After a few posts that attracted only a few hundred views, I struck LinkedIn gold with my first viral post: A personal account about how my parents spent a good chunk of their savings to buy my first computer, an Apple II+.
The response that post generated was overwhelming. It attracted over 34,000 views, more than 580 likes and over 160 comments from readers around the world. It quickly rose to become the third most popular post on LinkedIn Pulse.
I was hooked.
Since that first viral post, I've continued to write on a nearly weekly basis. I've published on a wide range of topics: writing well, self-driving cars, podcasting, succeeding at summer internships, tweeting in outer space, motivating staff members, writing emails that sound more "human", self-publishing books, and more.
My posts have attracted over a million views and tens of thousands of likes, comments, and social shares.
Last December, I received an unexpected email from the editors at LinkedIn with some special news: They had crunched the numbers on the 1 million members who had published posts over the prior 12 months, and from them, selected 90 "Top Voices" on the basis of views, reader engagement, and how many times their posts were featured by LinkedIn's editors.
I was selected as one of their Top Voices in marketing and social media.
Through my experience conceiving, writing, editing, publishing, and sharing blog posts, I've learned a great deal about what gets traction on LinkedIn -- and what doesn't.
Here are a few of the lessons I've learned from publishing 100 posts on LinkedIn:
1. Write about what you know best.
One of the biggest challenges I faced when I started to write on LinkedIn was this: What would I write about? I decided to start with what I knew best: writing and editing. But while I've continued to write many more posts on those topics, I've also written about many other topics, from personal and professional development to technology, to social media, to marketing. Those are all topics that interest me, that I have experience in, and that I enjoy learning about.
2. Write about what you're most passionate about.
In addition to writing about what you know best, sometimes the best topics are the ones that you have a particularly strong interest in. Some of my most popular posts on LinkedIn were on topics I felt strongly about, topics on which I felt compelled to share my perspective. Those posts were some of the quickest ones I've written. When I'm passionate about a topic, the thoughts flow more quickly from my mind to my fingers.
3. Write about trending topics.
While "evergreen" topics work well on LinkedIn, you'll notice some of the most popular pieces that are promoted by the LinkedIn editors, and the ones that take off and quickly go viral, are the ones that address a trending topic in the news. LinkedIn's editors, I've noticed, are on the look out for such posts, and are more likely to promote them under one or several of the LinkedIn Pulse channels.
4. Become an idea machine.
Writing consistently means you need to have a reservoir of topics you can choose from when you sit down to write. When an idea comes to mind, I immediately write a headline and maybe a sentence or two about what the post is about using Evernote, the note-taking app. If I can, I'll jot down an outline with sub-headlines for the post. And if I'm feeling particularly inspired, I'll try to write out a complete rough draft as quickly as I can.
5. Provide information and insights that help your readers.
While no two people among LinkedIn's more than 440 million members share exactly the same backgrounds or interests, I've noticed there are patterns to what they are looking for from the posts they read.
LinkedIn's readers are looking for information and insights that will help them achieve their personal and professional goals. Information that will help them become better at their jobs, tools that will help them identify and build upon their strengths, and actionable advice that will position them for new career opportunities.
By addressing these needs in your posts, readers are more likely to hit the "Like" button or share them with their network.
6. Share something about yourself.
Yes, readers on LinkedIn want practical, actionable advice that will help them do better at work or live a happier life. But I've found that they are looking for something more than that, something less tangible than just tips and strategies that will help them get ahead. They want to connect with people and build relationships. And they're curious about the person behind the post.
In most of my posts, I try to share something about myself: a story about how I encountered a problem and dealt with it, or an example of how I've applied the advice I share in my post to my work or personal life.
7. Follow the "50 percent rule" for writing great headlines.
Your headline is one of the most crucial parts of your blog post. It's what readers rely on to decide whether to click-through and read your post. I devote a good deal of time thinking through my headlines. I try out different versions in Evernote, test variations in my mind, and I occasionally even ask for help from friends and family.
LinkedIn's international editor, Isabelle Roughol, suggests spending as much as 50 percent of your writing time crafting a great headline.
8. Be consistent.
One of the best pieces of writing advice I've ever received was given to me by my mentor when I started writing on LinkedIn. He told me to write a post every week -- no matter how I was feeling at the time. It's advice I've heeded ever since.
LinkedIn is a social network. Your influence grows in proportion to the size of your network. The more posts you publish, the more connection requests and followers you'll attract. Writing consistently not only expands your network, it also reinforces the message about the depth and breadth of your knowledge of the subjects that you write about.
9. Pace yourself.
Consistency is important to building a presence and a reputation as a writer who has something valuable to share with the LinkedIn community. But don't pressure yourself to overdo it. I recommend new writers on LinkedIn start with a small goal of, say, publishing one post per month.
Once you've managed to hit that target for a couple of months, increase it to twice per month. If you can sustain that, consider increasing the frequency even further. Do what feels right given your time constraints, the type of topics you can cover at any given time, and your ability to share something that is new and valuable to your readers.
10. Trigger a conversation (and be sure to participate in it).
One of the most powerful benefits of writing on LinkedIn is the global community of professionals who like to engage with writers by liking, sharing, and leaving comments on posts. I try to encourage readers to engage with my posts, not by asking them to "Like" it or share it, as some writers do, but by asking them a question and inviting them to share their thoughts in the comments. It gives readers an opportunity to think through what I've written and share their own perspectives on the topic.
I'm not one of LinkedIn's designated "Influencers" -- but that's perfectly fine by me. Because, as I've learned over the past two and a half years, you don't have to be an "Influencer" to have influence on LinkedIn. You just need to write, publish, share, and engage.
And then do it all over again.