Three years ago, I hit publish on my first LinkedIn post. Since then, I've written more than 125 articles on LinkedIn, and I've edited another 200-plus articles. So I've had the chance to observe what works--and what doesn't--on this very large and powerful publishing platform.
What types of headlines attract people to click-through to an article? What kind of content spurs readers to hit the "like" button, or share it with their personal and professional networks? These are questions I ask each time I hit publish on a new post and study its stats.
There's much to be learned from the articles that do well--and even the ones that don't. I also read a lot of articles that other people write, with a view to learning from them as well. And one thing that continues to make me pause are the mistakes that some writers continue to make--mistakes that they can easily avoid if they were to spend a little extra time checking their post before publishing it.
Here are 8 of the most common mistakes I've seen writers make on LinkedIn. If you want to attract more readers and sharers of your content on LinkedIn, try to steer clear of them:
Mistake #1: Crafting unclickable headlines.
The headline is your one-line sales pitch to the reader telling her why she should click-through and begin to read your post. I say begin to read, because, as you know, not everyone reads through all the way to the end of a post. But readers won't get to the end of your post if you can't even get them to click the headline and start reading it.
Good headlines summarize the message of your article without giving away the entire story. Your headline should pique the reader's curiosity just enough for them to click-through and read the rest of your post.
I continue to see many writers on LinkedIn compose headlines that give no compelling reason to click on them. Headlines that are vague and don't convey the content of your article, or that try too hard to be clever, are too easily ignored.
Mistake #2: Using listicle headlines.
While we're on the topic of headlines, there's one more "mistake" I'd like to point out here: Listicle headlines. There was a time when listicle headlines were the headline format du jour on LinkedIn. A couple of years ago, however--and without much fanfare--the editors at LinkedIn signaled that they didn't really like listicle headlines all that much.
Listicle headlines are still used widely on a lot of websites, and are in no danger of fading away fast. But on LinkedIn, at least, I suggest you don't use them. Readers will appreciate the extra effort you put into crafting a creative and clickable headline that doesn't rely on the ubiquitous "10 Ways..." or "6 Things..." approach we see all too often on other websites. And LinkedIn's editors--who wield the power to promote your post to its millions of readers--will appreciate it as well.
(Quick caveat: You can still structure some of your articles as lists of tips or insights. This approach continues to be used widely. What has faded in popularity--on LinkedIn, at least--is the use of listicle-style headlines.)
Mistake #3: Writing posts that are too short.
While there's no hard and fast rule around word count, you should say enough to complete your thought. Don't just drop a couple of sentences or paragraphs, hit publish, and expect people to start liking and sharing it.
Leave your short updates to your main feed. If you've got something interesting to say, and you combine it with an eye-catching image, you could attract a lot of views and likes that way. Reserve your LinkedIn blog space for longer form articles that flesh out your thinking with greater depth and nuance.
Mistake #4: Writing posts that are too long.
While LinkedIn's editors encourage longer form articles--and readers seem to enjoy them--you don't want to test anyone's patience. Time is tight. Readers are looking for the few nuggets of advice that you have to share, and will then make a quick decision whether to share it with their networks.
And with so many people reading LinkedIn posts on smartphones and other mobile devices, you have to remember: The more words you pour onto the screen, the more you're making people swipe and scroll to get to the end of your piece. The sooner you can complete your story, the sooner readers will reach the bottom of your post, where they can hit "like", share it with a friend, or leave a comment--all actions that will help your post reach more people.
Mistake #5: Not thoroughly copy editing articles.
Sometimes I find articles that contain really good points that I can relate to, and that I would like to share with my network--except that they contain too many copy errors.
Okay, so the stray typo here and there won't sink an otherwise good article. If it's that good, I might overlook the errors and share it anyway. But if your article is pockmarked with incorrect usage, grammar, or spelling, how can you expect me or anyone else to like or share it? Make sure you carefully review it for typos before hitting publish. And even after you hit publish, check it again, and correct any errors you may have missed earlier.
Mistake #6: Not responding to comments.
Someone just spent time to read through your article and write a comment. They're signaling pretty strongly that they want to engage with you and other readers in a conversation...and then you completely ignore them by not even hitting the "like" button on their comment.
LinkedIn is not just a place to brain-dump your thoughts or post your latest commercial announcement. It's a global community of nearly half a billion people. It's a social network, not just a content management system to maintain your blog, like WordPress. So be social! Hit "like" on as many comments as you can (assuming you find the comment agreeable of course). And dive in and say "thank you for reading", or answer some of the questions readers might raise in the comments they leave on your post.
Mistake #7: Linking and running.
I've seen too many people commit this mistake, and it just baffles me whenever I see it happen. What I'm talking about is this: When a writer publishes a post which contains literally just a link to an article that resides on their website or some other place on the internet.
I call this the "link and run" approach, which reminds me of the phrase "hit and run", because that's how I feel when I click on an article expecting to read a thoughtful essay and instead see a link that tries to pry me off LinkedIn and onto another site. Such "posts" train me and other readers to avoid clicking through on future posts by the author.
By all means share links generously with your network, but share them in your feed. Don't publish them on your LinkedIn blog. Reserve that space for your best stuff.
Mistake #8: Hard selling your product or service.
The power of content marketing lies in how you can sell your brand or your product or service without actually selling. But that's exactly what some writers do on LinkedIn. Some can't wait and start from line one of their post. Others wait until halfway down the post to start their sales pitch, which is still too much and too soon.
If you're writing on LinkedIn as part of your content marketing strategy, don't turn your article into an advertisement. Readers are expecting inspiration or practical advice, not an infomercial in the form of an 800-word blog post.
Yes, you can certainly put a "call to action" at the end of your post that invites the reader to sign-up for your newsletter or click-through to your website to learn more about the products or services you have to offer.
But leave that for last, after you've given something of value to them first.
This article also appeared on LinkedIn.