Since opening their blogging platform to its hundreds of millions of members in 2014, LinkedIn has offered business leaders and entrepreneurs a vehicle to showcase what they know and build their brands. But attracting reader attention and engagement, especially with the millions of articles that are published each year, can be a real challenge even for the most experienced writers. That's why it's worth taking a look at what the most successful writers are doing to build a following of loyal readers.
The editors at LinkedIn recently teamed up with their data scientists to cull through the millions of articles published over the past year on their blogging platform with the objective of identifying their annual list of "Top Voices" --the writers who are shaping conversations and generating the most engagement.
This is the fourth year LinkedIn has published this list, ranking writers across several different topic categories, from "management and workplace" to "marketing and social media" to "healthcare." It's also the fourth year in a row that I've been named a "Top Voice" on the platform, an honor I certainly never expected when I first received an email from their editors in late 2015, the year they launched the award, informing me they were including me on their short-list of writers.
If you've ever wondered how they make their selection of "Top Voices" from among the more than one million people who publish on LinkedIn every year, you can read the article that Dan Roth, LinkedIn's editor-in-chief, writes to announce the award. In his article, Roth explains in a few brief paragraphs the methodology their editors use to generate their list. "It's no easy task considering the competition: Over 2 million posts, videos and articles a day and tens of thousands of comments every hour --all generating tens of millions more shares and likes."
If you hope to generate more engagement with your articles in the form of "likes," comments, and social shares, I strongly recommend you take a look at what Roth has to say about the criteria they use. In one paragraph, Roth summarizes the methodology: "Regardless of their industry or location, the Top Voices have followed a similar formula to cultivate powerful communities: consistency, depth of insight and a desire to deeply engage with others."
Since Roth doesn't provide advice on how to actually achieve any of the three elements of the formula he describes, I'll attempt to unpack his statement based on my own experience as a long-time writer on LinkedIn:
I've seen many excellent writers publish an article or two, or maybe a dozen, and then stop. Perhaps they didn't get the engagement they hoped for, or maybe they decided to take a pause on publishing on LinkedIn for other professional or personal reasons. But for the writers who have built sizeable audiences and a reputation for being known as an expert in their field, most have done so partly from their ability to show up and hit publish on a regular basis.
Ever since I started to write on LinkedIn in May 2014, for instance, I've published a new article roughly once every week. This rhythm of publishing weekly, which I've somehow managed to maintain for more than four and a half years, has helped establish the expectation among my followers that I will have something to say about one of the topics I like to write about, whether it's about learning to become a better writer, or learning how to become a more productive and fulfilled professional.
Consistency has also paid off in another very important way: It has helped me hone my writing skills, and, because I've published so many articles, it has given me enough data points to understand what is working --and what is not.
2. Depth of insight.
Of course, simply writing on a consistent basis is not going to be enough to generate a high level of reader engagement. Depth of insight, says Roth, is a critical factor in determining whether people read your content and whether they decide to follow you and come back for more.
Depth of insight derives, I believe, from a couple of main sources. The first is depth of expertise in a topic. This could be an area that you've worked in for many years in your professional career. In my case, for instance, I write about the craft of writing because it's a core part of my role at work, and something I've been doing professionally for well over two and a half decades.
Depth of insight also derives, in my opinion, from a genuine interest in the topic. Being interested in a topic is reflected in many ways: In the variety of topics you cover in your articles, in the research you cite to support the points you make, and in the confident tone you use to state your argument and defend it.
3. A desire to deeply engage with others.
Writing compelling content and writing consistently are absolutely essential components of a strategy to attract reader engagement and build a following on LinkedIn. But there's one more piece to the "Top Voice" puzzle that Roth reveals. It's a conclusion he and his editorial team draw from the billions of pieces of information their data scientists examine every year when they craft their list: Engage with your readers.
The most successful writers on LinkedIn are the ones who engage with their readers. This could mean responding to the comments readers leave on your articles by clicking "like," leaving a short "Thank you for your comment," or responding to the comment with a detailed response.
Engaging with readers also means reaching out and liking, sharing, and commenting on their content as well. It shows you know how to return the favor, and that you're interested in what others have to say about topics that concern you.
As Roth shows, "on average, Top Voices are 2X times more likely to respond to comments or reply to another member's post." And that consistency and engagement paid off: "Compared to all members sharing in 2018, the Top Voices received an average 7X more comments, 10X more likes and 5X more shares on their posts, articles and videos."