a finalist for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year competition. Nor did I tell them I'm a published McGraw-Hill author. And I also managed to leave out the fact that my firm had been named best PR agency of the year, B2B agency of the year, and the top workplace of the year by Crain's New York Business. For all LinkedIn readers knew, I could have been the fruit stand guy peddling strawberries on the corner of Park Avenue and 32nd Street.
2. Make my move early. Although my post was no longer than my typical blog or Inc.com columns, it was probably twice the length it needed to be. As Schaffer advised in his tips column, posts should be around 300 words. "For professionals where time is money, many simply don't have the time to read a longer post. Keep it short and simple when possible."
3. Be mindful of my date's needs. While I did share my LinkedIn post on Facebook, Twitter, and my Repman blog, I did not follow Schaffer's advice to summarize the LinkedIn blog on my other channels and provide a link back to LinkedIn. And while I did embed one link to a third party, I should have provided more. No wonder my readers responded like a date who wanted to go home!
4. Be up front about my inexperience. I didn't start, or end, my LinkedIn post by letting readers know I was new at this. As a result, I lost any potential sympathy vote. I also lost the opportunity to engage with a brand-new audience by asking that age-old question at the end, "How was it for you?"
5. Enlisting help. Several members of the original LinkedIn program write about advertising, marketing, and PR. I should have mentioned these existing influencers, and embedded links to posts they've written on similar subjects. I also should have quoted some thought leaders with whom I'm already connected on LinkedIn.
I'm anxious to go on a second date with LinkedIn's publishing platform. Next time, though, I'll be better prepared and a bit more confident. I'm not suggesting I'm about to become the Warren Beatty of LinkedIn, but I do think my second time will be much better than the first. And least I hope that's what she'll say.