This is an edited transcript of the conversation, with my commentary interspersed.
The key takeaways are in the LinkedIn post below:
From Entrepreneur Media, this is Problem Solvers, a show in which entrepreneurs do what entrepreneurs do best: solve unexpected problems in their business.
I'm Jason Feifer, the editor-in-Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine. If you are a person who posts on social media, what would you say is the basic marker of success? It's virality, right? It's going viral. Which is why it's pretty interesting to hear someone very, very high up on a social media platform say this:
"We're not looking for virality at all. That is not how LinkedIn measures success."
Jason: That is Dan Roth. He is LinkedIn's editor-in-chief and I know what he would say about the things that I just said, which is that LinkedIn is not a social media platform. LinkedIn is so much more. That is true, but you know, it does have a social media component and a lot of people, myself included, utilize that social media component to reach people to post content and so on.
So anyway, let's just go with it. LinkedIn, at least the parts of LinkedIn that are social media, not interested in virality.
There's nothing in our systems that reward virality.
And if you are a person who was interested in going, okay, I guess not viral on LinkedIn now, but you know, posting on LinkedIn so that it's seen by a lot of relevant people. How about that? Well then, something Dan said is going to be of particular interest to you because he said there's nothing in our systems that reward virality!
Which of course begs the question, well, what do your systems reward?
And the answer to that has changed pretty significantly in the past six or so months as LinkedIn has made a lot of very strategic changes to its feed. And that is what LinkedIn offered me the opportunity to dig into with Dan and one of Dan's colleagues, Alice Xiong.
Alice, Director of Product LinkedIn Search
Alice Xiong: I'm Alice, I'm a director of product management at LinkedIn and I lead our search and discovery products.
Jason: So here's what's happening on this episode of Problem Solvers. If you are interested in reaching people growing a following on LinkedIn, this is a must listen because we are going to dig... in very granular detail into how LinkedIn works, the changes that they have made and what it takes and means to succeed in posting content on LinkedIn.
This conversation is super interesting. It has changed the way that I think about posting on LinkedIn. And if you follow me on LinkedIn and you should just search Jason Feifer, if you follow me on LinkedIn, you know I post almost every single day there. So this was a very, very relevant conversation for me and I know for many others.
What is LinkedIn and Where is LinkedIn Headed?
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of the changes that they have made to the feed, I asked them to start big picture with some context of where LinkedIn is and what it is trying to do and then how we can use that to understand the decisions that they have made. And Dan starts it off.
Dan Roth: Jason, first of all, thank you for having us on. It is awesome to talk to you and excited to talk to your listeners and to your readers. One interesting thing about LinkedIn is in a sense how little it changes. So the mission of LinkedIn has not changed at all and I've been at LinkedIn for almost 12 years or 12 years this month.
Our mission is to connect the world professionals to economic opportunity. We want to make sure that everyone, everywhere finds, through their use of LinkedIn, becomes better in what they do or what they want to do. And that means different things to different people and how we reach that mission.
How we succeed in connecting people with economic opportunity does change because we learn all the time what people want and what works and what doesn't work and what success looks like. And that changes as we learn more about the platform and how people are using it.
And it changes based on what professionals want in their lives and what they want, how they think about what success looks like for them.
So as a a framing mechanism, the one thing to think about is like, why does LinkedIn do any of this? It is because we believe in this idea that if we can help people be better at their jobs or whatever it is their job that they want to get to, or building a company, or expanding their company, or finding the right people to work for them, if we can make that happen, everyone gets better.
A rising tide, you know, raises all boats. And so that's the idea.
LinkedIn Emphasizes Knowledge Sharing
One of the things that we have seen in the last few years is the importance of knowledge sharing in how that works. Members are (and we call our our users "members"). Members are, when they come to LinkedIn, they're coming for a specific purpose.
You know, we want when people open the app or when they log in on the desktop, when they, they're doing it during work, they're doing it often during the busiest times of their day. They're doing it at a time when they could be doing a million other things in their business and they're choosing to go to LinkedIn for a reason.
And often that reason is to be able to get smarter about something that they need to get smarter about. Or sometimes it's to find a job or to hire somebody, but it's often they open up LinkedIn with a job to be done and that job is frequently that sort of job to be done is frequently like, help me get smarter about this particular area of my world.
And they do that by asking questions or by posting what they know.
So we've seen a 27% increase in content viewed on the feed in the last two years.
So since 2021 and a 42% increase in content shared over the last in that same period. And you're seeing people just come and they're just trying to learn and they're posting more, they're getting more comfortable with this idea of sharing what they know and how they've learned it and asking these questions about other people.
You use the word community. What we see is that people build communities through this sharing of knowledge. And so what we're talking about here in this idea of getting people to share what they're uniquely qualified to talk about or what they uniquely want to know is the change in the feed. We want to make sure you're seeing the right content, the right content that matters to you, and that we're helping you get those ideas out of your head in a way that makes sense and that you can then reach the right people so that they can learn and get something from it and out of that community that develops.
So maybe I'll hand it off to Alice to talk a little bit about how we're doing all of that.
Jason: That's great. Alice, please take it on. I have a million follow up questions, but I want to hear what you have to say first.
Write For the Audience You Want to Follow and Connect With
Alice: Definitely. So as Dan mentioned, a big part is that we are investing in making feed more valuable to our members. And when we ask our members what do they find the most valuable in their feed, it's becoming overwhelmingly clear.
People are telling us that they find it most valuable when the content is grounded in knowledge and advice. And they found it most valuable when the content is from people they know, and care about sharing what they're up to, so that they're feeling connected to their connection. They're feeling the most valuable when they're getting opportunities out of the feed. And this is exactly what we did for feed, which is such an essential, such an important part of our overall ecosystem.
Two changes that we did:
#1) We're bringing better reach to connections and your followers. What does that mean? People in your network as a creator, people in your network, and people who are following you will be more likely to see updates from you. And this is because we hear from members that they find this to be the most valuable.
We saw a near 10% increase of content viewed over the past few months for people viewing content from either their connections or people they follow.
Jason: And, and just to be clear, so I understand what you're talking about, you're saying that the feed is prioritizing seeing posts from people that you follow over, posts from people that you do not follow. Is that what you mean?
Alice: Yes, one part. There's the second part. So the one part is the focus on your connections. The second part is we ask members what they find the most valuable for feed and any content grounded on knowledge and advice.
For example, a researcher who is an AI machine learning expert, sharing something about AI and machine learning for someone who is a machine learning practitioner is incredibly valuable content, even if they're not connected to yet – or a connection sharing some knowledge and advice about how to negotiate salary, how to research company trends. This is valuable content that we're getting a lot more focused on.
So over the past few months we've seen close to a 40% increase of people checking out and viewing content that is grounded in knowledge from people out of their network.
So the two takeaways from this:
1a) More from your in-network and people you follow and
1b) From a creator standpoint, it's better to reach the audience that you intend to build.
2) And two is giving members better access to content that is grounded on knowledge and advice... ultimately leading them to economic opportunities.
Jason: Got it. This is an interesting place to start because, and by that, this I mean asking your members what it is that they want and value. Because if we know anything about human behavior, what we know is that people don't actually articulate necessarily what it is that we will do or engage with.
Because if you ran this experiment at Facebook, for example, we're just gonna use Facebook as a random example here. Not asking you to specifically comment on Facebook, but I would bet that people on Facebook would've said, what I value is personal updates from my friends.
But when you let the feed be dictated by what people actually engage with, even though they would never tell that to a surveyor, what they start engaging with is a whole wide range of things that we, we might just wanna call like algorithm hacking. People who are posting things purely because they know this is the kind of stuff that people will watch or click or share.
And that has happened with basically every single social platform. And I know that LinkedIn is a lot more than a social platform, but just for the purposes of talking about a feed, that's what happens with everyone.
So I'm curious to hear from you about, number one, the decision making process that's happening at LinkedIn to separate what is of value versus what might just get a lot of engagement.
Because I bet that your data shows, and I'm not able to see it, but your data shows that a lot of stuff that people probably don't think of or categorize as valuable does get a lot of engagement on LinkedIn. And so if you're gonna make a change, you're gonna make a change away from some stuff that maybe is low value, high engagement. And so tell me about that decision making process and what you are particularly hoping will result from it.
Alice: I can take a first pass and Dan, feel free to jump in.
Jason, I think it's super important for us to put it in the context of LinkedIn's vision.
Our vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. And ultimately when we're measuring whether we're making that progress, our mission – are we actually connecting the professionals? Are we getting them to be more productive and successful?
So in what you just shared, for us, the most important part of the equation is do we believe we're getting closer in getting our members to be and feel more productive and more successful?
It is not just about, it definitely is not just about like viral. Things could go viral on LinkedIn, but our system is actually not designed for that.
We think of ourselves as really a social professional – a social platform that enables people to be more productive.
And in terms of how members are reacting to these changes that we have started rolling out over the past half a year, we're happy to share that we're seeing very promising early signs.
We've got 80% jump of members sharing that.
So we used to get complaints of members telling us "Hey, I don't like my feed, my feed quality isn't good. I wanted to see something different."
Over the past few months since we started to evolve the feed experience, we've seeing an 80% jump. And that is a lot.
Jason: I'm sorry, 80%. 80%. What's the change?
Alice: Of members sharing that they don't like their feed.
Jason: Oh, I see. Mhm...
Alice: They're complaining about feed.
Jason: Got it. An 80% drop in complaints. Got it. That's really interesting.
LinkedIn is Not Designed for Virality
Dan: You asked this kind of question of how does this compare to other places?
And I think like, just to really amplify what Alice was saying is we don't, we're not looking for virality at all. That is not how LinkedIn measures success.
There's nothing in our systems that reward virality.
It's not an ad driven platform where, you know, ads are, are a component of how we make money, but it's not, that is not the way that LinkedIn is.
LinkedIn's not dependent on that.
And what we are dependent on is people coming back every day and feeling like this is a place that is good for their professional identity.
Because if you think about it, and I think this is just helpful for when people are figuring out, and you talk to a lot of people who are trying to master LinkedIn and they're like, oh, I want to be amazing at LinkedIn.
And the advice I always give is like, one of the pieces is just think about where, what the incentives are for any place that you are spending your time.
And it's important that the LinkedIn's incentives are, we are more successful if people are here with their real identities. If they feel like this is a good place for them, if they feel like this is a place they want to have open on their desk at work and checking when they start their workday and that they finish their workday.
It's a place where they are recommending to other people that they come because that way recruiters, when they come, they are like real people they're reaching out to and they know what those people care about.
B2B advertisers know exactly who they can advertise against. Salespeople can see who it is they're reaching the real people who are like, who can actually make buying decisions.
So all of those things are incentives that depend on us having really high quality content and high quality people who are representing what they are really good at.
And so if you think about like where this drop comes from, this 80% drop in people telling us that they don't, that they're unhappy with their feeds, a lot of that comes from both making sure that we have the right content for them.
That content comes from saying like, these are people you are following, so you're telling us you want to hear more from them. And also this is the kind of topic that you care about and we're showing you not just people talking about this topic, but someone with the skills in this area talking about that topic.
Write from a Point of Expertise
And I think that's a really important component of this is that if it's me sharing as a, a journalist and someone who is, if you look at my background, it's like all J school and a linguistics minor.
And if I'm sharing content about how to be a great geologist, that is useless. I don't know what I'm talking about. And even if it sounds good, like, and I'm writing some, I'm trying to like go viral with geology content, I'm not sure why that would go viral, but let's say, that's suddenly going viral in some parallel universe.
So if I put that up there, LinkedIn, we have a duty as LinkedIn to be like: "Hey, this is not like this isn't the highest quality content Dan has none of the skills in this area and this isn't, we have not seen him have success with geology content in the past." And so why would we show Alice who cares about geology content, Dan when this is not his area of expertise.
And so there's all this, because we have the professional profile of record, it helps us also be able to make sure that we are getting the right content to the right people. Even if it's not someone you're following yet care about this topic. We think this is high quality content from someone who actually knows what they're talking about.
Jason: That's super interesting. I want to follow up on that in a second and understand how LinkedIn is identifying what is valuable content. Because what you just said there is one part of it, but just to put a, just to put a real button on it about the question about virality.
And for anybody who has used LinkedIn for years, and I am on there every single day, we saw it, we saw people who would post real earnest pieces of value and that would show up in your feed.
But also so would a lot of selfies and a lot of people just taking like viral crap that they found on the internet and posting it there and doing basically the stuff that gets rewarded really well on other platforms.
And so I just wanna put that to you so that people can like hear you react to that speaking to people who are on LinkedIn all the time, right? Instead of speaking about like broader strategy here, you're basically saying, we hear you and we don't want that stuff on the platform. Is that right?
Dan: That is, let me give you sort of a nuanced answer. Which is: the answer is that we wanna give people the kind of content that helps them be better at what they do or what they wanna do... and/or that leads them to economic opportunity.
There was a point in time where that sort of content was actually pretty useful to people and then it really wasn't useful and then it became sort of a flood to what Alice said earlier is like, we are not looking for when things go viral on LinkedIn. Usually that's assigned to us that we need to look into this, because it's not, that's not celebrated internally.
That's like, let's just make sure this is actually like high quality content that's showing up. Why is this piece of content going viral, is the question that we'll talk about internally. If something is suddenly doing well and you wanna look at what's going on.
Jason: I understand. That's very interesting. That's, that would seem to be the opposite of how anybody else in the whole universe in the internet thinks about something going viral.
Dan: Totally. But if you think about what are, how LinkedIn works, we're often a, we're sort of a proxy or like a digital version of a workplace and there's very little content in the workplace or conversations that go on in the workplace that are right for everybody.
There's something that's right for you on your team and for someone else on their team that's okay to talk about at a business lunch or whatever conversations you're having at work.
But it's usually, it's very rare where someone stands up with a megaphone and shouts to the whole office and everyone's like "Great! I want to hear more from this person yelling at us with this megaphone."
So if stuff's not going viral in the workplace, it shouldn't be going viral on LinkedIn. But, but if it is something that's super interesting, let's say for instance yesterday a lot of really incredible posts about Apple's new headsets and people who are in VR and AR are talking about what this means and what the difference is. These are people with expertise talking about that. And that content did incredibly well.
So did it go viral? I mean it's not, it depends on how you define it, but it reached a large group because there was a lot of demand for that particular content. If people are still talking about that a week from now, there's a lot less demand for it. That's a normal cycle.
That's the way it should be.
You asked the question about what happened to all this viral content? Like where people were sort of earnestly posting selfies and all that stuff?
That was during the pandemic. There was sort of this point in time, where people were talking about their homes – and our work lives got meshed in a way that people really wanted [personal social content] and they were kind of craving it, and you couldn't avoid it.
That's past us. That phase is beyond us. And now what we hear from members, and this is I think a large part of this sort of 80% drop is they're like: "I don't wanna see that anymore." I'm done with that. Great, tie a bow on it – different point in my work life. That is not the kind of stuff I want to hear from now. Now I want to learn how to get better at what I'm doing.
LinkedIn Smartly Figures Out Which Audience to Deliver Your Content To
Alice: I wanted to quickly add from the valuable standpoint that an important part is also the perspective from a viewer, the feed viewer standpoint.
Let's take an example. If say Jason, you and I are connected. I'm in your network. If I share a post about a very successful product launch I led, or I share a post about a very successful, team offsite that I ran, Jason, you're probably gonna see it.
And you might even like my post. It's like: "Yeah, now I'm understanding what Alice is up to". But imagine just because you like my post, some of your connections, who has no idea who Alice is will now see that too.
That was the before state, before we introduced these changes.
What they used to see is: they would see, "Hey! Alice just had a great offsite. Who the hell is Alice?"
People didn't find that valuable, right? So it's very important that we still encourage people to bring their authentic selves to LinkedIn.
We're still encouraging people to share their stories, but it's very important to understand who is the best audience for that kind of content. It's people who actually know you and care about you.
And the same goes for like when you're looking at others' content who probably only care about the personal updates from people you know and care about. So that's a very important distinction.
Jason: That's interesting. Can you unpack that just a little bit more? Maybe from the perspective of the user who is just having a fairly binary experience, which is I either saw this or I didn't. Or here's how I saw it.
So in the example of "Alice launched a product", and let's say I comment on it, what you are telling me is that the platform is trying to make a decision about how this post is going to be relevant to people a circle away.
Break that down a little bit more.
Because I'm thinking about my own experience on LinkedIn and I'm thinking that on my feed sometimes I do see a, a post from somebody I don't know. Usually it's because somebody I do know commented on it or liked it.
And, that's actually the first thing that I see. At the very top, you tell me which of my contacts liked or engaged with this post.
But are you saying that there's a sort of secondary consideration here, which is that you are trying to better refine which posts are worth amplifying to the network of whoever it was that engaged with the post to begin with? Is that what you're saying?
Alice: You're absolutely right. Where we're thinking about is, your feed is always going to be a combination of different types of things. It's valuable to you.
There will be updates that will make you feel more connected.
There will be updates that are getting you knowledge and advice when you need them. In fact, we're also investing in big strides in making LinkedIn the destination for knowledge. So a lot of investment around encouraging more people to bring out knowledge in their head and share onto LinkedIn. A lot of investment in making LinkedIn a place for the discovery of knowledge.
If I have a question on my mind, I should be able to go to LinkedIn to ask my question. I should do a search and find the answers. I should ask a question directly.
So there's a lot of focus on knowledge, but at the same time, we're not losing ground from the connection aspect.
We believe that is what makes LinkedIn so unique. And that is what what makes LinkedIn stand out.
Dan: Jason, can I just add one thing? If you're a user, and this is from my point of view, we deal with a lot of contributors and we sort of walk them through how to, how to work well on LinkedIn. So, this can get confusing at times.
What Alice is pointing out is such an incredible point. And your point about this sort of... "figuring out the right circle", the way I like to think about it is that every piece of content has its own total addressable market, right?
And you have to kind of think about, well who am I trying to reach with this thing?
And it can be frustrating sometimes as a contributor or as a user. You post something and you're like, well I got, I got 1,000 views for this and I only got 200 views for that.
But what Alice is describing is exactly what's going on behind the scenes, which is: we look at that and we're like, well this is great.
Alice showed a selfie from her last offsite. That is a perfect thing to show to her team or to people who are connected with her who have shown an interest in how Alice's team operates.
When an analyst explains the intricacies of how search engines work and what she's learned, that has a much larger total addressable market.
That is anyone who is in the search business, or anyone who's a technologist or someone who's a PM. And so you're doing that matching on a content – on a post by post level. And you gotta think about like who is the right match for this particular piece of content, your network, people who are seeking knowledge in this area, a combination of those two and we've got all these signals to try to figure out exactly what that right market is for that exact post. That's all going on in real time.
Jason: So that actually leads me what I was bookmarking a moment ago, which was to understand how it is that you're doing that. Now I will just say upfront, I know part of what it's going to sound like I'm doing here is plumbing for information for how people can write posts that are going to get the most engagement.
You on the other hand are going to try to steer me away from exactly that. because you're telling me that that's not the point.
But all the same, I'm gonna ask it anyway.
What is LinkedIn doing to evaluate on a post by post basis, who should see something? And what should people who are posting to LinkedIn, with the intention of writing something that they think is valuable, that they want lots of people to see, what should they be thinking and doing?
LinkedIn is Testing Collaborative Articles
Dan: One thing I think I would point people to is the recent launch of collaborative articles. I don't know if you've seen this.
And the way collaborative articles work, is there's an AI written component of this that kind of goes deep into skills and it's like, here are the things you need to know about this particular skill. It's all based around skills.
And then to your point, about how you are able to reach people, the next step in collaborative articles is, we have systems that then reach out to you and we'll look at your skills and your profile, and the things that you've talked about in the past.
And we'll say, "Jason, you are an expert at running a media company". This topic, this article is about how to run a particular part of a media company. You're the perfect person to answer this. Can you come in and answer it with your own real world learned experience?
And then when you do that, we show it to other people who care.
To Alice's point, that shows up in search, it shows up elsewhere and, it reaches people who care about the media business.
// Ira: This can be an opportunity for CEOs to do partner marketing. Especially if you're already speaking on webinars and roundtables, it's a great opportunity to repurpose content from multiple credible authors to drive engagement.
Now that doesn't answer your second question about, "Hey, I want to reach as many people as possible." And you're right, I'm going steer you away from that answer. Because the truth is, it is just like running a business.
Unless you're like Coke and you're trying to reach the world, you want the world to drink your product for most people, you want the right buyers of whatever it is that you're selling in your shop. If you're running a boutique, you don't want the entire world walking into your boutique, picking up your stuff and then putting it on the shelves and walking out and getting it all grimy, and moving things around.
I don't know, I don't run a boutique, but I would imagine that's like a bad thing.
It's the same way here that you want to think about what is the right audience for you to reach. Those numbers are beach muscles, you know, if you're like, oh I got 10 million views of something. Who cares?
Like it's the one all you need is one person to say, "Hey, I want to do business with you or why don't we do something together?" Or "you should come work for me or I want to come work for you."
And if it's something that you're trying to achieve, if you can get that out of your work, then all you need is that one or two InMails or comments or someone reaching you on email, or going up to you at a conference and saying, I saw your post and I'd like to do business with you.
// Ira: LinkedIn seems to want to drive business outcomes through posts. So naturally it makes sense for them to prioritize DMs and if I were a product manager on feed, I'd prioritize posts that results in a DM or a profile click.
That's success. That is connecting the economic opportunity. So it is not, I think the way people have been trained in, you know, over the last 10 years to think about posting.
But I think it's the right way to think about running a business, and running your business, and running your career.
You don't want to. You don't need to reach everyone. You need to reach the right people.
And what Alice is describing is how we're trying to make sure you are reaching the right people on the right topics. And then the last thing I would say there is, you're not always gonna hit.
Like the key is really to not focus post by post. Just keep investing.
And so you want to post, and sometimes it's gonna work and sometimes it'll reach the right people and sometimes it won't. And sometimes you'll get crickets and sometimes you'll get a lot of people and it's the sum total of your work that matters, and how your persona develops, and what people think about you that matters.
// Ira: LinkedIn is in the business of creating personas. They want you to be "the godfather of IT" or "cybersecurity Sly". And they want you to build this persona through consistent posting.
And that they learn to trust you and your voice and your opinions. That is a much bigger difference than having, than being a one hit wonder.
A one hit wonder doesn't pay off in the end.
So I always say don't focus on how this one particular post did. Focus on "how am I doing over time? And what has happened and what kind of changes have I seen?What got the most outreach that matters to me. And then do more of that. That's the way to invest in your voice.
// Ira: As a former consumer-app CEO, I'd expect a DM resulting from a post is going to be weighted more heavily here.
Alice, anything to pick up on that?
Alice: No, I think Dan covered it all. In terms of, if there is any advice or suggestions: I think as professionals, as experts, we are all experts in something.
There's a lot of knowledge in our heads. So if there is one piece of advice to give to the creators out there, or brand builders out there, is to think about what kind of knowledge do you have to offer to people. And that is the kind of thing that will likely get you to reach the right audience as well.
Jason: Perhaps this will be ill-advised, but I am going to direct your attention to a recent post of mine because I'm curious how you're gonna react to it.
As people who are telling me that in the offices at LinkedIn, you're specifically saying if something goes viral, there's a problem. Now, I don't know if this is viral.
We don't really have an agreed upon [definition of viral]. Or do we, actually?
I should ask you before I keep going, do we have any kind of agreed upon definition here of "viral"? When something goes viral at LinkedIn and you say this is a problem, we have to investigate it, what we're talking about in terms of scale? Is there a number?
Alice: Wait, Jason. So what what we're trying to say is that the system is not designed to encourage posts to go viral. We did not say if post goes viral, there's some problem with it.
Dan: As Alice said, the system is not designed to reward that. It's not like – we're not a system where if something goes viral, you keep pointing it. "Oh, there's a fire. pour more and more gasoline on it." That is not how we're built.
From a material standpoint, it's like, "Hey, this is not, like, there is nothing that should be seen by everybody here."
There's very little that should be seen by everybody on LinkedIn.
Jason: Just to be clear on that, I understand that, if something reaches a certain number of views on LinkedIn that, like an alarm doesn't go off at LinkedIn, right?
And everyone runs into like an emergency room to talk about it. But, I do think that it's a really interesting insight that the way in which you are viewing that kind of metric is very different from the way that almost anywhere else does.
Because what you are then saying, and I'm just going to say this back to you so that you can confirm or correct what you're telling me, is that: Because your metric of success is, are we connecting people with people who are going to matter for their business?
And that happens at a small scale. When things go, let's just say "viral", which we're just going to use as a definition: version of viral, that when things do that, that the chances that gonna lead to the outcome that you are setting out here, are pretty low.
And maybe that means that people are finding ways to use this platform in a way that wasn't exactly intended.
And that's the thing that you want to attend to, is to make sure that the maximum number of people are getting the value as you define it.
And that's the reason why something going viral is not exactly a reason to celebrate internally on LinkedIn. Do I understand that right?
Dan: Absolutely. Okay. Which post? I'm now super curious.
Two Case Studies of LinkedIn Posts
Jason: There were two recently that basically were, versions of the same thing, which is that I had found something compelling online, and then I wrote what I thought was genuine useful advice alongside it.
So the one that I'm looking at is the coffee shop post. So it was one week ago, and I'll describe it for people who aren't like you furiously trying to find it.
Alice: I found it.
Jason: You already found it. Okay, great.
Yes. Okay, so here's what we're looking at right now.
So the photo is, it's like one of those sandwich boards outside of a coffee shop. And somebody has written in handwriting: "Come in and try the worst coffee one woman on TripAdvisor had in her life", which is funny.
And, then I wrote this post, which I'm not gonna read all of, but it starts like this. It said: "Did someone insult or hurt you? Ask yourself this empowering question, how can I use this? Why? Because we humans need control, we need autonomy. And when someone insults us, we often feel stripped of that control."
And then I go on for what looks like four or five more small paragraphs talking about how to utilize being insulted so that you feel like you gained some more control over the situation.
And then at the very end, "Yay for me, I put in a little call to action for people to subscribe to my newsletter."
And by my standards at least, this has done quite well. It has had, at this taping on June 6th, it has had 1.9 million impressions. 18,417 people have engaged with it. 18,000 plus people and uh, 792 comments.
So look, by my standards at least that's, pretty close to going viral.
I think it was a pretty good post.
I wasn't trying to game anything, and I would say that it lives inside of my area of authority, which is something that I see that you are hearing that you care about, and it's reaching a, a large number of people.
Now, number one, I'm curious what you make of this.
Alice can go ahead.
Alice: I can share. So thank you so much for sharing this example, Jason.
I always love to see like, real examples about what our members and experts have created.
This, I would say is a pretty classic example of "share opinion/advice" post. And that's how we have some internal artificial intelligence algorithms that help us classify posts into different categories.
So for your post, this is exactly like what we probably will share.
Like you are sharing some opinion and also like turning that into some of the advice.
LinkedIn Dings "Blind" Generic Advice
The part I would also add to, when it comes to virality, what we absolutely don't find valuable and what members tell us that they don't find valuable, it's what we call blind virality.
It's like something goes off the charts because there is some kind of like viral spread of it. Viral engagement and getting me to see a post. And ultimately I don't find this post to be valuable to me. In this particular example, I would say it sounds like more generic advice.
// Ira: I once shared a piece of advice that went viral on YCombinator, but completely dudded on LinkedIn. This makes a lot sense now.
Like it's not in a specific area.
Certainly like, and also we, we appreciate humor, we want people to bring their authentic selves to work or to LinkedIn as well. So we, actually really appreciate creators kind of taking their creative liberty to use their personality and including using humor.
Dan, anything you wanna add?
Dan: Yeah, I would also just add to that.
If you look at your comments, we're always looking to see: is something starting a conversation.
It's really important to us. It's not just you blasting something out.
It is you posted this, you left your opinion about why you thought it was important.
You shared your knowledge and you have expertise in this area.
So the system would be looking for all of that.
And then if you look at the comments, it's a lot of people who are in marketing reacting. That's a really good sign for us that this has reached a particular market.
// Ira: See my post on hashtags. It's really important to guide the algorithm on your target audience. You ideally want to have a few of your customers like your posts or engage with your content immediately as it goes out. Have them start a conversation or contradictory point in the comments.
Dan: So you've got a CMO, you've got somebody that craft brands with purpose. This is a fractional CHRO.
You've got a lot of really interesting people here who are around this area, who have their own unique perspectives, that they're sharing here in your comment section.
What they're not just saying is "funny!" or "too true!"
They're, they're using this as a way to talk about their own perspectives.
// Ira: This is what I'm trying to do here, with David Porter's post.
"What I think about" or "Here's what I've experienced in my career" all of that, LinkedIn looks very favorably upon.
We are looking to show that you are starting a conversation, you're building a community around content and around knowledge sharing that you are uniquely qualified to talk about. So that's why that one would've done really well.
The Anatomy of a Perfect Post
I would also point to one that you did, I think it was this week on Ted Lasso, on how Entrepreneur got into Ted Lasso.
That was a phenomenal post, something only you could talk about. It was the only, no one could have had that experience except you.
You detailed it, you gave your takeaways on what you do when you get the call. I mean, it was, it was sort of the perfect post.
And that's the kind of thing that if you're building your brand and you're building your voice on LinkedIn, more of that behind the scenes: "what happens, this is what I've learned from it".
That kind of content is catnip to people, because everyone's hungry.
We all, we're all making this stuff up as we go.
We have no idea what we're doing at work. And you're trying to figure it out and you're trying to learn from other people. And so if you can say, this is what I've learned, people love that. And so is it enough? Would that be viral?
This post would not probably be considered viral on in any other place.
It did really well on LinkedIn and it's good that it did well.
This would be one that we were celebrating internally.
Knowledge sharing. Got people talking a lot. Unique expertise and really interesting conversation.
Jason: Oh, good. I'm glad I didn't set off the alarm bells inside of LinkedIn and also very interesting to hear you explain what LinkedIn is seeing and therefore, what what you're both seeing when you look at it in the comments.
Because a classic piece of advice among people who are in the business of telling you how to go big on LinkedIn is that you need a lot of comments. Comments lead to visibility. But you're going a step further here, in actually identifying: are the comments all coming from a particular category of people and therefore, is this post reaching a specific market? Which is a sign of success for a post, or at least a a certain kind of post. Is that right?
Dan: Yeah, I mean, yes. And there are two more things.
One is, are these comments meaningful? Are they meaningful comments? If it's someone just saying "yes" or "agreed", "co-sign", whatever, that would not be a meaningful comment to our systems.
Our systems would not consider that to be a meaningful comment.
Two is: you are responding to the comments. That's really important for us to see.
And that's important.
Like, again, going back to this idea of LinkedIn being, sort of the proxy for the business world.
If you're in a meeting and someone's talking at you, and the other person is just staring, that's not successful. That's not a conversation. You lean in, you're giving back. You, Jason responding to people who are giving comments.
Maybe you probably can't respond to everyone. It's too much. But you're picking and choosing where you want to go in, and you're thanking people and you're adding something. This is a conversation, and as a reward, our system will show this to more people. People wanna be part of this conversation. So that's what we're looking for.
We May See the End of Engagement Pods
Jason: I'm thinking here as you're saying this, about a line that you just used maybe 5 to 10 minutes ago, which was that every post has its own total addressable market.
And if it seems like that total addressable market is coherently revealing itself in the engagement of the post, then LinkedIn's algorithms are gonna recognize it as such. And then, these are not words that you use, but just, just gonna say them to see if you'll react to it, which is that the way that you're describing the "quality of comments" seems very much also to be mindful of engagement groups that people often use to try to pump up their visibility.
Engagement groups, for people who don't know, is there's like a group that somebody has on WhatsApp where everyone just throws in their LinkedIn posts and then everybody on the group where everybody's assistants jump in and leave comments. Those are usually of the kind of, "So true, Yes." kind of stuff, which isn't engagement at all. It's fake engagement.
So is that, is that on your mind? Are those kinds of "gaming the system" on your mind as you guys are developing?
Dan: Absolutely. Yeah. You just nailed it. And I think that people assume they've figured out how things work here and usually they have not.
Something in that kind of situation, it might do well within that group. And that's sort of it. Like the group gets to see some piece and they're talking to themselves essentially.
So if that's what they want, that's great.
Jason: All right, so final thing, and then I'll let you guys go. This has been so fascinating.
Dan, the way that you described the value of a piece of content that reaches its audience was very interesting and I think in many ways very true.
And the entrepreneur Ted Lasso example that you gave, is actually a really good version of that in that, that post didn't do nearly as well, like fractionally well, as this one with the sandwich board, right?
It was for people who don't follow me religiously. It was a clip from the Ted Lasso season finale, where an Entrepreneur magazine cover appeared, and I told the backstory of how that happened, which is that Ted, uh Jason Sade's team got in touch with me and et cetera, et cetera. Anyway, so, that post did okay, but it didn't do amazing.
And what you're saying is, really the explanation for why, because LinkedIn recognized that as having a particularly distinct audience of people who are very familiar with Entrepreneur, which is going to be a smaller audience than people who are just sort of generally interested and engaged in the concept of marketing. Totally get it.
But my kind of final thing, which is Dan, when you were saying: Look, sometimes that the value here is that maybe one or two people reached out to you via DM or you know, it made one valuable connection and that's how business is.
Business is not a bunch of noise.
Businesses is focused, useful connections. But I will tell you something, which is that a great business tool for me, is building my newsletter audience.
And a lot of the reason that people use LinkedIn is because doing well on LinkedIn drives an audience to the thing that you're trying to collect an audience for.
And in this case, a post that gets 1.9 million impressions. I will tell you, I saw that directly in the number of people who signed up for my newsletter. Every single time that a newsletter post does very well, my newsletter subscriptions go up. That is a useful business tool for me.
I don't really want to be narrow there. And so I wonder how you balance that some people's business needs are actually to reach a lot of people, even if there's a lot of noise in there. And how you think about balancing that with what I think is a very, very true and real and earnest thinking that that great business happens in a focused way.
Dan: That's a great question. So let's just go back to the Ted Lasso one real quick.
That might turn out to be a more, if you start getting more from Hollywood productions that now learn about how to work with Entrepreneur, my guess is that is a great success for you.
Jason: Without question.
Dan: Would that be true?
Dan: So we'll see, this could be. It could turn out in a year from now, when we talk again, you're like, it turned out that post which got this, you know, smallish smaller audience, turned out to have a meaningful impact on my business.
A more meaningful impact.
And that's like one of the things that we believe as a company.
LinkedIn Wants You to Build a Portfolio of Content Across Channels
Dan: In terms of your question about driving the newsletter, you know, thinking about your posts as the top of funnel to get into some other product.
That's certainly a way you can think about it.
In that case, you're gonna be doing more posts like the coffee sign post.
But what I would say is think about what that means for your brand. If I start recognizing you as a person who's just constantly trying to convince me to go sign up for his newsletter, it starts degrading your ability to talk about anything else.
It is clear to me you're selling all the time and you gotta think about what you are.
This is why I say like you have, you have to think about this as a portfolio.
Dan: You are building your voice with every single post. You're building your brand. People are, are understanding who you are.
And if you're just a top of funnel person who is trying to get people to go follow some call to action, like no one wants to be around a person like that.
And so you gotta balance it. There are times where you do wanna do that. You drive people, but if you're doing it all the time, it's gonna be bad for your business and I think it's gonna be bad for your business in the long run.
I could be totally wrong and, but it's up to you.
I think you've probably figured out a way to do this with: you could become the guy who takes pictures of funny coffee shop signs and builds posts around it.
You've probably figured out a pretty good formula that'll work for a while, until it stops working, because people tire of seeing it, or they tire of your content or they're like, they just stop interacting with you.
So you gotta, you just have to think. Again, you just gotta think about like this as a long game. This is an investment. And you're investing in, not just your newsletter. You're investing in who you are and how people see you and how they wanna do business with you.
// Ira: LinkedIn has always penalized (to what degree, I don't know) taking users off platform in posts. It seems here that Dan is alluding to sharing your knowledge on a mix of platforms: on LinkedIn, on Substack, on Beehiiv, on Convertkit etc.
And so I would just say like, think about the long take, the long view.
Alice, closing thoughts?
Alice: I think Dan said so well. It is this.
Look at it as a portfolio. As a creator, as a brand builder, it's never about a single post.
It is always about what kind of economic opportunities that may come down the road. And something that we think about a lot at LinkedIn is what kind of impact we have to our members, to people that we serve in the long term.
I want to emphasize what we're trying to do here at LinkedIn is we're really trying to be the definitive destination for professional knowledge.
And we believe with our near 1 billion members on LinkedIn, there's a lot of professional knowledge that exists in our members' heads.
And what we're encouraging members to do, encouraging you all to do, is to share the insights, ideas and inspirations, and share them on LinkedIn, share them with the world and share them with the right audience that we can help you target.
This way, hopefully, we can all be learning from each other.
It will be opening doors for one another to unlock more opportunities moving forward.
So that would be the final words from me.
Jason: Awesome. Alice, Dan, thank you so much. This has been super illuminative.